The Book Review: Charles Bukowski’s “The Bell Tolls for No One”

“The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it – basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.” – Charles Bukowski

As a Bukowski-fan I have to write a review about the latest book that has been published by him. If you have never heard or read anything by Bukowski I want to give you a little insight first. Henry Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was a German-born (yay!) American novelist and poet. He has written many short stories as well. He moved to Los Angeles at a young age and his later work was strongly influenced by the economy and culture in his surroundings. Throughout his books there is this line of poor ordinary Americans, alcohol, drugs, writing and a plethora of relationships with women. [In his book “Post Office” he describes the drudgery of his work as Hank Chinaski at a post office. (my favorite book by him so far – “Pickle Factory!”)].  He died of leukemia 1994 in San Pedro, California.

I gave my mom one of Bukowski’s books to read once. She read the first 10 pages and put it down with disgust. Bukowski has just an acquired taste to his stories – mostly short stories, very pornographic pieces and very shocking details at points. I have to admit that it made me uncomfortable at points as well reading his books – simply because of all the alcoholics, all his drinking which is a lot (like he was drunk 99%  of the day and while writing basically), adultery, gambling and just simply “hanging- around -doing nothing- lifestyle”.

In “The Bells Tolls for No One” he meets women or characters who come with no backstories really. They just pop into his life in a bar usually, get wasted with him and talk for hours while he writes things down that he might need at some point for a story. And of course he drinks and drinks and drinks with all of them.  Most of his “friends” are motivated by alcohol, drugs, unhappiness, boredom and just craziness. Reading Bukowski gives a great insight on how the hardcore drinking life in the suburbs was like (and most likely still is). He has this unique style of describing sexual violence like you are having tea with a friend at home. Like okay, this is normal. It just happens. Then in the next minute he is totally honest and captivates observations that are just not blurred by alcohol and drugs. (the remaining 1% I guess)

Reading Bukowski in public is awesome. People who know Bukowski will comment when they see you with one of his books somewhere. When I read “Post office” I took the book with me wherever I went to just finish it. So one day in the elevator at work there was a man looking at me, then at the book, then back at me. He smiled and said: “I love Bukowski. I read all of his books. He is amazing.” I wanted to ask him what he loved so much about him but the elevator door closed. I can imagine what it was.  I guess people have specific opinions on Mr. Bukowski and all his writings. He is just a “dirty old man” as many of his readers call him with just a little mix of Ernest Hemingway’s style of writing.

Get ready for some humor, relationship troubles, booze, drugs and sex. Lots of sex! There is this repetitiveness  – almost like all the Bukowski books are in a way the same but each and every one is just unique and a little special and a tiny bit different. When I started reading the book I thought it was just great how he switches between fantasy, drunkenness  and reality. I was wondering throughout the entire book how it is possible to find true meaning in life with a lifestyle like his. How can one comfortably live like this and be happy or enjoy life?

In “The Bells Tolls for No One” only two stories have not been published previously. “A Kind Understand Face,” and “Flying Is the Safest Way to Travel.” All the others ones have been published in one of his more than forty-five books! This book is published by “City Lights” and edited by David Stephen Calonne who did a great job with all the little cartoon throughout the book as well as the introduction.

Great read overall and shocking but comfortably awesome.

Happy reading!

 

 

On STRAND Bookstore.

I have seen many bookstores all over the world but none of them comes close to The Strand Bookstore. I usually make it my goal wherever I am in this beautiful world to find the bookstores in town and just browse along. When I just moved to Manhattan I walked the city which I think is the best way to discover new things in town. Cab and subway is okay but walking beats it all. And I walked Manhattan, believe me it was the best. I discovered so many awesome restaurants, stores, thrift/vintage stores, café’s you name it. I wrote the addresses down as I walked by or checked the location out right then and there. Sometimes I came back a couple of days later.  It was a great adventure and somewhat challenge. I lived in New Jersey before duh! So back to Manhattan: One Saturday morning I packed my bag and started walking downtown to explore the East and West Village. I ended up in front of The Strand Bookstore because I got somewhat lost after taking some wrong turns.

