Thoughts On “Tales Of An Ordinary Madness”

Tales Of An Ordinary Madness is a short story book, filled with realistic little snippets of life. I thought of them as bits of Bukowski’s memories pieced together. Reading them is like plunging into the world of the prostitutes, the drunkards, the poor. Bukowski is incredibly observant, but he sees the world through very pessimistic lenses (but then again, who doesn’t see the world according to their own state of mind…)

And I know that no one’s qualified to judge others on the way they live their lives, but Bukowski, I think you’re wrong about the way you lived yours. (That was a very hypocritical sentence, but I couldn’t help it.)

You’re not wrong about people. There are the loners like you, and there are the wanna-be poets (like me, perhaps?). There are the pests, the show-offs, the genuinely kind but broken.

And I like to think that I’m a lot like you. I am also overwhelmed by crowds and socialising with too many people at once stresses me. And I know that the world is very, very cruel… But doesn’t every little kid deserve a new schoolbag, and every working father deserve a clean pair of pants? I don’t know if you have any intention of helping this happen Bukowski. But I know that I can’t help people by hiding in my house and drinking away my days. I need to work, work hard.

I’ve been in a terrible state of mind lately, where my CGPA obsession got the best of me. I realised that I had no goal, that I was studying simply for the sake of it. Studying aimlessly will get you places, but it’ll also burn you out.

Let me tell you how I finally came to understand this. About a week ago my parents took three little kids out shopping. These kids live on the poorer part of town, and my mom said that they didn’t have coats or even proper shoes to wear for winter. They didn’t have notebooks, or schoolbags. Imagine that. Imagine going to school everyday wearing torn clothing, without a bag like the rest of the kids have. Imagine spending the winter without a coat. Dear Reader, it made my parents very, very happy to do something nice for those kids.

And I think it would have made me very very happy too. I know that I’m currently in no state to help someone out like they did, considering that I still mostly depend on them. I need to earn my place in society and make sure that I help out the less fortunate people around me. This is how I intend on saving my soul and my sanity.

So Bukowski I’m not going to the madhouse anytime soon. Hopefully that is.

As for the book, I think it deserves a 7/10. Some stories were brilliant, such as “Notes On The Pest”, “One For Walter Lowenfels” and “Great Poets Die In Steaming Pots Of Shit”. Some stories though, just didn’t interest me. I think I’ve come to the conclusion that his poems are much nicer than his stories.

Here is one for you, another one of my favorites. I always think of this poem when my printer breaks down at the last minute, or a computer virus takes over my PC, or even when I forget my homework in my dormitory.

The Shoelace

a woman, a
tire that’s flat, a
disease, a
desire: fears in front of you,
fears that hold so still
you can study them
like pieces on a
chessboard…
it’s not the large things that
send a man to the
madhouse. death he’s ready for, or
murder, incest, robbery, fire, flood…
no, it’s the continuing series of small tragedies
that send a man to the
madhouse…
not the death of his love
but a shoelace that snaps
with no time left …
The dread of life
is that swarm of trivialities
that can kill quicker than cancer
and which are always there –
license plates or taxes
or expired driver’s license,
or hiring or firing,
doing it or having it done to you, or
roaches or flies or a
broken hook on a
screen, or out of gas
or too much gas,
the sink’s stopped-up, the landlord’s drunk,
the president doesn’t care and the governor’s
crazy.
light switch broken, mattress like a
porcupine;
$105 for a tune-up, carburetor and fuel pump at
sears roebuck;
and the phone bill’s up and the market’s
down
and the toilet chain is
broken,
and the light has burned out –
the hall light, the front light, the back light,
the inner light; it’s
darker than hell
and twice as
expensive.
then there’s always crabs and ingrown toenails
and people who insist they’re
your friends;
there’s always that and worse;
leaky faucet, christ and christmas;
blue salami, 9 day rains,
50 cent avocados
and purple
liverwurst.

or making it
as a waitress at norm’s on the split shift,
or as an emptier of
bedpans,
or as a carwash or a busboy
or a stealer of old lady’s purses
leaving them screaming on the sidewalks
with broken arms at the age of 80.

suddenly
2 red lights in your rear view mirror
and blood in your
underwear;
toothache, and $979 for a bridge
$300 for a gold
tooth,
and china and russia and america, and
long hair and short hair and no
hair, and beards and no
faces, and plenty of zigzag but no
pot, except maybe one to piss in
and the other one around your
gut.

with each broken shoelace
out of one hundred broken shoelaces,
one man, one woman, one
thing
enters a
madhouse.

so be careful
when you
bend over.

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