Book Reviews

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski

05 February 2008 | Book Reviews
Originally published at The Skinny

Unwarranted Re-release can occasionally be the sweetest phrase in the English language. While everyone else this summer is pretending to enjoy Mark Haddon’s dreary A Spot of Bother or Toby Litt’s adolescent Hospital, the Emperor’s New Clothes effect can be swiftly bypassed by reading this republished Bukowski classic instead. In Hollywood, we re-encounter Bukowski’s anti-hero, Henry Chinaski, who is now struggling against all distractions to write and to see the production of his first screenplay, “The Dance of Jim Beam”. Bukowski combines the clash of creative processes and the business-orientated world with a seedy portrait of 1980s Los Angeles. Egotistical actors, masochistic agents, dank ghettos, danker hotels and an improbable chicken-obsessed French guy are some of the dominating features of Bukowski’s tinsel town.

The novel, like other Chinaski stories, is a thinly-veiled memoir: notable events and characters of Bukowski’s LA mapped into Chinaski’s fictional topography. Insights into Bukowski’s writing process such as “I started crossing out lines. My characters talked too much”, also add to this truly entertaining read. Notes on the new edition? Howard Sounes’ introduction is remarkably self-indulgent and seems pieced together Frankenstein-style from his 1999 Bukowski biography. The cover is cheap-looking and the book is riddled with adverts for Canongate. Appropriately pulp.