I have been inside the belly of submarine for what seems like an eternity hiding from a virus with a bone to pick with seniors. Whatever I did to piss it off, I couldn't tell you. But it's out there hiding in plain sight like an invisible Jack the Ripper.
I have binged watched enough reality TV recently to understand that they are all the same show, adjusted to variance in our temperaments, our accents, skin color, age, and even our sexual preferences. I've learned that whoever watches the Kardashians has serious emotional issues, that there are real housewives (apparently the words used together like this means fake or overly dramatic) in nearly every major city in America, that the word reality in reality TV also means fake or overdramatic, and that the image of a nice butt or just a hint of boobage will make people watch commercials for shit they have no intention of ever buying
When you are 1000 feet below the surface of reality with nothing to do, there's really only one thing that makes sense, and that is try to learn a little something about truth everyday. I have a theory that this whole fucking existential crisis with this damn virus has come about because that for many years so many of us have been totally willing to sell our own reality out and not even to the highest bidder.
I have been reading while submerged, and this is some of what I found.
“If there were a man who dared to say all that he thought of this world there would not be left him a square foot of ground to stand on [. . .]If now and then we encounter pages that explode, pages that wound and sear, that wring groans and tears and curses, know that they come from a man with his back up, a man whose only defenses left are his words and his words are always stronger than the lying, crushing weight of the world, stronger than all the racks and wheels which the cowardly invent to crush out the miracle of personality. If any man ever dared to translate all that is in his heart, to put down what is really his experience, what is truly his truth, I think then the world would go to smash, that it would be blown to smithereens and no god, no accident, no will could ever again assemble the pieces, the atoms the indestructible elements that have gone to make up the world.”
Henry Miller - Tropic of Cancer
I always have a copy of Tropic of Cancer around somewhere I can pick it up. I've had it for years and have never read it cover to cover or in sequence. I just enjoy picking it up and opening it to a random page and finding little nuggets of truth and beauty.
Great writing needs to be like a bunch of grapes. Miller's books are wineries. Compared to him, most writers you come across are more like raisin farmers. It's rare to find a writer was never afraid to reach his hand into a clogged toilet bowl to find the gold nuggets that no-one else knew were there.
There are a lot of authors writing nowadays who try to be like Henry Miller in the same sense that Quentin Tarantino tries to be like Orson Welles. These writers will reach into the same toilet and pull up a disgusting turd and hold it aloft for everyone to see, seeking praise for their willingness to fish for shit.
They lack not only the vision but the willingness to openly expose the darkness of their own despair. You have to be willing to sleep in a gutter. They could also use a lot of help with the authenticity of their adjectives, similes, and metaphors.
I have been in love a few times, and I more than recognize this feeling. I had to look and see if he hadn't torn it out of the pages of my own biography before realizing that there's probably more than a couple of people who have felt this way. I have felt it every day since my first love broke my heart in high school, and that was in a different world, in another century.
“I couldn't allow myself to think about her very long; if I had I would have jumped off the bridge. It's strange. I had become so reconciled to this life without her, and yet if I thought about her only for a minute it was enough to pierce the bone and marrow of my contentment and shove me back again into the agonizing gutter of my wretched past.”
People are strange: they are constantly angered by trivial things, but on a major matter like totally wasting their lives, they hardly seem to notice.
Bukowski was nothing if not an iconoclast. He was an upright middle finger with legs and a drunken grin, a big thumb in the eye of anyone who has never felt the twisted urges or wrestled with the anxious thoughts of modern American life. If you were a preacher, he was the drunk guy across the street who kept shouting piss and fuck while you greeted your flock on Sunday Morning. If you were a politician, he was the same drunk guy who laughed uproariously all through the humorless speech you spent two days writing. Bukowski could be annoying, but he was also honest and funny and saw and wrote about the ghostly things that most people miss as they go about their business.
He was very fortunate in that most of us secretly feel the things that he puts forth in his writing. Most of his poetry would be middle school bad except every couple of stanzas or so, he puts in something that stops our thoughts in their tracks and makes that little voice inside our head say Fuck, why didn't I think of that.
He was a lot like Henry Miller too in that he was a gutter sleeper and often mined for gold nuggets in toilet water. Also, because his similes, his adjectives, metaphors, and allegories are not only beautiful, they are as honest as Abe Lincoln's reputation. Look at this passage from his poem The Genius of the Crowd and tell me it doesn't sound like The Sermon on the Mount.
"beware the preachers
beware the knowers
beware those who are always reading books
beware those who either detest poverty
or are proud of it
beware those quick to praise
for they need praise in return
beware those who are quick to censor
they are afraid of what they do not know
beware those who seek constant crowds for
they are nothing alone"
I just ordered one of this first books. I'll let you know later what I think of it.
In the meantime, learn something new.