After Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar, her autobiographical novel chronicling her first mental breakdown — the liner notes said it was funny! — I thought I’d move to something more lighthearted, an author I know little about, Charles Bukowski. I’m reading the Post Office, another autobiographical piece, chronicling the rise and fall of Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s alter ego, in the U.S. postal system.
Bukowski is much more funny than Sylvia Plath.
He’s a jerk. In between books, sitting on a couch with my iPhone, I of course had to read all about them both. I know much more about Plath than Bukowski, but what I learned about Bukowski is that, unlike Plath, who died much too young, at her own doing, he developed a coping mechanism for his depression, and that was booze. You might call him a survivor. So I was thinking it’s too bad Plath never took up any vices.
So when I got home — Oh wait. Stop. I spent the last week in L.A. We had just gone down to Tempe for Chuck’s Ironman triathlon, and then on our way home last Monday, stopped for a rest that would last several days, in Banning, California, population 27,000, just outside of Beaumont, and twenty miles from Palm Springs. It wasn’t just to hang out withg with Officer Babcock for an hour on the sidewalk in front of the AMPM, sniffing in the odors of Chuck’s SUV’s blown transmission fluid, which took our minds off the Ironman and onto other things, such as just what are we going to do down here in Southern California, now that we can’t leave ’til the transmission is replaced, which is never going to happen today or tomorrow or the next day, because it’s Thanksgiving. Like, what do people do here besides drive around, quickly. You never see them outside, unless they are walking to their cars.
We drove his rent-a-car, a PT Cruiser, maroon, to the Montebello mall. His son David, who housed us a couple of nights, recommended it. He said we could get go see real life pregnant teenagers. He did not disappoint!
There was no book store in this mall, just a Hallmark card store, a newspaper stand that sold junk food, pregnant teenagers, and clothing and shoe stores with flashing lights in the ceilings.
My iPhone pointed us to Barnes and Noble’s, so we drove the five miles and twenty traffic lights across town, and there I chose three books, all by their covers, because I’ve never been let down in this way: Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar; Bukowski’s Post Office; and Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, the best cover of them all.
So, when I got home — I thought I never might; Chuck’s driving back to Banning, seven hours away, right this very second — back on a regular computer, I of course had to go reading about Bukowski.
Here is Linda Lee Bukowski, reminiscing about her true love for him, plus Bukowski himself. He’s a riot!
I can’t wait to read all about Brontë and Wuthering Heights.