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As soon as you get there you see many books placed nicely on bookshelves around the store. These are mostly very cheap, used and some even for free. Browsing through all those was taking me forever and I found a bunch of books that interested me right there and then. I decided to go in to see these 18 miles of books as they advertise on their logo.

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The store: 

As soon as you walk in you find a multitude of books in diverse topics that are nicely placed on large tables right at the entrance. One table for example was labeled “The best of the best” – or “New Fiction and New Non-fiction”.  At the entrance are the cashiers and this is also where you pick up your pre-ordered books. Next to the register they have all sort of stationary and gifts with the Strand bookstore logo printed on. Cups, pens, pencils, stickers, t-shirts, bags you name it. And yes, I always purchase something from this section of the store as well – usually pens or a little notebook. Guilty as charged. As you walk further all you see is bookshelves from floor to ceiling. You can only reach the books on top with a ladder.

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You do have to have patience sometimes because there are a lot of people in it. It does not even matter when you go there. I have been there last on a Friday afternoon and it was packed. However, I was there on a Monday afternoon and it was quite the same. People are just walking through the isles and then suddenly stop and stare in awe at some books. Sometimes I just do the same – sucking in this atmosphere of awesomeness. If you are a book lover you know what I mean. 😉

There is an information desk all the way down the isle and they are very helpful. I never experienced any rudeness or attitude and believe me, Strand bookstore could have been my second address. Some of my friends suggested I put my mailbox at the entrance of the store.

Usually browsing along is just great if you have a lot of time and you will find what you are looking for on your own. There are stairs and an elevator to access the three floors. (One floor in the basement and two upper floors).

I love that you can find pretty much everything you are seeking, used and new and also a good selection of discounted books. The bookstore is great to visit with kids! On the top floor is the kids-section with many possibilities to sit down and read or discover new books with them. The restrooms are also on the top floor.

So if you are a book nerd like me you have to check out this bookstore whenever you are in New York. Their selection is amazing. Definitely a  New York must-see! If you are loaded with bags once you come in make sure to use their “free bag-check in” at the entrance. This way you can enjoy the bookstore without additional weight.

Enjoy book nerds!

(My title picture shows what I purchased on Friday!)

The Book Review – Goodbye to all that.

I have to start by explaining my love/hate relationship with this beautiful city of New York before I review this book. My mom told me if I pass a certain exam in High school she is taking me on a trip to New York to go shopping. I studied like there is no tomorrow because c’moooon. New York!!!! Of course I passed and we were on the plane with my best friend Veronika and her parents to discover New York. It was just for one week that I was able to enjoy the craziness of “the city that never sleeps” and we did it all – walking the entire day, Broadway, Musical, Times Square you name it. On the way back to the airport I was crying. On the plane I told my mom: “Mom, I swear to you, I will be back!” She just replied:  “Yeah yeah…. let’s see!”

Eight years later I was back. Just 23 years old and on my journey to discover the good and bad of the U.S. and of course especially New York. I have watched all episodes of “Sex and the City” and all the re-runs and I believed this is all true. Like Carry writing her column for this newspaper and can afford her apartment on the upper east side. I know now that this is just not happening – you live and learn, simple as that! I was young and discovered everything and it was all good.

I moved from New Jersey back to Manhattan, just across from the United Nations and it was the best. I walked to all the museums, all the musicals, Times Square, Central Park – I discovered everything over and over again.

Then I left New York. First I moved to Connecticut and then to Germany for a while. And this is when I started missing New York. Saying Goodbye to all that…. but missing it so much. I am back in the States now and visited my godmother yesterday and  spent a lot of time in New York and I loved it. All the memories, everything came back at once while walking downtown on Park Avenue. While in Germany I read this book “Goodbye to all that by “ Sari Botton and many other Contributors. It was just exactly what I needed when I missed NY the most. Many of the authors in this book (all short stories) left New York mostly out of bittersweet reasons – rent prices, that it just not all glitz and glamour, and that the American Dream usually means working 2-3 jobs to get by. The essays range from good to great and once you start reading the book – especially if you have left this crazy city of Manhattan you will try to think of ways to maybe come back and do it all over again.

