This video comes from the interview based documentary The Bukowski Tapes, directed by Barbet Schroeder, who also directed the Charles Bukowski penned film Barfly. There is a transcript below the video.
Charles Bukowski on Starving for Art
Barbet Schroeder: You say that starving doesn’t create art, that it creates many things, but mainly creates time.
Charles Bukowski: Oh yeah, well, hey that’s very basic. I hate to use up your film to say this, but you know, if you work an eight hour job, you’re gonna get 55 cents an hour. If you stay home you’re not going to get any money, but you’re gonna have time to write things down on paper. I guess I was one of those rarities of our modern times who did starve for his art. I really starved, you know, to have a 24 hour day un-intruded upon by other people. I gave up food, I gave up everything, just to – I was a nut, I was dedicated. But you see, the problem is, you can be a dedicated nut and not be able to do it. Dedication without talent is useless. Understand what I mean?
Bukowski: Dedication alone is not enough. You can starve and want to do it (laughs), hey, ya know? I know, and how many do that? They starve in the gutters and they don’t make it.
Schroeder: But you knew you had talent.
Bukowski: They all think they have. How do you know that you’re the one? You don’t know. It’s a shot in the dark. You take it, or you become a normal civilized person from eight to five. Get married, have children; Christmas together, here comes Grandma, “Oh, hi, Grandma! Come on in. Hi, you.” You know. Shit, I couldn’t take that, I’d rather murder myself (laughs). I guess just in the blood of me I couldn’t stand the whole thing that’s going on, the ordinariness of life. I couldn’t stand family life, I couldn’t stand job life, I couldn’t stand anything I looked at. I just decided I either had to starve, make it, go mad, come through, or do something. Even if I hadn’t made it on writing – I could not do the eight to five. I would have been a suicide, something. Something, I’m sorry. I could not accept the snail’s pace, eight to five, Johnny Carson, Happy Birthday, Christmas, New Year…to me this is the sickest of all sick things. So I just had luck, I held on, somebody took a poem or short story somewhere. Now I just sit around, drink wine, and I talk about myself because you guys ask questions, not because I give the answers. Okay?
So, what do you think, is the Gábor Csupó “Bukowski” short a fitting tribute to the man, or were you less than impressed? Let us know in the comments, and if you liked this post don’t forget to share it using the buttons below.
Click on the image to buy this Factotum movie poster.
The Charles Bukowski novel Factotum, centered around the trials and tribulations of working stiff and struggling writer Henry Chinaski, was adapted into a film of the same name in 2005. The movie version of Factotum features Matt Dillon in a strong performance as Henry Chinaski (who was previously played, also impressively, by Mickey Rourke, in 1987’s Barfly, which was written by Bukowski himself).
Factotum also stars Lili Taylor as Chinaski’s main love interest in the film, Jan, as well as Marisa Tomei as Laura, another, shorter lived, romantic partner.
Older man at bar: “Feeling bad?”
Henry Chinaski: “I’ve felt better.”
Older man at bar: “Kid, I’ve probably slept longer than you’ve lived.”
Cab driving instructor: “Now when is the only time a man could lose control of his cab and he won’t be able to help it?”
Mendoza (potential cabbie): “When I get a hard-on?”
Cab driving instructor: “Mendoza, if you can’t drive with a hard-on, we can’t use you. Some of our best men drive with hard-ons all day long, all night too.”
Chinaski: “As we live we all get caught and torn by various traps. Writing can trap you. Some writers tend to write what has pleased their readers in the past. They hear accolades and believe them. There is only one final judge of writing, and that is the writer. When he is swayed by the critics, the editors, the publishers, the readers, then he’s finished. And of course when he’s swayed with his fame and his fortune, you can float him down the river with the turds.”
Hiring manager at pickle factory: “A writer, huh?”
Manager: “Are you sure?”
Chinaski: “No, I’m not.”
Manager: “Why do you want to work in a pickle factory.”
Chinaski: “It reminds me of my grandmother.”
Manager: “It does?”
Chinaski: “She used to serve me pickles whenever I visited her.”
Manager: “What do you write?”
Chinaski: “Mostly short stories and I’m halfway through a novel.”
Manager: “What’s it about?”
