Charles Bukowski Tapes, The: DVD

Feb 26, 2007

Li Po, the maverick poet of Tang dynasty China, was known for his clear lyrical brilliance with words as well as his dark fondness for excessive drinking and his flippant disregard for the prim etiquette of the day. It is said that he would explain away his scabrous, inebriated behavior by unapologetically stating that “wine makes its own rules.” So true, so true. Charles Bukowski, the maverick poet of late 20th century Los Angeles, was, like Li Po, a “drunken immortal” who oftentimes seemed to let the mingling of his neurons and alcohol make the rules. And for this he was equally lionized and despised. But thank god for Bukowski and thank god for whatever alcoholic libation that, on any given day, he might have poured into his gnarled beerhole because it created one of the most liberated, pretension-stripped fountains of prose and poems to erupt in the American literary scene in a god awful long time. And since Hunter Thompson picked up a gun a couple years ago and blew open his head like a can of baked beans, there really have been no more desperados roaming the literary landscape. At least none that I’m aware of. Vonnegut has quieted down and seems to just want to be left alone to die and Pynchon puts things out at such wide intervals and is so busy doing his J.D. Salinger/Invisible Man routine, that he has become all but forgotten (though his new book could reverse all that… temporarily.) We don’t even have any Truman Capotes anymore. Basically, we’re stuck with people like Philip Roth and John Updike: the neatly pleated jockeys of the writing world whose passions and talents would be equally well utilized in fields such as accounting or copy writing. I’m to the point where I’d welcome something along the lines of the stilted, buttoned-up academia/arcania of T. S. Eliot or Ezra Pound again. But what do I know? I’m probably speaking out of turn here; after the dull wave of Tama Janowitzes and Bret Easton Ellises washed out somewhere in the ‘90s, I stopped paying attention. So it is none too amazing that I would relish a DVD like The Charles Bukowski Tapes. This is a two-disc set of short videotaped vignettes capturing a well-waxed Bukowski waxing philosophic on everything from James Thurber and the other writers he admires (“Good tough boys… they stay close to the Earth.”) to trying to figure out why the women in his life are always trying to change him. He even takes you on little guided tours of L.A. and the house where he grew up—and, in particular, the bathroom where he “took all his beatings.” As any good tippler knows, most of the drunken pearls of wisdom that slide out from between slurry lips get lost to the mulching lawnmower known as the common hangover. The mulch of memories all gets swallowed up by the bugs and the dirt of the mind. And that is, like the universe itself, a beautiful thing that constantly dies back into itself to be reborn as something else. But it’s also fun to sometimes cheat the system and run off with some prize you’ve just shoplifted from under the security laser beams of “the system.” This DVD is just such a thing: golden, intimate moments with a modern day drunken immortal that would have otherwise been lost to the mists of time. Old fans and newcomers alike: go get a bottle of booze or a case of beer and watch the Bukowski Tapes. You will be in very good company. –Aphid Peewit (Barrel Entertainment, PO Box 43588, Detroit, MI 48226)