Review: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski the anti-hero. He’s loveable and loathable in equal measures. Flawed, lonely, horny and drunk. He’s Jay Gatsby. He’s Dean Moriarty. Hell, Hank Chinaski is Hank Moody (for any Californication fans out there). It’s transgressive fiction at its best. … Continue reading

Review: As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

Faulkner said “in writing, you must kill all your darlings”. On the surface the language used in As I Lay Dying appears to subvert this dogma: it is poetic and beautifully written, but it is not merely decorative infill, it is loaded with meaning. As is the magic of Faulkner, each time I read this novel, I take new things from it and I half expect (and hope) to never fully understand it.

He has a way with words that arrests me. Stops me dead. When I first read Addie Bundren’s section in As I Lay Dying, I read it ten times more. Something just clicked and things started falling into place.

Despite the entire story revolving around her death, for the most part, Addie’s voice is absent. We seek to understand her through the actions and words of others and are granted a single insight in one small section: Addie’s.

She married for the wrong reasons, she committed adultery, she struggled to feel, she could not connect emotionally with others and so to do so, she beat the “dirty, snuffling” children that she taught as a young woman. Only through violence did she feel she could make an impression on another human being:

and I would think with each blow of the switch : Now you are aware of me! Now I am something in you secret and selfish life, who have marked your blood with my own for ever and ever (Addie)

And yet I find it difficult to feel contempt for her. Instead, she saddens me. And while she saddens me, her words inspire me Continue reading

Jack Kerouac: On the Road to box office losses?

With an intricately complex narrative that defies all conventional forms of book writing, the bible of the Beats, On The Road, is to be Hollywood-ised.

With an already impressive line-up (Sam Reilly of Control fame looks as though he will fit into the shoes of Sal Paradise quite nicely), and Brazilian director Walter Salles, who was selected after producer Francis Ford Cappolla watched The Motorcycle Diaries – is this too good to be true?

I am skeptical.  And not because I don’t think it will make a great movie: I can easily imagine a husky-voiced-American narrator opening the movie with that always impacting introduction:
…with the coming of Dean Moriarty began the part of my life you could call my life on the road.
But because I think the challenge is too great. This autobiographical book demands to be read closely. And not once or twice, but several times. So complex is it, that the eagerly awaited adaptation will signal a sigh of relief for those who have tried and tried but never succeeded in reaching the depths of the plot or realising the significance of the story.
Yet aside from my reservations regarding the practical challenge of adapting a novel like On The Road – I think it will lose it’s magic. No doubt about it, On The Road is less a book for reading than it is a story for experiencing.
And the magic I speak of lies in its elegance, brilliance and unique Beat style. So unique is the writing style, Truman Capote famously accused:
That’s not writing, that’s typing.

Kerouac typed the story on what he defined as the ‘scroll’: made up of tracing paper, the continuous, 120-foot scroll was cut up and taped together. The prose was single-spaced, without margins or paragraph breaks. This, the essence of the story, and the legend behind the book, cannot be replicated on screen.
Yet many will argue that a $25 million, box office hit, is exactly the kind of experience that fans of On The Road desire – a visual feast of jazz, poetry, drugs and the journey of life.
So perhaps I judge too quickly. As Sal reflects in the conclusion:
nobody knows what’s going to happen to anybody besides the forlorn rags of growing old

And nobody knows what will happen with the success of this film: a cheapened, wasted effort on those who know nothing of the book or of the Beats; or a cinematic triumph.

Nobody knows.