The Pleasures of the Damned – a damnable pleasure.

Charles Bukowski is a writer I love.  His subject matter is drink, bad relationships, dead end jobs, gambling and writing. But despite that or maybe because of it he is incredibly funny. If you can imagine a cross between Jeffrey Bernard and Tom Waits that’s Bukowski. Bukowski wrote poetry : The Pleasures of the Damned is a pleasure and also novels. Post Office and Factotum are my favourites. Recently I have been reading Charles Bukowski: On Writing (Canongate) which contains a series of previously unpublished letters to editors, friends and fellow writers.

So what tips are to be gained from him:

  • If all else fails try and get a job from someone who published you once:

“I received your rejection of ‘Whitman : His poetry and Prose’, along with the informal comments of your manuscript readers.

Sounds like a nice thing.

Should you ever need an extra manuscript reader, please let me know. I can’t find a job anywhere, so I might as well try you too.”

To Hallie Burnett October 1945

  • Be cavalier in your  approach to rejected material:

“I’ll be honest with you. You might as well keep those poems as long as you want to because when you send them back I’ll just throw them away.”

To Judson Crews November 4th 1953

  • IMG_1201

    Charles Bukowski making those toes laugh.

    This on writing technique:

“I like to make the words bite into the paper not so much like Hemingway did but more like scratches in ice and also attended with some small laughter.”

To William Packard March 27 1986

  • Here is a quotation that if you’re a writer cries out to be typed up in capitals and placed somewhere in your eye-line.

“If a man truly desires to write, then he will. Rejection and ridicule will only strengthen him … There is no losing in writing, it will make your toes laugh as you sleep, it will make you stride like a tiger, it will fire the eye and put you face to face with death. You will die a fighter, you will be honoured in hell. The luck of the word. Go with it, send it.”

  • Finally

“Writing is only the result of what we have become day by day over the years. It’s a god damned fingerprint of self and there it is … And when you can’t come up with the next line it doesn’t mean you’re old, it means you’re dead.”

To William Packard March 27 1986

As a writer the idea of my writing being a ‘god damned fingerprint of self’ is slightly worrying  but also has the awful ring of truth to it! Oh well, on to the next line then …

This book and all his other writing comes highly recommended. Have you read Bukowski? What did you think? Whether you have or you haven’t, ‘the luck of the word’ go with you and may your toes be laughing as you sleep.


The Stage Year Book 1928

From The Stage Year Book 1928. But Clarkson, darling, that wig is an absolute fright!

The trouble with bookshops is simple. I have a tendency to buy books in them. About a year ago I wrote a few posts on the demise of the bookshop I volunteered at. If you’re interested you’ll find them in the menu above in Tales from the Booktrade. That bookshop has now re-opened on a different site and so although being absolutely delighted, my troubles have returned not ‘single spies but in batallions’.

I’m sure that you will not be at all surprised to learn that the site where the old bookshop was is now being turned into ‘luxury’ flats. Why are they always ‘luxury’ these flats? Bog standard is my guess with ceilings you might brush your head against if you stand on tip toe. Anyway, whatever they are they’ll need bloody good double glazing to deal with the heavy traffic thundering past their windows.


Variety – Very Much Alive!

The new shop is huge and so big that we feel like buffaloes roaming the plains. The volunteers who knew the old shop have rueful conversations. It was a tiny squashed death trap but we were all very fond  of its idiosyncracies and quite fond of the idiosyncracies of our customers. This shop looks like a proper bookshop which is a bit unnerving.  Will we end up having proper customers?


Men were deceivers ever! You’re not deceiving me, dear, not with feet that big.

The first week I exert self control and do not buy anything but I note in passing that there are copies of The Night Watch and Ring Roads by Patrick Modiano (winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature) and also a copy of Hotel Florida by Amanda Vail.  If they are there next time I think I might buy them.

The following week they are still there and I also see a biography of Bukowski by Neeli Cherkovski and also  The Stage Year Book 1928. This is a spectacularly camp offering as the gratuitous photos peppered through this post indicate and I can’t resist it. I justify this purchase on the basis that my most recent book is partly set in the world of the London theatre in the 1930s. It’s a ridiculous reason, I know, but what can I say? Show me an advertisement for a pantomime dame in 1928 and I’m yours. Or rather, you’re mine.


“Bon-Accord” I want to live there! But maybe not with G. S.Melvin he looks a bit high maintenance.

See what I mean about single spies and batallions? This isn’t going to end well, is it?

Are you able to set foot in a bookshop and not buy a book?  If anyone uses an expression like self-control or will power in any of the comments, or even a simple ‘yes’ this blog will self destruct in 5 seconds.