Miller, Bukowski & their enemies: Essays on Contemporary Culture

Miller, Bukowski & their enemies: Essays on Contemporary Culture
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ISBN:  978-1-905177-27-1
Publisher:  Pinter & Martin

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  (1 Review)

Author: Guillermo O'Joyce
Published: 2011
Binding: paperback
Format: 127 x 198mm
Pages: 224
Pinter & Martin edition available: worldwide
Translation rights: the author

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"May 1997. I'm sitting in a local cow-town restaurant over a cup of coffee and a hand-rolled cigarette. I'm killing time. I've got a new book with me, one I never would have found on my own, sent by Ernst Richter, a German friend who did the cover art. The book is Miller, Bukowski & Their Enemies. I cracked the cover and expected the worst – someone most certainly has bitten off more than he can chew. Thirty pages later I've finished the piece on Miller and remember the wash.

By the time everything is folded and ready to carry home, I've finished the piece on Bukowski, and by the time I put the light out in bed that night, I've finished the book. Ten minutes later I put the light back on and get out of bed. Throw on some sweat pants and sit on the dark porch smoking. How can I sleep after a book like that has punched me in the gut, whacked me alongside the head and resuscitated every reason I ever found in sixty years of life for not going along with whatever the going game plan is? I'm agitated, on fire, back on the front lines."

John Bennett, publisher, Vagabond Press

Revised edition with new essays on Jack Kerouac, Richard Yates, François Rabelais, Eduardo Galeano and more.

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Miller, Bukowski and their Enemies
Friday, 6 April 2012  | 

This collection of essays is all I have read from O'Joyce, though I'm curious to read something else from this ranter and rambler now. I still know very little about the man, but I put the book down with the impression that he’d likely tell a good story if I sat down with him and quite probably make an entertaining teacher. Throughout he mercilessly attacks the industry and culture that spawn today's writers of bland and impotent prose and poetry, 'the mediocrity that discourages dreams' and relegates 'life itself to the back burner till the flame goes out'. Great writers, O'Joyce says, have one thing in common and that is they inspire him to think life is worth living. He spits on literary artifice, the approved versions of creativity and all those who write without real conviction. Creativity is for everyone, 'it need not be nurtured by institutions: institutions have attached creativity to group belonging', which ultimately 'strangles' poetry. He despises publishers and the sycophancy that is rife in the publishing industry, 'The brightness or adventurousness in those young editors' eyes soon gets swallowed up delivering Brussels sprouts, the companionship of rivers drowned in the conventional wisdom that publishing is a business too, and the success of life is in who wins and who ascends to a special dais and gets labeled STAR.' (Page 133.) O'Joyce grinds his axe. To a large extent he ignores the work of the writers whose names appear in the titles to his essays and rants about those who have unjustly attacked or failed to publish them. Where he does talk about the writers and their work he says insightful things. For instance, Miller “would have us love an earth always on the edge of fruition”, Stettner 'will make your hormones burgeon like overripe plums”, Bukowski is “behind the mirror, inside the belly of terror' and you want him to go on but he usually comes back to the shit of The Machine or the attitude especially prevalent in the United States in regard to lies and money, 'called 'Fuck or Be Fucked'. Graphically, and fairly convincingly, he scorns the 'sacks of putrefying corpses [who] have been running the show'. The last third of the book, from 'on the agent' which essay incidentally is about Martin Wagner's play, The Agent, a dialogue between writer and agent that illustrates 'why words don't work' - was a more compelling read. Perhaps I was reading more eagerly by that point because I’d got into the directness of O'Joyce's style, or maybe because he appeared to be exploring the works at greater length and telling the reader more about what he likes about good writing. The tone was more positive, less of a rant. I like his advice to any fledgling writer to respect silence: 'For anyone who wants to live, or write, there is no greater enemy than this solemn couple called busyness and respectability'. Not at all what I was expecting to find in a literary criticism. A lively read!


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