fiction, review

The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship

When it comes to documenting personal life experiences, I believe Charles Bukowski is one of those to notice, with his honestly blatant self-telling narrative. Though having done so many’s the time in the form of poetry, it didn’t keep Bukowski from literally telling his story in prose. Just for the record, Buskowski is never a kind of writer who tries to be romantic, critical, poetic nor anything. To judge from his style of writing, which is simple in its nature, Bukowski only intends to state some facts, in this case are his life facts.

So in The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship, firstly published in 1997, Charles Bukowski talks about his days at the age of 70 in very much this manner. Flagrantly open and crudely vulgar, Bukowski describes his still deep-seated addiction to alcohol despite his age. In addition to this old (bad) habit, he goes betting at the horse racetrack. However, it is not the money he pursues, as he confesses, but the joy of betting itself. As he is then getting old, he needs something to do to pass the time. In short, betting on a race seems to be his chosen way to fill the remaining of his life.

At some point inside the short story, Bukowski conveys that in his early days he deems his being a writer is an obligatory job to earn money, to survive his poor life and lack of cash. Writing is the only thing he can do well, and his sells, therefore he continues to do it for fifty years. Over the years, he finds himself better in doing his obligatory job, feeling that he finally can really write something. To my dismay, Bukowski’s blatant openness seems to go too far by my opinion. It’s not that I’m trying to violate the “freedom of speech” in any from, but I think his hatred toward some famous great writers, and their notable works, is too much overwhelming. He thinks of those writers as foolish people writing foolish things. He thinks them never true. And he’s not afraid of saying those aloud in his narrative. Frankly speaking, I think that’s so arrogant of him. To him, there are no interesting people in this world. This world is just as boring as anything.

Bukowski’s simple, vulgar, straightforward sentences have been indeed his trademark, both in his poetry and prose. Thus, it is easy to get hooked on his stories. So is the case with The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship. Though I don’t get the relation of the title to the story being told, what Bukowski presents in this book has just struck me to the core. It is, more or less, true and real, honest and without any manipulation. Leaving aside the cynicism in it, this story is all about reality.

I wouldn’t recommend this book just to anyone. No that I think it is a bad book, but I just do not think that anyone could read it, nor would read it, for that matter. It takes people with no thought for any “literary” label to read this book.

Rating: 3/5

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