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Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Factotum

Charles Bukowski
Just finished Charles Bukowski’s Factotum. It’s a good book. I read Post Office and Women when I was younger. 

I find it much harder to enjoy a novel now. I generally turn to biographies, long-form journalism and reference books. My current bedside reading is a bunch of factual material about drugs and alcohol, but I couldn’t help picking up some fiction on the subject. Hence Bukowski.

The trouble with reading a classic like Factotum is the tendency to over-layer it with so many filters - why it was written, how it was received, what it provoked, what the author was (not) trying to say. Then there's the difference in my own response to Bukowski’s writing now and how I felt twenty years ago. It’s difficult not to be distracted by changes in personal and cultural frames of reference. 

Whenever I’m in danger of losing myself in a piece of fiction I can't help thinking about the processes outside it. It's not enough to enjoy the content for what it is. I have to know how it was made, why it succeeds, how others enjoyed it and what the author was trying to achieve in creating it. 

I first noticed this at gigs. I used to be entertained by the music. Then I found I was more becoming more interested in the logistics of making an event happen.

Fiction is reduced to a code for what truth the author is trying to communicate to the reader. It might be nothing more interesting than “look how good I am at making you turn these pages. Tell your friends to buy my book.” It might be something more complex. 

That said, without an interesting text, the context is irrelevant.

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