A fascinating new biography that is part of
the Outlines series of books dealing with homosexuality in the
artist's lives. This book is the first Arthur Rimbaud biography
to deal graphically with his homosexual relationship with Paul
Verlaine, who was married and bisexual. Other translators and biographers
like Enid Starkie have been timid in their dealing with this aspect
of Rimbaud's life. The author provides evidence through letters
and poem parodies written by Rimbaud and Verlaine and others that
Rimbaud did have a gay relationship with Verlaine as well as five
The book is divided into sections: Before Verlaine,
With Verlaine, Getting Rid Of Verlaine, Travels and Hauntings (modern
poets and writers who have been inspired by Rimbaud, from Henry
Miller to Jean Cocteau to Jean Jenet and Jim Carroll, Patti Smith
and Jim Morrison). It briefly mentions the great Agneizska Holland
film Total Eclipse which came out in 1995, starring Leonardo DiCaprio
as Rimbaud and David Thewlis as Verlaine. Ivry says that Leonardo
was perfect for the role but David Thewlis was overbearing. I don't
think so. Thewlis accurately portrayed the manic, effeminate side
of Verlaine in all his weaknesses. Leonardo was great as Rimbaud,
but River Phoenix would have portrayed him more accurately as an
effeminate poet and a tortured soul (River was supposed to play
Rimbaud in the movie, but he died in 1993 and the roll went to
Overall, the research is very good and Ivory
makes a strong case and statement about R & V's homosexuality. Ivry
states that Rimbaud's only sexual relationships with women were
in Africa, and he also had a sexual relationship with a servant
boy companion. Funny, poignant and sad, this is a highly recommended
read that makes you wonder how much more Rimbaud could have achieved
had he continued writing, and it also makes you realize how controversial
and ultimately ground-breaking was Rimbaud and Verlaine's sadomasochistic
love affair. Ivry states that Rimabaud engaged in homosexual activity
not just because he was gay but because he wanted to derange the
senses. Rimbaud paved the way for Oscar Wilde and other controversial
homosexual artists, and he remains the greatest French poet that
ever lived. This book is highly recommended. Two snaps up!
Ralph Haselmann, Jr.
CHARLES BUKOWSKI: SUNLIGHT HERE I AMINTERVIEWS
edited by David Stephen Calonne
Sun Dog Press
Charles Bukowski Sunlight Here I Am: Interviews
and Encounters 1963 – 1993 is a fun, revealing new collection
of interviews spanning the last 30 years of poet Charles Bukowski’s
life. Editor David Stephen Calonne does an admirable job of selecting
an illuminating overview of the best interviews with Charles, and
notes that he came across 60+ interviews, enough to fill up two
more volumes with what is left out of this volume. Such magazines
as Litarary Times (Chicago), The North American Review, Los Angeles
Free Press, Berkeley Barb, Rolling Stone, Los Angeles Times, Twisted
Image, Interview, People, High Times, and Film Threat are represented
here. Buk is interviewed by such luminaries as Sean
Penn, Hugh Fox, and Barbet Shroeder and two of his own books, Shakespeare
Never Did This and Hollywood are excerpted here.
Editor Calonne does a neat job of encapsulating Buk’s life
in the first chapter biography that opens this book.
You know the
drill by now. Charles was born in Anderach, Germany in 1920 and
came to America at age 3. His father used to beat him with a strap
until Charles punched him square in the face when Charles was 16;
only then did the beatings stop. Charles also suffered from a horrible
skin condition called Acne Vulgaris, where he had huge boils on
his face which had to be surgically drained of the pus. This, along
with bar brawls later in life, left him with scars and pockmarks
on his face. He became popular in Europe and especially Germany
in the 1970’s and later in America in the 1980’s. He
carved out his own style of gritty hard – boiled realism,
writing about drinking and picking a fight in bars, sleeping with
whores, and betting on the racetracks. He wrote the semi – autobiographical
screenplay Barfly, staring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.
a long time relationship with Linda King and was married twice,
the first time to a wealthy heiress named Maria, the second to
Linda Lee. He left behind 40 books of poetry and prose, and scores
of imitators . Charles Bukowski died of Leukemia in 1994 at age
74 and remains the most popular and most imitated poet in the world
Rather than write an analytical review, I’m just going to
recount some of the more amusing passages in the book, to convince
you of it’s worth. In Charles Bukowski Speaks Out, an interview
with Arnold Kaye from 1963, Buk is asked about the homosexual poets
and replies, “Homosexuals are delicate and bad poetry is
delicate and Ginsberg turns the tables by making homosexual poetry
strong poetry, almost manly poetry, but in the long run, the homo
will remain the homo and not the poet.”
In Partying With The Poets, an interview with Ric Reynolds from
1971, Ric recounts how Buk has a chance encounter at a party with
some famous Beat poets, including Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs,
and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The poets were leaning against the wall
in the background. “Bukowski hugged Ginsberg closer and he
rubbed Bukowski’s back. “That feels good, Allen, real
good. No lie.” Ginsberg had been taken in by all the flattery,
but when he saw that Bukowski was going to force some booze down
his throat he slumped in a fake drunken drawl and said that he
had been drinking all night. “God, it’s good to see
you, Allen, really I don’t care if you are a fake. Did you
hear that folks? Washed up. Everybody knows that after Howl you
never wrote anything worth a shit..”