Manager: “You mean, for instance, it’s about my cancer?”
Manager: “How about my wife?”
Chinaski: “She’s in there too.”
Chinaski: “I wrote three or four short stories a week. I kept things in the mail. I imagined how the editors of The New Yorker must be reacting.”
New Yorker Editor (Chinaski imagining): “Hey, here’s another one of those things from that nut.”
Chinaski: “You married, Manny?”
Manny: “No way, no.”
Manny: “Sometimes. It never lasts.”
Chinaski: “What’s the problem?”
Manny: “A woman is like a fulltime job. You have to choose your profession.”
Chinaski: “Yeah, I suppose there is an emotional drain.”
Manny: “Physical too. They want to fuck night and day.”
Chinaski: “Well, get one you like to fuck.”
Manny: “Yeah, but if you drink or gamble they think it’s a putdown of their love.”
Chinaski: “Well, get one who likes to drink, gamble and fuck.”
Manny: “Who wants a woman like that?”
Jan: “Mister horse player. Mister big horse player. You know, when I first met ya, I liked the way you walked across a room. You didn’t just walk across a room, you walked like you were walking through walls, like you owned the place. Like nothing mattered. Well now you got a few bucks in your pocket. You’re not the same anymore. You act like you’re a dental student. Or a plumber.”
Chinaski: “Don’t give me any shit about plumbers, Jan.”
Jan: “You haven’t made love to me in two weeks.”
Chinaski: “Love takes many forms, mine has been more subtle.”
Jan: “Yeah, you haven’t fucked me in two weeks.”
Chinaski: “Have some patience, in six months we’ll be vacationing in Rome and Paris.”
Jan: “Look at you, pouring yourself that good whiskey, letting me sit here drinking this rotgut wine. You’re mister big time horse player.”
Chinaski: “I give you soul, I give you wisdom, I give you light, and music, and some laughter. By the way, I am the world’s greatest horse player.”
Chinaski: “No, horseplayer!”
Chinaski (voiceover): “I understood too well that great lovers were always men of leisure. I fucked better as a bum than as a puncher of time clocks.”
Mantz (bicycle shop boss): “Sit down, Chinaski. You knew we were gonna let you go.”
Chinaski: “Yeah, bosses are never hard to fathom.”
Mantz: “You haven’t been pulling your weight around here for over a month and you know it.”
Chinaski: “You know, a guy busts his damn ass and you don’t even appreciate it.”
Mantz: “You haven’t been busting your ass, Chinaski.”
Chinaski: “I’ve given you my time, which is all I’ve got to give, all any man has, for a pitiful six bucks an hour.”
Mantz: “You remember, you begged for this job. You said your job was your second home.”
Chinaski: “I give you my time so you can live in you big house. If anybody’s lost anything on this deal, on this arrangement, I’ve been the loser. You understand?”
Mantz: “Alright, Chinaski.”
Mantz: “Yeah, just go.”
Chinaski: “Now listen, Mantz, I don’t want any trouble about my unemployment payments. You guys are always trying to cheat the working man out of his rights. So don’t give me any trouble or I’ll be back to see you.”
Mantz: “You’ll get your unemployment. Now get the hell out of here!”
Click on the image to buy this Factotum movie poster.
Chinaski (voiceover): “The racetrack crowd is the world brought down to size. Life grinding against death and losing. Nobody wins finally, we’re only seeking a reprieve. A moment out of the glare.”
Jan: “You don’t have enough love. It’s warped ya.”
Chinaski: “People don’t need love. What they need is success of some form or another. It can be love, but it doesn’t have to be.”
Jan: “The Bible says ‘Love thy neighbor.’”
Chinaski: “That could also mean leave him alone.”
Chinaski (voiceover): “Even at my lowest times I could feel the words bubbling inside of me. And I had to get the words down or be overcome by something worse than death. Words not as precious things, but as necessary things. Yet when I begin to doubt my ability to work the word, I simply read another writer and then I know I have nothing to worry about.”
Laura: “Hey, you’re not some kind of maniac, are you? A guy’s been picking up girls, cuts crossword puzzles into their bodies with a penknife.”
Chinaski: “Well, I write, but I’m not him.”
