by Kristine Nodalo
Charles Bukowski is one of the most prolific and vulgar writers out there. He stood at five feet eleven, often wearing a collared button-down shirt, with a chest pocket consisting of a few pens peeking out of it, covering a beer belly that hung over his waistline–a reminder of his romance with alcohol. His large, bulbous nose shadowed over stained nicotine yellow teeth. His ravaged face was marked with scars and blemishes, resembling the hard life he lived. He sauntered his way to each of the bars he made his second home and wrote at his first when he wasn’t. Nobody would have expected the success he had by just looking at him and his lifestyle, for Bukowski’s prose and poetry has been translated into twenty-one languages, sales for his books rise every year, and a great amount of avid Bukowski readers live all over the world. Charles Bukowski’s unique life experiences made him a successful writer, as they enabled him to color his writing with the kind of simplicity, tough, vicious honesty, and straight forwardness it bears that makes it different from others, revolutionizing literature and poetry, also providing consolation and representation, specifically for the underdogs of society—blue collared workers, prostitutes, and drunks—at the same time. Continue reading “Bukowski” by Kristine Nodalo
by Ayo Khensu-Ra
May 2nd has long held a sort of special aura for me. Improbably I reckoned some years ago that this was the date I picked up a certain book in the Hilo Public Library. While I wouldn’t say that book changed my life, it’s still one of my favorites — a strange mixture of science fiction, humor and gloom.
Anyone familiar with the series of which the book is a part will probably have guessed by now that I’m referring to the late Douglas Adams’ Mostly Harmless which was (amazingly) published some twenty years ago. I say amazingly because I was in middle school around that time an awkward, uncertain kid (it might be argued that I’m an awkward uncertain adult but that’s another story.)
The book is Adams’ final chapter in the series that began with The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , a novel that was based on Adams’ own BBC radio program of the same name. Three books sit between the first and Mostly Harmless. They all center around the misadventures of Arthur Dent a fairly ordinary Englishman who just happens to be the last male survivor of the destruction of the Earth. I’ve enjoyed all the Hitchhiker’s books quite a lot but Mostly Harmless was the first I read and so is extra significant but something else I think draws me to that book in particular.
There’s a certain brilliance in Adams’ style. In each of his books he referenced and played with science fiction conventions bringing a kind of order through craziness. The books are very funny. Adams’ narrative voice is often calm, almost dry while discussing something completely absurd. But beyond that, Mostly Harmless has a rather intricate, intriguing plot. There are a number of threads to the story and there is a certain bigness to it that one might not expect from humorous science fiction novel. The elements of the story tie together wonderfully, everything falling right into place for the conclusion. It must also be said that the conclusion is far from a happy one which is something else that intrigues me about the novel–its mixture of comic and tragic. That mixture is something I later came to appreciate in the work of writer and director Joss Whedon (Whedon is probably best known as the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the much-praised and oft-analyzed TV series; his take on Marvel’s The Avengers just arrived in theaters). While Whedon’s work is certainly more serious in tone, humor is one of his trademarks. I don’t want to get too carried away with analysis or overstate what Adams was trying to do but I do think Mostly Harmless and the other Hitchhikers’ books are more than mere light entertainment. Mostly Harmless is wildly entertaining and it is extremely well-written, smart, witty and yes, a little grim. But if the arts are always on some level an attempt to make sense of life, the universe and everything then the comic and the tragic must inevitably meet.
Douglas Adams died in May of 2001, he was 49. I’ve often wondered what he would’ve written had he lived longer. He indicated that he might write another Hitchhikers’ book, that perhaps he might’ve liked to end the series on a happier note. A sequel to Mostly Harmless has been penned by Eoin Colfer. I haven’t read that book yet and while I probably will at some point, I can’t imagine it will be quite the same as reading Adams. At any rate, when May 2nd rolls around, I’m still reminded of picking up that book that evening in Hilo 20 years ago, the days and months afterward as I read through the series.
How to Tell a True War Story
by Ava Stewart
Ava Stewart is a student at CCSF from Santa Cruz, CA. While spending a year in a half in Tucson at the University of Arizona, she studied the works of war author Tim O’Brien during in an English class over the course of a year. Shared below is a review of one of her favorite literary pieces, “How To Tell a True War Story,” a reflective piece O’Brien wrote to illustrate the rogue beauty of the trauma and devastation he experienced during the Vietnam War.
O’Brien paints a stunning visual in “How to Tell a True War Story” that seeks to investigate the truth in war stories being told by Vietnam veterans. Whether exaggerations or fact, the narrator seeks to guide views as best as he can through his experiences in Vietnam when he was serving during the war. The narrator bases a majority of the story around the death of a close friend of his who was killed suddenly by a small land mine as he was walking in the forest of Vietnam. He follows this with other stories that occurred (or did they?) because of his passing. Continue reading “How to Tell a True War Story” by Ava Stewart
Right on the Money: One Dollar Stories by Jessica Garrison
by Howard Brad Halverson
We met at bar in LA. She was introduced to me because I was caught conversating about Georges Bataille the night before, the hostess of the party being so taken aback by this, exclaiming in shock “someone is talking about books at my party?” She subsequently had to introduce me to her writer friend. It was a sunny Sunday afternoon and I shared my cigarettes with Jessica, rolling one for her and one for our liaison too. Ms. Garrison had such a quiet composition, placid, and let me talk at her about my ideas of writing. It was so casual the thing called networking didn’t seem to apply. But we exchanged emails, sent a few brief messages then she all but disappeared from my conscious until a year or so had lapsed and I was gutting out my inbox and stumbled across an old message for a reading she was part of. I followed the link in the email, vaguely recalling her to discover she recently published a collection of stories. One Dollar Stories is the title. I ordered a copy immediately intrigued to learn more about the aspiring author.
Continue reading Right on the Money: One Dollar Stories by Jessica Garrison
Aubrey, Maturin and HMS Surprise
by Forum editor
HMS Surprise is the third in Patrick O’Brian’s popular and well regarded series of Aubrey/Maturin novels. The series is centered around the lives of Royal Navy captain Jack Aubrey and his close friend naval surgeon and intelligence operative Dr. Stephen Maturin during the Napoleonic War era. HMS Surprise was the first book in the series I had read and I found the opening a little jarring. It wasn’t that it wasn’t well written it was more a matter of its style. O’Brian was well known for his attention to period detail and period language. This attention to language extends to the the way in which the books are written and in fact, the narrator’s voice is strongly reminiscent of that time; there is something decidedly old-fashioned about O’Brian’s prose. Also jarring was the rather domestic bent of the early chapters. The novel opens with a somewhat technical meeting of elements of the British Admiralty and goes on to relate Aubrey’s efforts to get out of debt and marry his sweetheart as well as Maturin’s thoughts about the woman he is in love with.