Book Review · Literary Fiction · Novels

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski
Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski‘s intrepid hero / alter ego Hank Chinaski is back in this funny satire of Tinsel Town in the late 1980s.

Culled from his experience writing the screenplay for the film Barfly, Bukowski’s Hollywood rips into the shallowness of show business. The plot twists are so absurd, the characters so vapid and vain, they must be based on real life.

Bukowski’s cynical take on movie audiences (“People became so used to seeing shit on film that they no longer realized it was shit,”) versus novel/poetry readers is insightful (“Almost anything upsets or insults a movie audience, while people who read novels and short stories love to be upset and insulted.”)

The best bits of Hollywood happen when Bukowski looks at the role of the writer in the film business.

“Who ever photographed the writer? Who applauded? … It was damn sure just as well: the writer was where he belonged: in some dark corner, watching.”

Bukowski’s portrayal of Barfly leads Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway as characters Jack Bledsoe and Francine Bower is particularly interesting, especially since he’s depicting a fresh-faced Rourke, when the rollercoaster of Rourke’s career was just cresting the top its first hill.

Like the town it is named after, Bukowski’s Hollywood is fun, funny, droll, and pathetic. There’s a lot of wine drinking, and the love affair between Hank and Sarah — the only two “normal” characters in the novel — is sincere and sweet.

Hollywood doesn’t pack the emotional wallop of Ham on Rye, or the laughs of Post Office, but it is still vintage Bukowski, and you can’t go wrong with that. As Hank Chianski notes:

“Maybe writing was a form of bitching. Some just bitched better than others.”

Bitch on, Bukowski, you beautiful bastard!








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