Throwback Thursday [#9]: Pulp by Charles Bukowski


Pulp by Charles Bukowski | Ecco | Paperback, 208 pages
Publication Date: May 31st, 2002 | Adult Fiction | Crime |
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

The whole time I was reading this, all I could think of was what my brain would look like if it was on meth.

This book should come with a warning: “Book may induce numbness to the brain that may lead to permanent damage.” Or something to that effect.

Clearly, my first foray into Bukowski’s world did not get off to a great start. I read somewhere that this was his farewell book as he wrote it before he died. So being one of the greatest minds in the modern literature, of course the book was full of metaphors for the life he’d lived that I, unfortunately, knew nothing about. This is what happens when I become an overzealous reader. It’s like face-planting in front of a room-full of people with my skirt pulled up, thereby showing them a piece of my caboose.

It’s humiliating.

Anyway, I bought a couple of Bukowski’s short novels a while back because I wanted a little glimpse into how his mind works. Incidentally, this one caught my eye because I’m such a whore for pulp fiction covers. Last weekend, while I was trying to figure out what to feature on my throwback review, I thought it was as good a time as any. At 208 pages, and with chapters that sometimes are only a paragraph or two long, Pulp was just perfect.

Big mistake. Huge.

Imagine the most misogynistic character you’ve ever known then multiply that by ten. Dress him up as someone who drinks himself to stupor, gambles money he doesn’t have, jerks off at a woman’s voice over the phone, then makes deals with people only to double cross them in the end.

Are you imagining this person?

If you are, then congratulations. You just found yourself face to face with Nick Belane, PI. This man is quite the character. He’d often found himself in situations of his own making. It would be funny if it wasn’t so terrible. Anyway, his assignment to find Céline spear headed a domino effect of troubles for him. From one client to another, he crosses and double crosses each one. It was exhausting. So exhausting that I wished someone would put the poor sob out of his misery by the next page.

I went and read a little more about this book’s history and I found out that this book was sort of Bukowski’s “fuck you” to the world. He made fun of pulp fiction, and fired shots at some authors. I really am clueless. It wasn’t a good idea to read the last work that the author penned as he was close to dying. There was a deliberate referral to his pending escape as one of the characters is called, Lady Death. The one looking for the author Celine, who incidentally was supposed to be dead as he was born in the 1800s.

Needless to say, I  think Bukowski’s brilliance lay waste on someone like me.

  • I’ve always been curious about Bukowski, but he’s probably not my thing, in all honesty. Should I try him, I definitely won’t start with this one. 🙂 At least your picture is gorgeous! IF that helps?

  • lol 😀 This book sounds awful. But aw. I’m sorry it was; that you didn’t love it : I was going to start by saying that I love your picture. And that the cover looks pretty awesome 😀 Then saw the two star rating, lol, not a book for me ;p Thank you for sharing Joy. <3

  • Christy

    “jerks off at a woman’s voice over the phone”

    I’ll just continue to imagine this part, thank you. Btw, I love the photo in this post.

  • Oh I loved the cover when I saw it so it’s a little sad to know it’s not that good but you’re right, I understand too and I think I’ll pass as well.

    • Isn’t, though? I must admit that it was the first thing that drew me to this book to begin with. Sucks to be me.

  • He’s a private investigator? He’s sounds like a total wanker, quite literally. I love that cover, it’s so kitsch. I think this is one of those books that look great on your shelves, but don’t pick it up and spoil the brilliant cover. Great review regardless, hopefully your next read knocks your socks off <3

    • Thanks! I hope so, too. This is just my first taste, so keeping my fingers crossed. 🙂

  • That cover is gorgeous and I can see while it enticed you to buy it Joy. I would be in the exact same boat as you, having never read Bukowski’s work before. The character is definitely not-likeable so I would have a hard time getting through it. I don’t think these are my types of books at all, but I am intrigued. Wonderful review, I hope you enjoy his other works xx

    • Thanks, Joy. I’m hoping too. He’s supposedly a brilliant poet, so perhaps those will resonate well with me. 🙂

  • It’s been a while since I’ve read Bukowski, and while he is sometimes spectacular, there were times when I felt exactly like you did while you were reading this.

    • Thanks, Maja. I knew someone can relate. 🙂

  • I haven’t read any of his work, this is the first time I heard of him but I feel you about his talent going to waste on you. If you recall my math-ish steampunk sunday book feature? Yeah *hugs*

  • Ack! Definitely avoiding this one.

  • I expected more from this book based on the cover & the fact that it’s a crime novel, but apparently that’s not the case. I prefer to numb my brain with alcohol than fiction, so this is one throwback title that I will NOT be adding to my Kindle. I like Pulp Fiction, so I don’t exactly want to read something that pokes fun at it.

    Carmel @ Rabid Reads.

    • It was, at least, funny. He made a caricature of the readers’ love for pulp fiction.