So, here is a blog/writing assignment. It was supposed to be a personal essay on something/one that/who inspired you. I wrote it like my blogs so, I technically killed two bird with one stone here. I’m not sure why I found this so difficult to write but it was one hell of a task.
Have you ever been inspired by a sandwich? Perhaps, a grilled veggie on a foccacia or a creamy egg salad on sourdough? Well, I have. After not having read fiction for years due to a heavy university textbook load, I picked up a novel by an author I had never heard of before. The back cover promised a plethora of hardship, cynicism, sarcasm, and badass-ness and, I dug it. I left high school reading Jane Austen and kick-started the new growth of my personal library with the novel Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski.
The love affair begins
I finished the book at the beach in Malta. While reading, I was so captivated that I didn’t realize a bee had flown in between the pages. When I saw its head peak out, I realized the protagonist’s fighter mentality had seeped into my psyche. Instead of throwing the book away from me and doing that girly “ew, there’s a bug” dance I would have normally done, I dropped the book, stepped on it, and killed the bee. It was one of the few books that made me smile when I was done – that smile we produce when we are completely satisfied, like biting into your favourite dessert. I had found my new favourite author who became my literary idol, hero and imaginary dreamboat lover. A drawing my cousin gave me on my birthday hangs above my kitchen doorway like you might find Jesus. The following explains why.
I had never read anything like Ham on Rye. The rawness and vulnerability of the lead character, Henry Chinaski, sucker-punched me in the gut. I could relate to this guy – the way he thought, the way he spoke, the way he couldn’t connect with most people. “This guy” was Charles Bukowski since his novels were written semi-autobiographically. As teenagers, Bukowski and I both had a visible ‘flaw’ we were extremely embarrassed about, strived for affection but far from any attention, had a dry sense of humour, carried strong opinions and spoke with complete honesty. Maybe it was the fact that he was willing to write about the ‘nasty’ and the ‘dirty’, the stuff most people don’t talk about, that truly fascinated me. Although we had much in common, unlike him, I’m not a womanizing dirty old man, raging alcoholic who’s obsessed with women’s legs and betting on horses. But, I will never say that I don’t aspire to one day become that person.
Maybe I can write…maybe
Charles Bukowski’s matter-of-fact and frank way of delivering thoughts, emotion, humour, a story, inspired me to write. His words were simple yet meaningful. The language I use in everyday life is simple, in speech and in written form. His style made me realize that I didn’t have to have an extensive vocabulary, know every expression under the sun, or write magnificent prose to tell amazing stories. I could just write and write with confidence. It wasn’t about becoming the next Dostoyevsky, Twain, or Faulkner.
Those are the two words Bukowski had engraved on his tomb and they will be the words I’ll keep close as I continue to write. What do they mean? It doesn’t mean trying as in being ‘motivated’; it’s when you try too hard. The moment you try, everything becomes bullshit, phony, and insincere. Be yourself. Write how you want to write and not for an audience as this will stifle you. Keep it raw. Keep it meaningful. Keep it beautiful. Keep it real.