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Tales of Ordinary Madness Paperback – January 1, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 74 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Dirty realism from the godfather of lowlife literature" Uncut --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany in 1920 and brought to Los Angeles at age three. Using the city as a backdrop for his work, Bukowski wrote prolifically, publishing over fifty volumes of poetry and prose. He died in San Pedro, California on March 9, 1994. His books are widely translated and posthumous volumes continue to appear.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 238 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers (January 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872861554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872861558
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #43,172 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS Charles Bukowski does what very few can. He finds the poetry in real people who live miserable lives in miserable conditions, mostly by their own doing. There is very little to recommend in these characters. Like Bukowski, most of them are unemployed drunks, dirty old men, sexual degenerates, and morally stripped souls. They form a subculture that perpetuates and sustains itself as long as the liquor keeps flowing (and it does), the women keep giving (and they do ... and do), and the men continue indulging (and they do ... and do ... and do). And yet, the reader is transfixed. For better or worse (usually worse), the reader chooses to enter Bukowski's world, takes a perverse delight in the goings-on, lingers and tarries, knowing that he or she can escape from the pits of hell at will, revisiting when the urge strikes. Better yet, there is no hangover in the morning.
TALES OF ORDINARY MADNESS is a collection of short stories, united by themes of desperation, loneliness, dead-end jobs, sexual perversion, and a need for real connection in an alienated, disturbed world. In these stories there is truly something of the profane and sacred, irreverent and holy, indifferent and feeling. The stories stay with one long after the reading is over. Bukowski's writing style is as nonconforming as his person. He doesn't always adhere to the rules of syntax, but this only serves to visibly, or tangibly, underscore the more abstract originality of the stories and situations themselves. Bukowski isn't for everyone. The writing is fierce, sexually explicit, unforgiving, and yet so totally true to the characters and their lives that it never seems overdone, affected, false. Through his words, Bukowski manages to transform the ordinary into something great.
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Format: Paperback
Is it possible to have sympathy for alcoholics, foul-mouthed madmen, a liquor store hold-up man, draft-dodgers, sexists, self-centered writers or any combination of the above? Yes, as long as the writer is Charles Bukowski.

The famous symbolist painter, Odilon Redon once said that dead flowers are just as beautiful as those in full bloom. Bukowski would agree. His characters have seen better days; in fact their best days are well behind them. Or, to paraphrase one of his characters, once you think you've hit bottom, another bottom rises up to hit you. And yet, there is a substantial nobility, a worthiness--I'm struggling for the right word--about these down-and-out characters. For the most part, you like them. Watching a felon, on the night he is about to stick up a liquor store, conversing with his little daughter, is downright poignant. (If you can't tell, "A .45 To Pay The Rent" is among my favorites.)

I'm stretching here a bit, but reading this reminded me of Jacob Riis' "How the Other Half Lives". While I am a working class guy, these stories revealed to me a world that I could never have imagined, nor survived in. The only difference between this and Riis' classic, is that this is autobiographical fiction. But the feeling is still there. These wretches have pride and assert their needs and identities.

These are not stories for the squeamish. So do not go lightly into "Tales of Ordinary Madness". But these stories are not shocking for shock's sake. They are shocking because they are real.
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Format: Paperback
A Taoist story tells the tale of a poor sage who declined an invitation to live in the palace of the Emperor. When asked how he could possibly choose to continue living homeless and broke instead of living amidst the splendor of the Emperor's palace, the sage pointed to a pig rolling about in the mud, and said, "Like that pig, I prefer to live in the mud than be dead in a velvet box."

In the movie "Barfly" (screenplay written by Bukowski), "Hank" (Bukowski's fictional alter ego) was invited by a beautiful lady to live in her mansion, where he could live and write in peace. Hank declined, saying "Look around you, you're in a cage with golden bars."

This collection of stories further illustrates the beauty and honor of living in the mud.
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Format: Paperback
Salvador Dali was quoted "The only difference between me and a madman is that I am not mad." Bukowski is mad. Crazy and angry. Then again, perfectly sane and rather sedate. This book is a series of short stories which are part auto-biography and part fiction (most combining elements of both.) Bukowski writes from the gut with vividness and candor that will most assuredly guarantee this book will never make it to any high school reading lists. Look at it like this: you walk into a bar one night because you are bored out of your skull. You sit next to a man who talks your ear off. He's a veteran alcoholic and social deviant but you find his talk strangely intriguing. Soon you realize you've spent four hours talking to this nut and you've been thoroughly entertained. You aren't sure which of the stories he's told you are true, and it doesn't really matter. It's been a good night. Now you can go back home and face your wife. Life is good.
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Format: Paperback
I have been reading books for about 50 years now--and this guy just about beats them all. Buk lives on! So much sorrow and pain--but what a talent, what a crazy genius!
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