Charles Bukowski could be a mean drunk, but he was also capable
of kindness and tenderness, and often displayed a sly sense of
humour. In my favorite interview in the book, a self – interview
from his book Shakespeare Never Did This, from 1979 Buk parodies
the interview form to great effect: “I had a dream once that
I had intercourse with my mom. Best wet dream I ever had…”No.
Yes. No. NO. “I like Thomas Carlyle. Madame Butterfly and
orange juice with the skins crushed in. I like red radios, car
washes and crushed cigarette packages and Carson McCullers. “No.
NO! No. Yes, of course. “Mick Jagger? No, I don’t like
his mouth.” “Bob Dylan? No, I don’t like his
chin” The interview ended there.”
In other interviews in this book, Buk talks about his favorite
writers and musical composers, writing workshops, small press poets
and the small press, and the Hell that is Disneyland. This book
was very engaging and entertaining, and I highly recommend it.
Do I think Charles Bukowski is a genius poet? Yes, along with Basho,
Emilly Dickenson, Arthur Rimbaud and Bob Dylan, he is one of the
few geniuses that the poetry world has produced. Do I want to read
40 books by him or any other poet? Absolutely not!! Is this book
a keeper? Well, yes. It’s a sure bet.
Ralph Haselmann, Jr.
THE LIFE YOU SAVE MAY BE YOUR OWN
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
BUY THE BOOK
As a rationalist agnostic, I have long been
fascinated by faith. Faith being absolute belief without absolute
This is contrary
to my every inclination. I can certainly see possibilities without
proof. I can even believe in those possibilities without proof,
but it is a tentative belief, ready to be reevaluated with the
next evidence. In fact, in the end, I believe there are
some things which cannot be known through evidence and logic, things which require
faith in order to belive them. I am puzzled, and curious, about those who do
not think like I do. Just how do they make that leap to belief without
How does some one come to have faith? And what does faith really mean in
their life? How does it influence how they live, how they act, how they create?So
when I saw this book, about the Catholic faith of four mid-century
American writers -- Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, Flannery O’Connor and Walker
Percy -- I was immediately intrigued, especially as two, Percy and O’Connor,
are two of my favorite writers. And are writers whose work never struck me as
particularly Catholic, or even based on firm belief.Both writers seemed to be
struggling with their belief, not advocating it. So I hoped “The Life You
Save...” might provide me with some insight into not only the nature of
faith, but its influence on art.
I was not disappointed. By examining these four lives, Elie is able to provide
some surprising (perhaps) conclusions about the nature and role of
faith. Most surprising to me was that, at least for these four individuals, faith
did not provide all the answers. Rather, it provided a context in which to ask
more questions. For all four, faith, rather than being an end to a quest, was
a framework for further questing.
Elie recognizes this dynamic when he describes
his book as a record of a pilgrimage. Pilgrimage here meaning less a specific
journey than traveling through life in a search for knowledge.
And faith.He tells the biographies of his four writers simultaneously.
This enables him to not only keep track of when their paths crossed
(all four had some communication, personal and professional, throughout
their lives), but also when they reached similar crossroads in
their respective quests.
Those quests were different for each writer.
Dorothy Day founded The Catholic Worker, a radical paper and charitable organization
dedicated to feeding the poor. A radical in her youth, when Day converted to
Catholicism she maintained her political beliefs. She saw them as
the natural extension of the command to live as Christ did. To her, this meant
a strict policy of charity and pacifism. Day’s quest was how best to
live in Christ’s example. Until her death, she was constantly strive
to live closer to that ideal.
Thomas Merton’s quest was how to get closer to God. Also a Catholic convert,
he became a monk, hoping to spend his life in contemplation. Yet he found there
always remained barriers between himself and the pure experience of God. He
spent his life searching for ways past those barriers. He is best known for
The Seven Storey Mountain, his memoir about how he chose the life of a monk.
Flannery O’Connor was the only one of the four raised a Catholic. Perhaps
because of this, her faith was the firmest. Her search was for ways to best
express that faith through her fiction. Yet she chose a very open-ended style
for her writing, dealing more with the questions and dilemnas of belief rather
than the answers of faith. Yo her disappointment, her work was often misinterpreted.
Percy seems to have maintained the most basic of religious quests. Despite
his conversion, he continued to search for the meaning of life.
This quest is reflected in his fiction. His protagonists are often
on a search for meaning in their lives. In The Second Coming, his
main character sets off on a mission to specifically prove or disprove
the existence of God.
Elie explains the hows of these writers’ faith -- how they
were converted, how their faith affected their writing. How their
throughout their lives. But he can never quite explain the why -- why they
believed. Perhaps that is as it should be. Faith retains its mysteries. The
reasons for faith are personal, and ultimately unexplainable, even unknowable.
Or perhaps that is just wishful thinking on my part. Just me interpreting
the book to fit my beliefs -- that there are certain things which are
ultimately unknowable. That there are things which cannot be proven with
evidence, which it takes faith to fully believe. Maybe I’m just relieved
that, even for those with faith, life retains its mysteries.
G. Murray Thomas