Read The Captain Is Out to Lunch Online

Authors: Charles Bukowski

Tags: #United States, #Management, #Diaries, #Poetry, #Fiction, #Literary, #Literary Criticism, #Historical, #Authors, #Biography & Autobiography, #General, #Business & Economics

The Captain Is Out to Lunch

BOOK: The Captain Is Out to Lunch
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The Captain Is Out to Lunch
Charles Bukowski
(1997)
Rating:
****
Tags:
Literary, Management, Diaries, Poetry, Fiction, United States, Literary Criticism, Historical, Authors, Biography & Autobiography, General, Business & Economics
From Booklist

Something new from Bukowski is always a treat. This posthumous collaboration with comix artist R. Crumb is sublime. Crumb perfectly captures Bukowski's world, which did change over the years. The wall-to-wall drinking and fighting of younger days gave way to the horse track, writing, and mortality. The writing became less compact, but then these writings are late-night journal entries. Bukowski at 71 was using a word processor, keeping his manual typewriter next to the computer (it leered at him when its digital descendant was on the blink). If fans can abide such bourgeois developments as that and the old Bukowski's swimming pool, they will be thoroughly gratified by this book that gives us the same cranky, sardonic, insightful master of gritty expression whose roaring public appearances of the '60s triggered the rebirth of poetry as performance. And oh, yes, this satisfying glimpse of the writer near the end of his career is also a must for Crumb enthusiasts.
Mike Tribby

Review

"I am not in a contest. I never wanted fame or money. I wanted to get the word down the way I wanted it, that's all. And I had to get the words down or be overcome by something worse than death." So writes the late Charles Bukowski in his entry for 6/23/92 (12:34 AM). The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship, a delightful, posthumous gathering of excerpts from Bukowski notebooks, is loaded with such direct ruminations about writing, death, money, humanity, and how the author located meaning and value in his daily life and work. Richly illustrated with gritty drawings by Robert Crumb, Bukowski's legions of readers will want to add this prose volume to their collections. Autograph seekers, race track habitués and the dull thud of the nags ("I go to the track almost reluctantly. I am too idiotic to figure out any other place to go...I guess getting my ass out of here forces me to look at Humanity and when you look at Humanity you've GOT to react." p.66), Hollywood types, classical music and classy authors, poets and poseurs, all subjects frequently addressed by Bukowski over the course of his long, productive career, shape the book's contents. One observes Bukowski at home, going to the mall with wife Linda, driving the LA freeways, at his computer mulling over what does and doesn't add up. Charles Bukowski scrapped and fought for his rewards and, as "The Captain Is Out To Lunch" makes indelibly clear, it was honest writing and its publication, not money or fame, that empowered him. Ultimately he achieved acclaim and a fair measure of financial success, after establishing a beneficial relationship with John Martin of Black Sparrow Press, a committed independent publisher who enabled him to reach a world-wide audience of readers. They valued his work during his lifetime and continue to anticipate the thinning stream of books still coming out several years after his death. --
From Independent Publisher

8/28/91 11:28 PM

Good day at the track, damn near swept the card.

Yet it gets boring out there, even when you're winning. It's the  minute wait between races, your life leaking out into space. The people look gray out there, walked through. And I'm there with them. But where else could I go? An Art Museum? Imagine staying home all day and playing at writer? I could wear a little scarf. I remember this poet who used to come by on the bum. Buttons off his shirt, puke on his pants, hair in eyes, shoelaces undone, but he had this long scarf which he kept very clean. That signaled he was a poet. His writing? Well, forget it...

Came in, swam in the pool, then went to the spa. My soul is in danger. Always has been.

Was sitting on the couch with Linda, the good dark night descending, when there was a knock on the door. Linda got it.

"Better come here, Hank...“

I walked to the door, barefooted, in my robe. A young blond guy, a young fat girl and a medium sized girl.

"They want your autograph...“

"I don't see people,“ I told them.

"We just want your autograph,“ said the blond guy, "then we promise never to come back.“

Then he started giggling, and holding his head. The girls just stared.

"But none of you have a pen or even a piece of paper I said.

"Oh,“ said the blond kid, taking his hands from his head, "We'll come back again with a book! Myabe at a more proper time...“

Tha bathrobe. The bare feet. Maybe the kid thought i was eccentric. Maybe I was.

"Don't come in the morning,“ I told them.

I saw them begin to walk off and I closed the door...

Now I'm up here writing about them. You've got to be a little hard with them or they'll swarm you. I've had some horrible expreriences blocking that door. So many of them think that somehow you'll invite them in and drink with them all night. I prefer to drink alone. A writer owes nothing except to his writing. He owes nothing to the reader except the availability of the printed page. And worse, many of the doorknockers are not even readers. They've just heard something. The reader and the best human is the one who rewards me with his or her absence.

8/29/91 10:55 PM

Slow at the track today, my damned life dangling on the hook. I am there every day. I don't see anybody else out there every day except the employees. I probably have some malady. Saroyan lost his ass at the track, Fante at poker, Dostoevsky at the wheel. And it's really not a matter of the money unless you run out of it. I had a gambler friend once who said, "I don't care if I win or lose, I just want to gamble.“ I have more respect for the money. I've had very little of it most of my life. I know what a park bench is, and the landlord's knock. There are only two things wrong with money: too much or too little.

