Charles Bukowski’s Factotum. “What the hell type of title is that for a book?”, you murmur idiotically. Well, cretins, murmuring won’t get you far on Professional Moron! No ho, sir!
That is the title of Charles Bukowski’s most socially unacceptable book. Which, for his high standards there, really took some doing. So, before we commence, do note this book is not for everyone. No. It’s for reprobates only.
In Post Office, which we covered the other week, Bukowski displayed his life working for the American Post Office. In Factotum (which isn’t about facts about totem poles, you hear?) he lays bare his barely functioning existence and goes fully down and out.
Really low-life, scraping the barrel stuff. An existence of nothing more than bumbling about, idiotic drunken arguing, humiliating jobs, and casual debauchery.
Quite how true any of the content is we don’t know. What’s likely is Bukowski used his rather thinly veiled alter-ego, Henry Chinaski, to (presumably) exaggerate some of the (we’re guessing) situations he faced.
This is a common literary device as, let’s face it, reality is usually pretty dull. Even George Orwell spun some of Down and Out in Paris and London (the British equivalent of Factotum).
So what better way to spice things up than with exceptionally sardonic and world-weary charm through beer and fisticuffs? Essentially the book’s about
Chinaski’s endless series of increasingly idiotic jobs. His mindless experiences with women and alcohol punctuate his equally mindless drifting, which may sound like things get a bit indulgent.
True to form, they do. However, Bukowski’s so naturally hilarious narcissism is of little bother. Anyone who’s ever had a rubbish job will rejoice at his petulant behaviour, whilst if you’re The Queen you’ll likely gawp in wonder at what the rest of us have to put up with.
Now if you’re lazy, like most of us are, you can watch the 2005 film adaptation starring Matt Dillon. It’s pretty good, actually, but once you’re done go and scrub our toilet, vile heathen! I want it clean enough to have my bath in!
On a final note, the book received a film adaptation in 2005. Matt Dillon portrays the sardonic, sullen Bukowski and his love interest Jan features as Lili Taylor.
It was a French-Norwegian production, strangely enough, and one that seems to have slipped off into obscurity. Worth a watch if you’re a fan of Buckowski’s work.