Laura: “The there are guys who fuck you and chop you into little pieces. Find your ass in a drain pipe, in the ocean. Tit: a trashcan downtown.”
Chinaski: “I stopped doing that years ago.”
Chinaski: “Hey, Robert, what do you say you and I go out and have a few cocktails.”
Robert (Chinaski’s father): “You mean you want to go drinking in the middle of the week without a job?”
Chinaski: “Well, that’s when you need a drink the most.”
Boss at brake shoe job: “Now you see the cartons. We have three different types of cartons, each one printed differently. This is for our super durable brake shoe, this is for our super brake shoe, those are for our standard brake shoe. You run out, there’s more cartons over here. And these are the brake shoes.”
Chinaski: “They all look the same, how do I tell them apart?”
Boss: “You don’t, they’re all the same. You just divide them into thirds.”
Chinaski (voiceover): “A poem is a city filled with streets and sewers. Filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen. Filled with banality and booze. Filled with rain and thunder and periods of drought. A poem is a city at war. It’s a barbershop filled with cynical drunks. The poem is a city. The poem is a nation. The poem is the world.”
Click the image to buy this Factotum poster.
Chinaski (voiceover): “She was continually using our arguments to justify herself. It was just a cover for her own guilt. She’d go off with anyone she met in a bar, and the lower and dirtier he was the better she liked it. She left and I got drunk for three days and three nights. When I sobered up, I knew my job was gone.”
Chinaski (voiceover): “Amazing how grimly we hold on to our misery. The energy we burn fueling our anger. Amazing how one moment we can be snarling like a beast, then, a few moments later, forgetting what or why. Not hours of this, or days, or months, or years of this, but decades. Lifetimes completely used up, given over to the pettiest rancor and hatred. Finally, there is nothing here for death to take away.”
Man at employment office: “You look a little down in the mouth. You alright?”
Chinaski: “I lost a woman.”
Man: “Yeah, well, you’ll have others. You’ll lose them too.”
Chinaski: “Where do they go?”
Man (handing Chinaski): “Try this. Ain’t no women on Skid Row.”
Man: “Wine gnats.”
Chinaski: “Sons of bitches are hooked.”
Man: “They know what’s good.”
Chinaski: “They drink to forget their women.”
Man: “Ah, they just drink.”
Chinaski (voiceover): “If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery – isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Here are the best quotes from the Charles Bukowski penned film Barfly. Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke as Henry Chinaski and Faye Dunaway as main love interest Wanda Wilcox, was released in 1987.
Charles Bukowski makes a cameo in the film, as a barfly, which you can watch below.
Jim, the Bartender (talking about Chinaski): “He opens and closes the place. I say he’s okay.”
Female barfly: “What’s okay about him? He’s like a wet rat in the rain. A rat without any teeth.”
Jim: “Rat hell! He refuses to join the rat race. He drinks and he waits.”
Henry Chinaski (writing): “Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must live.”
Landlady (outside apartment building): “Drunk every day at noon! You oughta get yourself a job!”
Chinaski: “Hey, I have one.”
Landlady: “Oh, really?”
Chinaski: “Yeah, killin’ the cockroaches in that place of yours.”
Chinaski: “I remember ordering a draft, barkeep. What are you out of brew, or has that lobotomy finally taken hold?”
Click the image to buy this Barfly movie poster.
Wanda Wilcox: “I can’t stand people. I hate them.”
Chinaski: “Oh, yeah?”
Wanda: “You hate them?”
Chinaski: “No, but I seem to feel better when they’re not around.”
Chinaski: “I’m gonna ask you the same damn thing people are always asking me.”
Chinaski: “Like what do you do?”
Wanda: “I drink.”
Wanda: “Just one thing. I don’t ever want to fall in love. I don’t want to go through that again.”
Chinaski: “Hey, don’t worry, nobody’s ever loved me yet.”
Wanda: “We’re all in some kind of hell. And the madhouses are the only places where the people know they’re in hell.”
Jim: “You worked last year?”
Chinaski: “Six months in a toy factory. You don’t know how men suffer for children.”
Tully Sorenson: “Excuse me, who are you?”
Chinaski: “Oh, the eternal question. The eternal answer: ‘I don’t know.’”
