Book review: Bring Me Your Love by Charles Bukowski

“Fishhead, my paranoia has often been the forerunner of an approaching truth…”

This is violent. This is vulgar. This is Brilliant!

Bring me your love written by Charles Bukowski and illustrated by Robert Crumb, is a story published in 1983 about a man visiting his wife in a mental asylum. Short and sweet, it felt like a sharp jab in the face that could, at least temporarily, rid me of the suite of pretentions and self-delusions I always carry about. *

“…She brought her right hand up, looked at it, clenched it into a fist and punched herself squarely in the nose, hard.”

In the edition I purchased, the story is in large print, almost in the style of a children’s book. A very adult children’s book. The stark illustrations by Robert Crumb are superb, and very well suited to Bukowski’s style. It’s all over in a minute which seems appropriate. Strangely beautiful.

I had heard that Bukowski could be nauseatingly chauvinistic, but in this story I felt that the poorly treated female protagonist provoked only sympathy. In fact, it reminded me of some of the more disturbing ‘feminist’ stories from The Doll’s Alphabet, though perhaps you could argue, as the protagonist’s sister from The Moth Emporium mentions when faced with art depicting an abusive relationship by a male sculptor, it is “…different when a man does it.” I am not quite convinced of that.

To conclude, I enjoyed my first sample of the ‘dirty realism’ of Bukowski/Crumb so much that I have already ordered another short story, There’s no business, published in the same style. However, I imagine that reading many similar tales in a collection, one after the other, may very well be damaging to one’s health. You’d be a bloody mess after all those jabs to the face, I’m sure.

*This is unlike the sensation you receive when reading a Chekhov short story, which is more like the author gently placing you in front of a microscope, thereby allowing you to finally discover the underlying beauty that can be found in the most seemingly ordinary events/people; and the absurdity of societies foolish pretentions, delusions, unnecessary complications…or something along those lines.


Image courtesy of Jennifer Rogers, 2007.

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