Don't you love that moment when something you read sets you on fire? When it turns a key in your soul and unlocks a place that you've never been to before? There are writers who do this for me -- Rob Brezsny over at FreeWill Astrology is a great example -- and those who shut me up. No matter how many words I string together in my lifetime they will never be as beautiful as a single sentence Milan Kundera has written. Lucky for me that I don't actually care, I just can't read him and then actually get any work done.
Franz Kafka is entirely too much for my tiny little pea brain but I appreciate that his work is out there sparking bigger minds. If he'd had his way, though, the world would never have had a chance to read most of his writing. Happily for us his friend Max Brod ignored his wish that his work be destroyed on his death. Unhappily a century earlier John Cam Hobhouse and John Murray chickened out and destroyed Lord Byron's memoirs. Wouldn't it be hilarious if they were trying to suppress the confession of a late in life love for crocheting and hot cocoa?
All of this brings me to Charles Bukowski, the American poet and novelist. Bukowski lived and wrote outside the lines. He devoted himself to small presses that wouldn't ask him to compromise his work eventually building such a huge reputation that he was able to do things on his own terms. He chose to remain an outsider. He's been the subject of a loving documentary and wrote the screenplay for Barfly based on his own persona. In 2007 the house he'd lived in was scheduled for destruction but was ultimately saved by being placed on Los Angeles's list of Historical-Cultural Monuments. This was not without controversy, of course. There were those who believed that the inclusion of his home on a government maintained list co-opted his outsiderness in a big way. On the other hand, who knows whose imagination might be sparked by standing in that space breathing that air. So what's more important -- honoring his life as he lived it or his legacy? What do you think?
Harry Dean Stanton may or may not really be an outsider but he plays one well on screen. I think this is him reading Bukowski's "Bluebird" but I can't find a solid attribution for it. It's a great reading of an amazing poem, whoever it is.