The idea of wasting words: Bukowski, Thompson and Hemingway
April 8, 2014
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I’m about halfway through with Charles Bukowski’s ‘Women’. Years ago, when living in Venice, California, I read several Bukowski tomes of both fiction and poetry, though I felt his fiction to be almost non-fiction due to the highly autobiographical nature of it. It was easy to do. Bukowski was a local writer and there was lots of Los Angeles tied up in his writing. What strikes me about Bukowski now is his sparse use of words. His subject matter aside, the writing style to me is reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson and Ernest Hemingway. No wasted words with any of these guys.
Commonalities, not so oddly, go beyond style. If I were to compare the lives of these three writers I see that there were many shared traits. Machismo is there. Heavy alcohol abuse is there (and heavy drugs in the case of Thompson). Love of guns and shooting (minus Bukowksi). Wanderlust. Suicide (again, minus Bukowski). Famous Hollywood friends and groupies. Multiple women throughout their lives. Strained relationships with women and loved ones. All three were known to write under the influence of alcohol. Much of their writings were, again, highly autobiographical. The lines of morality and immorality blur with Bukowski and Thompson as well, though not so much with Hemingway. I think realism does this.
Of course, as far as success as a writer goes I would have to say that Ernest Hemingway was the most successful. He became wealthy on his writings early. He claimed both a Pulitzer and a Nobel, which very few people can claim. Bukowski probably was the least successful as he had to wait much later in life to become an "established" name. Thompson was, well, Thompson. However it cannot be stated that any of the three did not live life on their own terms. Be it rugged individualist in the case of Hemingway to hedonist in the cases of Thompson and Bukowski, they made their own ways. Nobody wrote their life scripts for them.
Is this what you get by not wasting words? On the surface at least it would seem that there is some correlation between the writing style and the lifestyle.
These men were direct. These men said what they meant. These writers were more often than not reckless with their lives and with their relationships but their writing style was pure and simple. There was a loud masculinity to their writings that brashly walked the fine line between proclamation and personal history. When I read them I feel like I am being spoken to by an older uncle who imparts not necessarily the wisdom of life but its truth.
What I take away from reading all three men is that when you write bare bones, when you write what you mean, you don’t have to chose your words so much. They are just there. You use them to tell your story.