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Tales of Ordinary Madness (original 1983; edition 1984)
by Charles Bukowski (Author)
Tales of Ordinary Madness by Charles Bukowski (1983)
Books Read in 2020 (708)
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Rambling lunacy indispersed with moments of lucidity, Bukowski steps between crazy imaginings or retelling of other's stories to his own observations on life at the fringe of American culture. I returned to Bukowski after many years of not reading him, it was in my teens that I read his poetry which in turn inspired me to write as his free-form and at times slapdash method appealed to my brain which was overflowing with thoughts I couldn't get out. Tales of Ordinary Madness continues with that method but in parts veers into the conventional prose writing style. At the start of the book, the first few anecdotes, Bukowski annotates his writing style, talking directly to the reader, as the anecdotes continue he begins to distance himself from the text and deepens the narrative by focussing on the characters, stories and culture of his time. He references other writers, contemporary and past. He reflects on the poetry scene of the time, and its writers. Indispersed with imagery that is less intended to shock than to rather wake the reader up, or give them a jolt. Or perhaps Bukowski got bored and amused himself with a lurid thought put to paper for its own sake, or he was writing with his beer goggles on. Whatever the reasoning, Bukowski toys with the reader, he invents and rants, making Tales of Ordinary Madness a veritable porridge of ideas and observations cut with the daily muck of life by the gutter. ( )
I've read a lot of Bukowski's books over the last few years and appreciated all of them. Some I've even enjoyed. But Tales of Ordinary Madness was, unfortunately, a bit of a chore for me to read. Bukowski's always been crude, but usually he juxtaposes this with a raw humanity and uncompromising anti-social commentary: this is where his art is to be found. I did not find this to be the case in Ordinary Madness, at least to a sufficient extent, with many of the stories being excessively and needlessly crude. Scenes in which Bukowski defecates, or pops a boil, or has a rape fantasy add nothing to the stories, many of which seem to be devoted to cataloguing such depravities rather than providing or supporting any underlying artistic meaning or merit.
That said, his talent does shine through intermittently, with most of the stories having at least a few lines that make you think or nod your head. One or two of the short stories even manage to maintain this talent uncorrupted for the duration: I particularly liked 'Goodbye Watson' and 'A Dollar and 20 Cents', whilst 'Night Streets of Madness' has a good imagined conversation between Bukowski and Ernest Hemingway, which is an interesting story-within-a-story. So there are some little nuggets of gold here – they're just buried amongst the mud and the shit. Bukowski, at his best, is like a drug, so I'll just look back on reading this as a bad trip. Hey, it happens.
At this rate I'm just getting Bukowski books based on how good the title is. Tales of Ordinary Madness is a better title than The Most Beautiful Woman In Town and Notes Of A Dirty Old Man. Most of these stories revolve around Charles Bukowski himself. From the sounds of it they were all written before he invented the character of Henry Chinaski, whose first appearance is perhaps Post Office.
Bukowski is, simply put, a hell of a writer, and this book along with The Most Beautiful Woman In Town are culled from the first collection of short stories Bukowski ever put out. I think before this he wasn't as recognized for his short stories and it took Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights Publishing to recognize his acumen. Perhaps there had been too much crap as Bukowski was refuted to have had to develop his craft over a long period of time and most likely over a great number of duds.
I have not personally historically liked Bukowski's short stories from what I've read. The books that he wrote that were mixtures of poetry and short stories were nearly always a wash and the dedicated short story books simply never were as compelling as the bonafide novels (except Pulp). Bukowski here puts opinions literary and otherwise on display with as much freedom as he wants to and perhaps the biggest hat trick is that he actually makes one care. If this were the opinion of someone feckless it would get old damn quick, but that's not all that's here. There's also humor, fantasies, and flights delerium. In fact some of these short stories rank amongst the best writing Bukoswki ever did.
"Tales of Ordinary Madness" is a quite fitting title for this collection of short stories. 238 pages of self pity and disgust, more so than normal for a Bukowski book. Old Hank, unfortunately was feeling his age in these pages. I'll still offer a 5 star rating, the first story as well as the last, redeemed Hank. The rest was obviously written to buy his booze, and pay his rent.
A tightly edited collection of thirty-four Bukowski stories from the 1960s to 1980s. Profane, hilarious, self-indulgent, gritty, poignant. His characters live in Los Angeles, “in broken-down courts, attics, garages or slept on the floors of temporary friends.”
They drink, screw, write, get fired from menial jobs, haunt the track, and try to exist. As Bukowski puts it, “sometimes a man must fight so hard for life that he doesn’t have time to live it.”
Each story is strong; many explosive, violent and vicious. They have the ring of low-down truth, whether they are or not.
35 livres cultes à lire au moins une fois dans sa vie
Quels sont les romans qu'il faut avoir lu absolument ? Un livre culte qui transcende, fait réfléchir, frissonner, rire ou pleurer… La littérature est indéniablement créatrice d’émotions. Si vous êtes adeptes des classiques, ces titres devraient vous plaire.
De temps en temps, il n'y a vraiment rien de mieux que de se poser devant un bon bouquin, et d'oublier un instant le monde réel. Mais si vous êtes une grosse lectrice ou un gros lecteur, et que vous avez épuisé le stock de votre bibliothèque personnelle, laissez-vous tenter par ces quelques classiques de la littérature.
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Wikipedia in English (1)
With Bukowski, the votes are still coming in. There seems to be no middle ground--people seem either to love him or hate him. Tales of his own life and doings are as wild and weird as the very stories he writes. In a sense, Bukowski was a legend in his time . . . a madman, a recluse, a lover . . . tender, vicious . . . never the same . . . these are exceptional stories that come pounding out of his violent and depraved life . . . horrible and holy, you cannot read them and ever come awaythe same again. Bukowski . . . "a professional disturber of the peace . . . laureate of Los Angeles netherworld [writes with] crazy romantic insistence that losers are less phony than winners, and with an angry compassion for the lost." --Jack Kroll,Newsweek "Bukowski's poems are extraordinarily vivid and often bitterly funny observations of people living on the very edge of oblivion. His poetry, in all it's glorious simplicity, was accessible the way poetry seldom is - a testament to his genius." --Nick Burton,PIF Magazine Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) published his first story when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. His first book of poetry was published in 1959; he went on to publish more than forty-five books of poetry and prose, including books published by City Lights Publishers such asNotes of a Dirty Old Man,More Notes of a Dirty Old Man,The Most Beautiful Woman in Town,Tales of Ordinary Madness,Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook,The Bell Tolls for No One,andAbsence of the Hero.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)813.54Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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