Mar 07, 2023, 05:57AM

The Woman Who Took on Bukowski

Linda King’s Loving & Hating Charles Bukowski (2014) still a great read.

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Charles Bukowski was a contradiction. He wasn’t very handy with the ladies, but the original dirty old man needed some loving too. Along with his fame, or infamy, came a menagerie of star fuckers, hangers-on, poetry whores, and a curious litany of those who indulged in off-beat poetic hustles and erotic literary pursuits.

Artist/poet Linda King wasn’t one of them. She’s a liberated woman, something Bukowski, in his prehistoric WWII brain, couldn’t understand and never resist. He was a knuckle-dragging troll when macho men hit their women. They all did. Linda King is still kicking, one of the few women with balls. She took on Bukowski, a free-spirited woman in a man’s world. During the five or so years of their on-again, off-again relationship, she endured a lot of pain, both physical and emotional. Yet, she had patience most of the time. As a sculptor and poet, she met Bukowski and agreed to create a bust of his head. She had many commissions in those days. The likes of Jack Micheline, A.D. Winans, Harold Norse, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti among them.

There’s no shortage of biographies and articles about Charles Bukowski, plus thousands who emulate his literary work and his lifestyle. But it took only one woman to knock down the flimsy house of cards that Bukowski’s legendary foundation was built on. King knew who and what she was up against. Misogynist men were nothing new, but it rang true when supposedly altruistic male poets couldn’t deal with feminists who wrote poetry or created art. Most men can’t deal with their own feminine identities. By the same token, maybe King believed it was possible to change Bukowski into a kinder, gentler version of the surly poet. Never mind a gentleman.

I have some doubts about that, but you can’t fault her for trying. Linda was raised Mormon. They have zero tolerance for alcohol and idleness. Bukowski championed both. The toxic male with a chip on his shoulder. That lazy bum with a nipple- tipped bottomless booze bottle stuck in his mouth. She also grew up with an alcoholic father, which might explain the attraction to Bukowski. There was a 20-year difference in age too. She was in her 30s when she was with him, and Bukowski was approaching senior citizen status. His underground subversive poet shtick was a turn-on for young naive women and men alike. He was the antihero of their wildest poetry dreams. I succumbed to Bukowski’s charms and wit, the first time I discovered his poetry.

There was nothing remotely sexy about Bukowski. His features were a jumble of acne scars and booze blossoms. With a snout like W.C. Fields, he sounded like him too, when he spoke. He was a cartoonish, drunken loutish fool at his worst. At other times, he could charm the pants off an unsuspecting young woman with his tangle of words. He was a one-man show. A sorrowful entertainer, the life of the party who had no limits, except for his petty jealousies and inferiority complex. He could be a big baby when he thought Linda King was flirting at parties with other men. So insecure about his own masculinity that he accused her of sleeping with all his friends and any stranger he felt victimized by.

Every man who looked at her was a threat to his flawed sexuality. He joked with her that he was a god, with the biggest balls, and the best kisser and cunning linguist. That somehow she should be grateful and blessed to be with him. His narcissism knew no bounds. It was a ploy to cover up his many flaws. She was flawed too, but know her limits. He, on the contrary, was a zircon diamond in the rough. An old piece of coal posing as a crown jewel. There’s plenty of Linda King’s poetry in this true story. Much of it’s erotic praise for an old mule named Bukowski. Every time they fought, he’d return the bust she made of his big head. He’d leave it in her doorway, so she’d trip over it on her way out the door. After a while, she got hip to that routine scene and moved away, escaping from him for good. In the end, Bukowski married another woman named Linda. Out of spite, or a mere coincidence?


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