Bukowski’s (all new)
NOTES OF A DIRTY OLD MAN
(an excerpt from his 1982 Smoke Signals column)
What about fame? They ask me. Will fame destroy you? Well now, if I
am famous and if it destroys me (meaning my talent) then sixty one
years of my life will have gone by without my having sense any of the
traps. I think it is easier for a writer to be destroyed by fame when
he is in his twenties. The ladies, the lights, the admiration will do
him in. The young have no background to ward fame off with. Besides,
many of the famous are famous not because their work is excellent or
original but because the masses identify with the output. And they
don’t identify with it because it’s real, but because it’s false,
as most of them are false in their ideals, their actions, their lives.
I am thinking now of the richest comedian in the land (they call him a
comedian, although he has never made me laugh). This fellow has been
dropping one line jokes on people for decades, beginning long ago n the
radio. His jokes are inoffensive and trivial, he has what I think of as
an All-American Mickey Mouse soul. He has burned out thousands of
writers with his flippant little one-liners, and he goes on and on
gathering in millions of dollars. His material is thin, inane, useless;
he is rich and famous; he is a carbon copy of the masses.
There are writers like this fellow. Their books line the stands of
the bookstores in the shopping malls. THE HEARTBEAT’S WAIL.
THUNDERBLOSSOM. BLOOD SWORD. These writers are more rich than famous.
Then there are the literary writers of poem, of story, of novel. Their
idea is that if something is written tediously enough, if it is
involuted enough, if it is hardly understood, then, that’s art.
Because, you see, that’s the way it has been for centuries, they are
only carrying on the tradition. These writers are more famous than
rich. They are famous because they promote, publish and teach each
other, mostly at the universities. They are not rich because they are
the only ones who buy each other’s books. They complain constantly of
the success of such writers as those who put out books entitled THE
HEARTBEAT’S WAIL; THUNDER-BLOSSOM, and so forth. But they write just
as badly, only in another way.
So you see, if you have fame you can never sure that you deserve it.
You may have your fame for all the wrong reasons. This might be my
case. So, you see, if I have fame for all the wrong reasons I am
already destroyed, and if I have it for the right reasons, I can never
be sure of that, so there’s only one thing to do: go on typing, as I
have been doing here.
© 1982-2008 Smoke Signals
to be continued in '08 number 2