yearzerowriters

Issue 4

Sayonara Gangsters Genichiro Takahashi   *****

This one is an oddball…it’s set in the near future, perhaps, but there’s no real description of anything, and the first chapter pretty much explains what the rest of the novel is all about by saying that each person in this world is born nameless, and they only assume names when their lovers give them one.

Murakami ripped off a lot of this book in his ‘Hard boiled wonderland…’ and made his name off it, the little thief. The building that contains things it can’t possibly contain, the name thing, the cats that talk…all written by Takahashi first. Of course, he wasn’t the first ever to do it, but it really pisses me off when another writer gets credit for something that someone else has done better elsewhere.

Anyway, this book isn’t perfect, there’s nothing to really draw you in character-wise…you won’t really know any of them well enough to care what happens to them, but that’s kinda the point, I guess. The thing that will keep you reading is the bizarre invention on almost every page, and the short chapters that sometimes run to only a few lines.

And the gangsters, of course. They come in and out of it, but you’re always wondering, what do they mean, what are they representing etc.? And, because this book is relatively unknown outside of Japan, there isn’t much criticism available to explain everything to you, which means you’re gonna have to figure it out for yourself. Or wait until someone else writes a book about it and tells you what to think.

Women  Charles Bukowski  ****

 

I met some woman. I went round her place. We drank. ‘Let’s fuck,’ I said. We went to bed. I played with her cunt. I mounted. I gave her strokes. I gave her all I had. I came. She went to the bathroom, she came back. We didn’t speak.

This isn’t one scene from the book, it’s pretty much every scene. Bukowski plays himself, touring the country, dossing around in LA, giving readings, giving head. Well, not head, but he goes down on a lot of women.

It’s all very unerotic, but still, sex is sex, and there’s something interesting about the way the whole book is reduced to a long series of episodes, where Bukowski finds a woman, fucks a woman then loses a woman. There are no real obstacles in place to stop him getting with any of them, no narrative tension, but still you read on…or I read on, I don’t know about other people. Why? The only reason I can think of is the voice, and perhaps the character. There’s something compelling about it, like you know you’re just reading about a bum doing nothing with his life, but at the same time, you know it’s a poet-bum, and he’s gonna be put in places and situations he shouldn’t be in. The old juxtaposition of…class? Maybe not that, I don’t know…the contrast of having this wreck of a man going to bed with smart, educated, sometimes rich women…what’s the word for that?

And what is so great about the character? You know, if he weren’t a poet or writer or whatever then who would give a shit? He’s the drunk you see on park benches every day, the waster down at the racetrack. The only difference seems to be he can write. And that’s why this book is so readable, because Bukowski knows it all bullshit. He’s scathing about himself in his descriptions. White belly, ugly face, old, withered. A messy drunk. He doesn’t think much of himself, and finds it hilarious that anyone else would.

And the women of the title? Bukowski says he can’t write them because he doesn’t know them, and some of the women he meets say the same thing. But they’re not completely right. A lot of the women are cut-outs, but some of them really stick in your mind. Mostly the maniacal ones. And you half expect one of them to stick around, or come back and redeem him, but that’s Hollywood, not LA. A few of them stay for a while, but eventually there’s no one left but the bum and the bottle. And the fact that any of them come at all…ha, that’s the funniest part. ‘We love/admire/adore your writing,’ they say to the miserable, lazy, old man. And then go to bed with him. And become part of the next book.

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