Most helpful positive review
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 23 June 2013
This is not an easy read. Its vulgar and lurid and many times even disgusting. It is also completely fascinating. It feels real. Bukowski is brutally honest about his character and alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. This is not a man you root for. Chinaski is deeply flawed, a deviant with no redeeming quality or the slightest inclination for redemption. Bukowski is never apologetic or manipulative. He's just raw, authentic and merciless in his portrayal of Chinaski. And what a surprise it is that in a narrative about a man so blemished, so easy to hate, Bukowski manages to have some truly sensitive moments and create a character that is more pathetic and sad than perverse.
"Women" is a portrait of its time through Bukowski's characters. There's a crushing hopelessness in everyone, a sense of being lost, looking for a meaning, looking for something to make life worth living. In a sense, Chinaski is the most tragic of the characters in the book as he has given up on... well everything. He knows there is no happy ending for him and he has no expectations. In a way he doesn't even desire happiness. Its too much trouble for him. He uses women as a way to fend off death. He's bitter, a cynic and he's isolated in his own world and hates everyone else and the way they live. Alcohol and women are his way to deal with how empty his existence is and how his time is nearing its end. They're ways to forget and to make his reality bearable. As he uses them, the women use him back. He's an old, sad alcoholic and each woman uses him, trying to find in him that which is missing in their existence. He's famous and they constructed a "picture" of him, from his literary work and his fame as a womanizer. They seek him, waiting to find the man in their imagination and when they finally see the "real" man behind the "persona" they are abhorred and sickened and they leave having failed to find in him what they needed. He is discarded mercilessly. Considered a failure.
Bukowski's writing is coarse and crude and almost hypnotic. He has brilliant lines with some magnificent insight into human nature. I couldn't stop reading it.
The book touches multiple subjects, from loneliness to mental illness and alcoholism. It deals with relationships, with a bluntness that is sometimes hard to accept. Most if not all the characters are disturbed, sleazy and completely irresistible in their seedy nature. There is something compulsory in Chinaski's world, like a bad car accident you just can't look away.
And there is something about Henry Chinaski that just sticks with you. He's so completely screwed up that he's somewhat endearing. Its the way he's honest about himself and how he knows what a mess he is and how he found a way to live with himself that sets him apart. Chinaski lives as he wants, indulges himself and makes no apologies. In the end, for me, there is something deeply honorable and even brave in that.
Whatever is said of Bukowski or "Women" one thing is certain. No one is indifferent to the man or its work. No matter how you feel about it, that's an achievement and one that only the great can attain.
"Women" is disturbing, dirty and shocking. Its also sublime.