Book no. 8: Factotum by Charles Bukowski.
What it is: I think Elaine hit it on the head when he said Charles Bukowski is a sad bastard who writes beautiful words, and I’m going to borrow that line to describe Factotum. It talks about a spiritually constipated writer, Henry Chinaski, and his many struggles juggling jobs and getting fired from all of them, going from one place to another, his various exploits with women, and pretty much how day to day low life comes and goes. Mostly, it’s alcoholic bullshit but it’s entertaining and very witty bullshit. I like it.
What I liked about it: I think what the story showed me is how important being all there is, and by being all there I mean knowing what you want and just going for it. The main character in Factotum is aware what he wants but has as much ambition as a teaspoon. He has talent, his labor skills are decent, but it’s just not happening because his teeth is scattered. That’s hard.
The alcoholic insights I enjoyed too, the reflections that come at him in odd places, like under rows and rows of bikes or while on the road near a freaking cliff, they are beautiful. The narration tells you life isn’t so grand all times, you know? This is what they meant when shit happens. Oh well, the life of the working man is hard, harder when you’re a depressed alcoholic with a boiled brain.
But somehow I feel for Henry, you know? Sure, he’s an asshole but he has his moments, like that one with the pretty girl that lived in his building. I loved how he described the distance between them, how she seemed to look right through him; it’s kind of sad because she was there but it’s just him with all the issues. He may be a lost cause, I don’t know.
That’s another good thing about Factotum too: the descriptions are simple but rich, which can be moving. These things make me smile, when I see a fantastic paragraph that talks about one thing and it just bursts with creativity. There isn’t a lot but the few ones are real good.
What I did not like about it: There are times when I feel lost, feeling a little random with how the story jumps from one chapter after the other but it’s okay. The narration is fast and reader friendly so I pick up soon enough. I saw that Factotum was made into a movie before and I feel like catching that, as well as Dorian Gray that I read prior. What else do I have to complain about? Ah, the way women were portrayed in Factotum isn’t all that charming, Hmm… well not the women themselves but how they were treated, almost like objects at times.
Recommended for: If you want an easy read, something that will make you smile, read Factotum. It’s not high end, not too inspiring but the beer-soaked humor and realizations are cool and very real. Have you seen Charles Bukowski quotes? Sweet.