of passion, wisdom and insanity
but passion above all
~~~ Jacob Haddon
Gladly accepting that there are stories and there are stories I was entertained for the most parts, annoyed for another, and surprised too while reading the "Long Distance Drunks" anthology.
I was introduced to the likes of Will Viharo, Teri Louise Kelly and Brett Williams who have written some true and honest Bukowski stories. Fantastical ones, all three of them, batshit crazy, insane stories, and with passion. Passion which Jacob Haddon talks about in his poem about the man himself. Alas, passion is nothing without talent, and those guys have it, plenty of it. There is something magical about when the pieces fall together, when it makes click and you totally get their style, their rhythm of bleeding the words on the paper. When nothing else matters anymore.
Viharo´s story deserves some special praise as it is an art form in itself when life imitates art imitating life. It´s Barfly before Barfly, and punching as hard as Mickey Rourke while delivering one of the funniest dialogues I´ve encountered lately. For the joke of all jokes this story alone is worth reading this anthology.
It also confirmed my bias that Craig Wallwork is a mighty fine writer, and for the record: he is not THAT obsessed with arses. Make of that info what you will.
Aaand I was introduced to some authors I will avoid like the plague in the future, so thanks for that too, i guess?
A lot of those stories are vulgar, full of the sexual and of drinking poets/writers/losers - synonymous for the most parts - but in this self-depicting way. No one wants to be the ugly one, except they do. There is some pleasantry apparently in being the guy who doesn´t give a shit, in the misantrophy of it all, even I find none of it all that pleasant myself. Still, feeling able to relate to them isn´t necessary, but it´s more a point of observation. Something, anything could happen to those guys, and you know somehow they will be fine. There is this sense of being, of knowing what it means to be the outsider, of it means to be the has-been.
Which I acknowledge is a ton of what makes Bukowski´s stories so great. He had an unique way of looking at things, and describing them in a way, sharp and observant. Doesn´t mean most of those stories come close to it. I still stand by my point that the passion is there but not necessarily the execution, as hardly anyone can really evoke the same true feelings of some unfortunate circumstances in life, even self-inflicted. There is no pity, no empathy, but more of a who cares? moment, which is deadly to really feel for what is happening here. Sadly so, but maybe that´s the point. Simply walking away with not making a big deal out of it. Nothing changes. Different day, same shit. Nasty and cynical as this may sound this is probably the truest things of all Bukowski.
Even story is a big word for some of those, there is a randomness in the anthology which just rings false, or naive at best, when it announces itself, "Told in the same voice and style as Mr. Bukowski, this book is a homage to his legacy." Burn, baby, burn, but no. Same voice and style has almost none of those stories; they go from noir-ish to juvenile nonsense to some more surreal-existenalist writing to something more real, but Bukowski it ain´t at all but those by Viharo and Kelly. Not everything´s bad as I got some genuine laughing out loud moments out of it, and entertainment too.
Furthermore, this anthology should actually come with a warning label that (almost) no capital letters were harmed in the making of those stories, which is not as irritating as it sounds. Much more irritating is the inconsistency with applying capitalization and at random, even when technically correct but shouldn´t be there within the logic of the editing. Random mistakes makes it sound as if the proof reading of those stories were seen as some scatological unpleasantries. Tossed aside a mile away and calling it a day after a long gulp of Jack Daniels, and some more.
Which oddly would be very fitting for the pulp.