Boss: “How do you explain all these gaps in your employment record?”
Chinaski: “Well hey, anybody can get a job. It takes a man to make it without working.”
Chinaski: “This is a world where everybody’s got to do something. You know, somebody laid down this rule that everybody’s got to do something. They got to be something. You know, a dentist, a fighter pilot, a narc, a janitor, a preacher, all that. Sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things I don’t want to do. All the things that I don’t want to be. All the places that I don’t want to go, like India, or to get my teeth cleaned. Save the whale, all that. I don’t understand that.”
Chinaski: “Humanity, you never had it from the beginning.”
(Couple next door heard arguing through the wall, Chinaski laughs.)
Wanda: “What is it?”
Chinaski: “Oh, it’s hatred. It’s the only think that lasts.”
Tully: “I’m one of the main producers of The Contemporary Review of Art and Literature.”
Chinaski: “Oh, Producer.”
Tully: “I own the magazine.”
Tully: “So, we’ve discovered you.”
Chinaski: “Oh, I had an idea that I’d be discovered after my death.”
Tully: “Why don’t you stop drinking? Anybody can be a drunk.”
Chinaski: “Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.”
Tully: “You can really write. Why do you live like a bum?”
Chinaski: “I am a bum. What do you want me to do? You want me to write about the sufferings of the upper classes?”
Tully: “This may be news to you, but they suffer too.”
Chinaski: “Hey, baby, nobody suffers like the poor.”
Charles Bukowski Barfly cameo.
Tully: “You know, in the guesthouse you could write in peace.”
Chinaski: “Hey, Tully, baby, nobody who could write worth a damn could ever write in peace.”
Tully: “I take it you don’t care for my world.”
Chinaski: “Well baby, look around. It’s a cage with golden bars.”
Chinaski: “I belong on the streets. I don’t feel right here. I feel like I can’t breathe.”
Tully: “You just aren’t used to easiness. You can grow into it.”
Chinaski: “Hey, baby, grow is for plants. I hate roots.”
Chinaski: “Hey, money isn’t dumb. They say it talks, you know.”
Chinaski: “Now look, girls, be realistic. None of us hardly know one another. We’re basically strangers to each other. We’ve passed in the night and met again in a bar. Be realistic. There’s no way, there’s no reality to any of this.”
The place obviously held a special place for him, even if these were tough times. He ran errands for the other patrons for pocket money, got in bar fights, and helped open the place more mornings than not for a while. He was young and living a type of free existence that, while not ideal for everyone, seemed to fit him and contain a certain amount of magic.
The 17th Street Spot went up for sale two years ago, but no one was interested in snatching up the place for the $1.2 million asking price.
The historic bar is now on the market again, at a reduced price. The Fairmount neighborhood, where the building sits, is experiencing a revitalization of sorts. Owners are likely hoping this development, along with the lowered list price and an impressive past, will help sell the location this time around.
King Eddy’s Saloon, “Last Skid Row Bar” Changes Hands
Another place you could have seen Charles Bukowski drinking once upon a time, King Eddy’s Saloon, has been sold to new owners. King Eddy’s has been called the last Skid Row bar.
The Los Angeles dive was not only a favorite of Bukowski’s, it was also well known to one of his favorite writer’s, John Fante.
King Eddy’s was referenced in Fante’s Ask the Dust, a novel Bukowski fell in love with as a young man. The two men later became friends and Buk became a champion of Fante’s work, helping to get Ask the Dust back into print, as well as writing a new foreword.
The new owners do not plan to significantly change the bar — Leko said a renovation will be geared toward bringing the more than 90-year-old watering hole up to code. He expects to close the bar for a few months and reopen it in early 2013.
“The place has been, not neglected, but left alone for a long number of years,” he said. “We’re going to do our best to try and to bring King Eddy’s back a little bit. We’re not changing the name, not changing anything. We’re certainly not changing the location.”
This should come as good news to those who love the bar in its current skid row appropriate state, as well as for site seers looking for the real Charles Bukowski Los Angeles of old.
Bukowski once said, “When you clean up a city you kill it.” The same may be said of bars like King Eddy’s. Let’s hope the owners stay true to their word.