I suppose there's always something out there we want to torment ourselves with. And at the track you get the feel of the other people, the desperate darkness, and how easy they toss it in and quit. The racetrack crowd is the world brought down to size, life grinding against death and losing. Nobody wins finally, we are just seeking a reprieve, a moment out of the glare. (shit, the lighted end of my cigarette just hit one of my fingers as I was musing on this purposelessness. That woke me up, brought me out of this Sartre state!) Hell, we need humor, we need to laugh. I used to laugh more, I used to do everything more, except write. Now, I am writing and writing and writing, the older I get the more I write, dancing with death. Good show. And I think the stuff is all right. One day they'll say, "Bukowski is dead,“ and then I will be truly discovered and hung from stinking bright lampposts. So what? Immortality is the stupid invention of the living. You see what the racetracks does? It makes the lines roll. Lightning and luck. The last bluebird singing. Anything I say sounds fine because I gamble when I write. Too many are too careful. They study, they teach and they fail. Convention strips them of their fire.

I feel better now, up here on this second floor with the Macintosh. My pal.

And Mahler is on the radio, he glides with such ease, taking big chances, one needs that sometimes. Then he sends in the long power rises. Thank you, Mahler, I borrow from you and can never pay you back.

I smoke too much, I drink too much but I can't write too much, it just keeps coming and I call for more and it arrives and mixes with Mahler. Sometimes I deliberately stop myself. I say, wait a moment, go to sleep or look at your 9 cats or sit with your wife on the couch. You're either at the track or with the Macintosh. And then I stop, put on the brakes, park the damned thing. Some people have written that my writing has helped them go on. It has helped me too. The writing, the roses, the 9 cats.

There's a small balcony here, the door is open and I can see the lights of the cars on the Harbor Freeway south, they never stop, that roll of lights, on and on. All those people. What are they doing? What are they thinking? We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.

Keep it going, Mahler! You've made this a wonderous night. Don't stop, you son-of-a-bitch! Don't stop!

9/11/91 1:20 AM

I should cut my toenails. My feet have been hurting me for a couple of weeks. I know it's the toenails yet I can't find time to cut them. I am always fighting for the minute, I have time for nothing. Of course, if I could stay away from the racetrack I would have plenty of time. But my whole life has been a matter of fighting for one simple hour to do what I want to do. There was always something getting in the way of my getting to myself.

I should make a giant effort to cut my toenails tonight. Yes, I know there are people dying of cancer, there are people sleeping in the streets in cardboard boxes and I babble about cutting my toenails. Still, I am probably closer to reality than some slug who watches 162 baseball games a year. I've been in my hell, I'm still in my hell, don't feel superior. The fact that I am alive and 71 years old and babbling about my toenails, that's miracle enough for me.

I've been reading the philosophers. They are really strange, funny wild guys, gamblers. Descartes came along and said, these fellows have been talking pure crap. He said that mathematics was model for absolute self-evident truth. Mechanism. Then Hume came along with his attack on the validity of scientific causal knowledge. And then came Kierkegaard: "I stick my finger into existence – it smells of nothing. Where am I?“ And then along came Sartre who claimed that existence was absurd. I love these boys. They rock the world. Didn't they headaches thinking that way? Didn't a rush of blackness roar between their teeth? When you take men like these and stack them againts the men I see walking along the street or eating in cafes or appearing at tv screen the difference is so great that something wrenches inside of me, kicking me in the gut.

I probably won't do the toenails tonight. I'm not crazy but I'm not sane either. No, maybe I'm crazy. Anyway, today, when daylight comes and 2 p.m. arrives it will be the first race of the last day of racing at Del Mar. I played every day, every race. I think I'll sleep now, my razor nails slashing at the good sheets. Good night.

9/12/91 11:19 PM

No horses today. I feel strangely normal. I know why Hemingway needed the bullfights, it framed the picture for him, it reminded him of where it was and what it was. Sometimes we forget, paying gas bills, getting oil changes, etc. Most people are not ready for death, theirs or anybody else's. It shocks them, terrifies them. It's like a great surprise. Hell, it should never be. I carry death in my left pocket. Sometimes I take it out and talk to it: "Hello, baby, how you doing? When you coming for me? I'll be ready.“

There's nothing to mourn about death any more than  there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They don't honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their mindes are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. Thare's nothing left to die.

You see, I need the horses, I lose my sense of humor. One thing death can't stand is for you to laugh at it. Trues laughter knocks the logest odds right on thir ass. I haven't laughed for 3 or 4 weeks. Something is eating me alive. I scratch myself, twist, look about, trying to find it. The Hunter is clever. Your can't see him. Or her.

This computer must go back into the shop. Won't bless you with the details. Some day I will know more about computers than the computers themselves. But right now this machine has me by the balls. There are two editors I know who take great offense at computers. I have these two letters and they rail against the computer. I was very surprised about the bitterness in the letters. And the childishness. I am aware that the computer can't do the writing for me. If it could, I wouldn't want it. They both just went on too long. The inference being that the computer wasn't good for the soul. Well, few things are. But I'm for convenience, if I can write twice as much and the quality remains the same, then I prefer the computer. Writing is when I fly, writing is when I start fires. Writing is when I take death out of my left pocket, throw him against the wall and catch him as he bounces back.

These guys think you always have to be on the cross and bleeding in order to have soul. They want you half mad, dribbling down your shirt front. I've  had enough of the cross, my tank is full of that. If I can stay off the cross, I still have plenty to run on. Too much. Let them get on the cross, I'll congratulate them. But pain doesn't create writing, a writer does.

BOOK: The Captain Is Out to Lunch
11.99Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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