Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

hollywoodThis is the first time I’ve read anything by Charles Bukowski; I liked it.

Hollywood is basically a memoir in novel form as far as I can tell.  In in 1980’s after a life of hard living and heavy drinking, poet Charles Bukowski was asked to write an original screenplay which eventually became the Mickey Rourke/Faye Dunaway film Barfly.  Few people were more surprised by this than Mr. Bukowski.

Hollywood is a slightly fictionalized account of the time he spent working on the screen play, making the movie and enduring the publicity after its release.  During this time Bukowski was still drinking amounts of wine so large I can only imagine, though his recent marriage had moved him away from the really  heavy drinking of his youth.  That he lived long enough to reach 65 years is kind of amazing.

He seems to think so, too.

He treats the entire Hollywood experience with a bemused sense of not really detachment, maybe wonder, an appreciation for the surreal.  I always had the feeling that he can’t quite believe what’s happening, but that he’s spent so much of his life in that state of mind that he was basically used to it.  Wonder mixed with a little disgust.

The phone rang everyday.  People wanted to interview the writer. I never realized that there were so many movie magazines or magazines interested in the movies.  It was a sickness: this great interest in a medium that relentlessly and consistently failed, time after time after time, to produce anything at all.  People became so used to seeing shit on film that they no longer realized it was shit.

Most of the books deals with various attempts to find funding for production which turns out to be the most time-consuming and important aspect of movie-making.  Few companies are interesting in making a movie about a couple of drunks, so Bukowski and his producer end up working with less than reputable people.  The names are all slightly changed, which makes figuring out who is really who part of the fun.  Bukowski changes the names a little so it’s never too difficult to figure out whom he is really talking about.

While I can’t say that I really learned anything profound about movie making from Hollywood, I did have a very good time.  I expect that I will be reading more by Charles Bukowski.

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4 Comments

  1. Rob says:

    I love a lot of Bukowski’s poetry, but I still haven’t made the leap to his novels yet. I’ll have to get to that soon.

    1. I’ve only read this one novel, but I really enjoyed it.

  2. John-Paul says:

    I’ve read a few things by Bukowski. His reputation suffered a lot because he’s often sexist. It’s one of those interesting experiences as a reader what to do with dated ideas in a well written package. I often have this problem with Hemingway.

    1. I’ve read all of Hemingway, really. Had to do it for a class in college. There’s much less sexism in his work than we’re led to believe. I did not find any in Hollywood, but as I said, this is the only Bukowski work I’ve read.

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