As I type all this here this is what I thought  when I read this book. I have to go back and I have to write my own New York story at some point. How I experienced it, the smell, the air, the colors, the people, the craziness and insanity and this feeling that I just cannot let go of it all. While reading this book I felt I was part of it again even though far away. And I heard myself saying that I have to do something about what the authors said to let them know that this is either exactly as they have written or how I experienced it differently because I have been to exactly the same places.

While I lived in Manhattan I made New York my life. I was rushing around, heading from A to B grabbing a coffee on the go, no time to even enjoy it while I burnt my mouth drinking it. Usually I ran to school with this cup of Jo in my hand- all the way to the upper west side. 🙂

New York City is crazy. To hear stories form anyone who knew this city from birth through all the stages, incarnations and changes is just amazing. The strip clubs on 42nd street that are now showing “The Lion King” and from a city that was close to being bankrupt at some point to this dizzying growth in personal and of course corporate growth and wealth – all these changes you see and can still somewhat imagine at points while you walk by the homeless person begging for some money for a meal. Struggling artists, actors, some who made it some who did not – same for writers. Everything is possible here anytime, anytime which is so great and so scary at the same time.

I read these insightful and somewhat wonderful and affecting essays and it was an enjoyable reading experience. You love this city? You miss this city? You want to visit this city? Read this book.

Yesterday I have been to my favorite book store. Yes, STRAND bookstore in NYC.

I found these two books. Book reviews will follow very soon. 🙂

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Happy reading.

 

 

The Book Review: “The White Album Essays” by Joan Didion

So I have this new project that I will include in this blog. I will start “The Book Review”.  I think by now it is obvious that I love to read. I mean, LOVE to read – if I could I would read all day long probably. If I am not reading for myself I am reading to my son and he is into book already which I think is great. He is not even two years old. On an average I read two to three books a week. Yes, I do find the time to do it because I love it. The idea is, that I write about at least one of the books I have read during the week and review it. These days I am into Joan Didion. It all started with the book “Slouching towards Bethlehem” that I really enjoy. Today I want to review her book “The white Album Essays”.

With this book, as well as “Slouching towards Bethlehem” it is all the same. I did not love the book at first but once I started reading a couple of pages it somewhat started to grow on me and I was hooked. “The White Album” is a collection of events and narratives that occurred in the 60’s and 70’s and examines the lives of infamous and famous places and people. To name a few: Doris Lessing, Georgia O’Keeffe, Charles Manson, the Hoover Dam and many others).

I love that Didion gives just thoughtful and candid bits and pieces of a time that has past and many things that are just unique to California. I like how she describes how life was back then because she makes all her essays very personal and almost mundane. I have never been to San Francisco so this book is kind of a tribute to a place and time I know almost nothing about. I wish I could turn back time and just be there in the 60’s with her. I have to admit that I was not interested in all the subjects she was writing about but all her articles kept me captivated for some reason. It is just this awesome style of writing she has. Some great writers just have this skill to make any topic awesome or keep the reader interested and make them read on. Even though you have this feeling … yeah… this is not really what I usually read. Well, with her essays you are just caught in this loop of awesomeness and keep on reading if you like it or not.

Most of the essays I enjoyed the most are found on Chapter IV – Sojourns. Here “In Bed” I loved when she wrote how she had been doing while trying to easy the massive migraine she suffered from.

“And once it comes, not that I am wise in its ways, I no longer fight it. I lie down and let it happen. At first ever small apprehension  is magnified, every anxiety a pounding terror. Then the pain comes, and I concentrate only on that. Right there is the usefulness of migraine , there is that imposed yoga, the concentration of pain. … The migraine has has acted as a circuit breaker and the fuses have merged intact. There is a pleasant convalescent euphoria. I open the windows and feel the air, eat gratefully, sleep well. I notice the particular nature of a flower in a glass on the stair landing. I count my blessings”. 

I believe her essays are very personal and sharply observed. In her first essay she describes her pervasive sense of detachment that she felt constantly from this world. Well, I believe she was in a very fragile mental state when she wrote most of her essays in this book and even some others. In the other essays she writes more clearly and let’s say more put together. Didion herself stated many times that she puts personal issues into some of her essays; however, I feel it is courageous for her to reveal herself this way.

