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4.2 out of 5 stars
Women
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon 20 September 2013
I eread Bukowski's novel, "Women", (1975) after seeing the film documentary, "Bukowski: Born into This" which offers a compelling picture of "Buk's" life replete with interviews of Bukowski, his women, and friends.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was born in Germany but his family moved to the United States when he was three. He wandered around the country for some years living in cheap rooming houses and drinking. He worked as a laborer and for the post office for many years and wrote poems and stories in his spare time. His work gradually attracted a following and was published by Black Sparrow Press. He achieved substantial acclaim before his death and his work continues to be read. It is low-down, graphic, and visceral.

Bukowski's novel "Women" (1975), is told in the voice of a character called Henry Chinaski, as are many other Bukowski novels. The book is largely autobiographical, but the use of a fictitous narrator provides a certain distance from its author, and deliberately so. During the course of "Women", Chinaski remarks more than once how his (Chinaski's) character differs to some degree from the public perception. I find it useful to remember the tension between the fictional Chinaski and the actual Bukowski in reading Bukowski's novels.

"Women" begins when Chinaski is 50 years old and is lamenting his lengthy lack of a sexual relationship with a woman. This lack is soon remedied during the course of the novel. Much of the story consists of a recounting of Chinaski's encounters with many women, most of whom are much younger than he is. Some of these encounters are brief one night stands, others continue over a period of time. Sometimes the women appear with Chinaski, leave, and then come back. Many of the women seem, in the story, genuinely drawn to Chinaski. He meets many of them through the poetry readings he gave at colleges and bars after his work acquired noteriety. Chinaski himself seems attached to at least some of these women -- perhaps more so than he would have his reader believe.

The activities of the characters are simply, bluntly, and clearly described and will not appeal to all readers. There is a great deal of emphasis on sex, on excretory functions, on endless drinking, horseplaying, and some drug use. Some readers will also take offense at Chinaski/Bukowski's attitude towards women, focused as it is on physical appearance and sexual activity.

I found the book engagingly written with its in-your-face attitude. It is gritty and realistic and describes Chinaski and his east Hollywood environs well. Many of the scenes are funny and perceptive as Chinaski mocks himself and his life. There is sexual honesty in the book as well as Chinaski shows us his failures -- which are frequent due to his alcoholism -- as well as the women that get away.

The book shows a degree of reflectiveness that is easy to overlook on first reading. There are times when Chinaski enjoys and glorifies his life with his sexual conquests and drink but many passages in the book suggest second thoughts and feelings of guilt. Thus, in a passage near the end of the book, which I will expurgate and abridge, Chinaski says ( "Women" p.236)

"I walked away feeling worse and worse. ... I could certainly play some nasty, unreal games. What was my motive? Was I trying to get even for something. .... I tinkered with lives and souls as if they were my playthings. How could I call myself a man? ... The worst part of it was that I passed myself off for exactly what I wasn't -- a good man. I was able to enter people's lives because of their trust in me. I was doing my dirty work the easy way."

There is a great deal, then, of the cult figure Chinanski/Bukowski in this book but there is more than that. Bukowski may not be to everyone's liking and he should not be any reader's sole literary fare. But there is something in the books beyond the bluster, the self-pity, and the public image. "Women" is worth reading.

Robin Friedman
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on 17 May 2012
Lots of reviewers seem to think that this book gives an unrealistic view of women.

However I think the point with this book is that Chinaksi realises the situation is unrealistic himself - he repeatedly finds himself amazed at his good luck - 'the gods were smiling' etc... He is of course a famous author - maybe women DO behave with unrestrained sexual abandon towards the famous. Certainly, women always go for successful charismatic men, however overweight, alcoholic, or old they are. (HG Wells was an ugly git apparently but a massive hit with the ladies, even strong female icons like Rebecca West).

I enjoyed it anyway. It had a lot of sex and drinking, a dash of literary rumination, too few flashes of true poetry (p236!) and it ripped along like Tammie on uppers.

Something to aspire to!
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on 22 August 2012
I always wanted to read Bukowski, but somehow it never happened yet. When I told a friend that I read Nick Cave's Bunny Munroe he said that I have to read Bukowski first to fully understand Cave's novel. He highly recommended to start the Bukowski novels with his most popular being also the most typical one... "Women". So he borrowed me this book and I went for it. It is really a hilarious story of a 50 years old man who lives the sex, drugs, rock'n'roll stereotype, unbelievable! This story is so unbelievable, that it is funny again. Of course now I can see the connection of the character of Bunny Munroe by Nick Cave too, so Bukowski did it first! I really liked the book and I took all the anti-feminism ironic, otherwise I think you cannot stand reading it... but this is so funny! I will go on... :)
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on 24 September 2013
Very very candid view of life of a writer steeped in alcohol and lover of women. With little plot of story, Charles was able to keep me turning pages intrigued and mesmerised with the protagonists weird and infantile lifestyle. I cannot make much criticism of the hero as Charles has taken the liberty of critically analysing him through the many lover women making a new entry on every other page. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read, though sexually explicit but filled with very funny anecdotes. Charles definitely has his own unique style which has to be read to be really appreciated.
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on 15 January 2014
Bought this book as a gift for my sister at Christmas and she was very pleased with it. Familiar with Bukowski's poetry she wanted to read one of his novels to see what they are like. She has told me that despite the gritty descriptions of a complex life and at times traumatic memories in this semi-autobiographical story, she was impressed with the easy way in which it reads and how it gives an insight in to the life of Bukowski and the other characters featured.

So if you know a Bukowski fan and they don't have this book I can recommend it as a gift that they may enjoy.
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on 9 September 2014
Not his finest moment, but still a page turning exercise in excessive madness. Bukowski lurches into depravity too often, describing his antics in lurid detail, but there's a poignant loneliness and sadness hanging over every occasion. However, this doesn't mean the book had to be so pointlessly long. This is a novella at best, and it barely develops on the excellent Post Office or Factotum.

Worth it for Bukowski fans, but if you're new to his work head to Ham On Rye or Factotum/Post Office.
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on 14 April 2015
A break from Disneyland. Nothing fake, written with absolute freedom, without any self censorship. Not for the faint hearted, as anyone who has read buckowski will expect. It gives the reader a window into the life of very troubled man as he experiences recognition, fame, and adulation from a world which seems in the past to have denied him basic love and acceptance. Very truthful, and very wise at times, well worth a read I'd say.
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on 25 February 2013
Brilliant book. The master of dirty realism/transgressive fiction - he came before the likes of Morton Bain, Chuck Palahniuk and Michel Houellebecq. For everyone who has rebelled against the drudgery of work and the banality of everyday life...
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I know Bukowski fans are going to be upset with me, but I couldn't warm to this book, the same way I couldn't warm to TROPIC OF CANCER. It was just too raw and "down" for my taste. Still, I read it from cover to cover.

Bukowski's style is certainly unique and I have to admit I was drawn in, but some of the terms and descriptions were too much for me. Perhaps I was expecting more a "Hunter Thompson" type of book, with an edge but also some dash of flippancy. True, there is humour in WOMEN, but it was just a bit too edgy for my taste---and I've read NAKED LUNCH!

What I find infinitely more fascinating than Bukowski's books, is the man himself, though I realize you can't really separate the two of them. The man seems to actually have more of a following in the UK than in his own country, and I find this fascinating. If anyone can recommend a bio, please do. Again, I realize a lot of his work (okay, all of it) is terribly autobiographical, but I'd like to read the full-out other person's point of view on the man.
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on 11 January 2015
Good, easy read. Not for the prude. But contains some touching moments.
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