It is just a great read overall and was challenging for me at points because English is not my first language. I had to look some words up which is fine. If you read any of her books let me know your thoughts.

The Book Review: Allen Ginsberg and I

 

“That tree said I don’t like that white car under me, it smells gasoline. That other tree next to it said O you’re always complaining you’re a neurotic you can see by the way you’re bent over.” – Allen Ginsberg 

I woke up this morning and I felt sick. Just this little cold one gets sitting in the car for too long with the air-condition blasting in the face. Not really sick as in stay-in-bed-and take-tons-of Nyquil-sick. Just blah-get-out-of-my-way-sick. (sorry Jean). So I made myself some breakfast that I did not really enjoy because my taste buds are sick as well I believe and I thought about what I can possible make out of a day like this. Sitting miserably in the kitchen my husband walks in and showed me “Allen Ginsberg’s ‘White Shroud” originally signed by Allen Ginsberg with one of these little cartoons he usually put on the cover page. Well I do LOVE Allen Ginsberg. With his poem “Howl” and of course the movie based on said poem I was hooked. I read basically everything by him. Front to back. I watched everything on Allen Ginsberg on Youtube. There is a great documentary on Youtube : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NoevVtG-Gh8

My husband knows all this and bought this book for me. Classic. So, Jean walks in with this book and all I did was – I cried. Maybe due to me not feeling well or or or… who cares. But it was just so awesome. I asked him: “Is it mine?” And he said: “Of course my love!” How awesome is this?! I read the book almost instantly. Believe it or not, I have not heard about it nor have I even read any of these poems. Overall I can say that it is a pretty interesting collection of his poems. One particular poem “Love comes” I read out loud to my husband and he said: “Well, it is Ginsberg, he has his own style!” which is true indeed. His politically inflamed passion and his dramatic flair is just well… Ginsberg.

I think that his biggest achievement was “Howl” but “White Shroud” hits a few high marks that come pretty close to this poem. Was it Faulkner who wrote once that the best writers are those who try and dare and take risks and even if they fail they are still better than those who play it safe. In none of his books/poems was he afraid to take risks. He just wrote what he thought. Simple as that. Did this make him look silly? Maybe for some but who cares. Some poems in this book I must say I was scratching my head thinking c’mon Allen, you are not really trying to write something here. He was the first to admit that he got caught up very often in these demands of just being Allen Ginsberg (His poem “I’m a Prisoner of Allen Ginsberg”). I believe this is the reason why he put more talent and effort in some of his poems and just bothered less with others. In his poem “Going to the World of the Dead” for example I thought that he just did not care about what he had written:

Excerpt: …”Your Nuclear Bomb

Ho Ho Ho

Let go your Disaster your Death

Let go Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho Ho

Ho Ho Ho Ho

Ho Ho Millionaires of Mexico

Ho Ho Ho Millionaires of Nicaragua Let go Let go.”

I think this collection offers a good cross-section of his range. My favorites include “White Shroud”, “Industrial Waves”, “I am a Prisoner of Allen Ginsberg”, “Those two”, “In my kitchen in New York”. So overall I believe it is worth reading if one is a fan of Ginsberg’s work. My mom would hate it hahahaha! It is a good look into the mind of a radical who is trying to come to terms with getting older and leftover success and baggage.

And thank you again my love. For making this day special even though I do not feel well. <3

The Book Review: “Platform” by Michel Houellebecq

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These days I spent my nights with another man. Michel Houellebecq. I love his writing. I finished this book a couple of weeks ago.I believe that the book is a brilliant commentary on the intersection of globalization and sexuality, or whatever is left of it in western culture.

Well, sometimes it is hard to follow an narrator who has got such a pessimistic worldview and who loves a good disaffected misanthrope but this book really opens up after a while. I really like to read Houellebecq because he seems to dislike many things I am not fond of either. Materialism, politics, world view, religion and there is plenty of bitter social critique as well. His realization that we in the West are like the declining Roman Empire is what I like. He is able to articulate this thesis through his characters but also through interjections on social theory. The central themes are uniquely provocative, and not in a leftist or right-wing way. Reading this book was fun, in a kind of infuriating way. I read on the passenger seat on my way to Canada with my husband. My baby in the back seat making some noise did not really bother me while devouring this book.

I believe that the author is the protagonist in some kind of way – who enjoys just about nothing other than sex, and he feels numb still in the end. The main plot involves him being in love, but he and his love interests (a women who always has a cup of coffee for him after his morning blowjob) never seem to do much talking, or sharing their lives. The love here seems more like a sort of warm fellow-feeling. Well, I would say that Platform is a warm up for “The Possibility of an Island” and “The Map and the Territory”. It provides a nice overview or “platform” for his philosophy. In my opinion he is not the transgressive and sexist novelist whom many critics make him out to be.

“She was one of those creatures who are capable of devoting their lives to someone else’s happiness, of making that alone their goal. This phenomenon is a mystery. Happiness, simplicity, and joy lie within them, but I still do not know how or why it occurs. And if I haven’t understood love, what use is it to me to have understood the rest? To the end, I will remain a child of Europe, of worry and of shame. I have no message of hope to deliver. For the west, I do not feel hatred. At most I feel a great contempt. I know only that every single one of us reeks of selfishness, masochism, and death. We have created a system in which it has simply become impossible to live, and what’s more, we continue to export it.”

I believe that this is a pretty harsh condemnation of the capital system. Michel Houellebecq, like Blake, wants us to dream up new systems to the beyond those that we as westerners have created. As Houellebecq reiterates, it is unfortunate but possibly true  that these new systems may be nightmares, and we should do our best be people who are “capable of devoting [our or] there lives to someone else’s happiness.” In a way he is annoying, lovable, funny, disgusting and sexy. There is a resemblance to Camus and Celine and I did shed one or two tears in the end.

Dreaming

I have been dreaming and getting all starry-eyed talking about this little dream I have with my husband. (Especially after we had a couple glasses of wine, then anything sounds like the world’s best idea.) We talk about me opening an independent bookstore somewhere. We do not know where or when (maybe when Barnes and Noble are bankrupt and borders and amazon and all the other ones) but it sounds so awesome and makes me very happy.

My dreams goes like this:

We rent a space preferably in a little old house like pictured above. (Source MorBCN). This would be perfect as a vintage bookstore. Then we would fill this store with many used books and plenty of new books as well so that everyone who comes in can find what they are looking for.

I am into vintage clothing so I would put in a rack of clothes for sale as well. I would also put some sort of children’s section with toys where my son can play independently most of the day. Many parents would come to our store and bring their kids and they would all play and buy plenty of books. My son will read fluently by the time he is three years old. To take my dream even further, I would get some studying done, maybe add some raw food food sampling section with tea, smoothies and raw cakes, coffee you name it. My son would cheerfully greet our many paying customers and I would have all the time left to read mostly all of the books in my store.

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My son would grow up in our awesome little vintage bookstore and he will be happy, content and totally into books and become a writer and will tell everyone that his parents are the absolute best.

The end. <3

On reading

So, this is my son’s favorite book.

I love reading, always loved books, smelling books, buying books and most of all being in bookstores or libraries. I remember when my mom took me to the library multiple times a week allowing to check out stacks and stacks of books at a time.

I devoured books, and they were my favorite thing growing up besides sports and later professional dancing. My love for reading has only grown over the years and I still walk into a bookstore and feel like I am home -smelling the books, reading, losing track of time. For as early as I can remember the library was a huge part of my life and I was involved in the summer book club, weekly readings and all kind of contests they had.

So now I go to my “old” library with my son. Because reading was such a huge part of my life, when I happen to stumble upon an old book in my library that I once love, I am flooded with memories upon memories. I am taken back to when I was a kid, sitting in that exact spot that my son is sitting and looking at books; I can see every detail, the smell of the old books, the sometimes yellowed pages, the hushed quietness that pervaded every nook and cranny of that magical place.

When I was a kid I would sit on the short stools used for shelving books, leaning up against the stacks, and read and read. Now with my son I do the same. Then he walks through the aisles, looks at books, takes them out, opens them, looks at them. My mom let us stay for as long as we wanted, and she put no limit on the amount of books we were allowed to take home.

I let my son experience the same thing. He grows up surrounded by books and reading. And he likes it.