THE THIRD IN A SERIES of posthumous collections edited by Abel Debritto (On Writing, On Cats), Charles Bukowski's On Love is kind of like bible-dipping misogyny. I didn't need to read the whole thing to tell you that. I could have stopped after "I can feel the great empty mountain of her head" on the first page, or the third, where Bukowski ponders the shallow nature of womankind after a partner he refers to as his "bankroll" kicks him out. Ten or so poems later Bukowski mocks his partner's passion about ending "discrimination the Bomb segregation," saying, "I let her go on until finally the talk/wearies me."
Bukowski lived in a pre-Reagan economy of strong unions and cheap rent. White flight made inner city living affordable. He benefitted from all the advantages discriminatory hiring practices afforded white men. He was allowed to treat his jobs like shit. He was allowed to treat women like shit. After all, nearly 60,000 men his age were dead from the Vietnam War. Bukowski's writing is like a hypocrisy Cave of Wonders. It's like a bad relationship chocolate factory. If Dan Savage hadn't been so busy with middle school right then he could have told Bukowski's lovers to DTMFA.
And I get the point. Human beings are complicated. Love means a lot of different things. I just get so tired of Bukowski's perspective—him and his Guy in Your MFA progeny. It's so boring. Bukowski wastes a good 60 percent of On Love discovering he loves women he deems irrational or idiotic. Near the midpoint, Debritto begins to bring in poems Bukowski wrote for his daughter. Like, awwww, get it? He was a misogynist but now he loves his daughter. So. Bored.
On Love has a chick-lit cover, bright teal with a lipstick kiss on a cocktail napkin like it's about a sassy divorcée who solves murders (if only!). Its branding is feminine. This is the book Bukowski fans will buy their partners for Valentine's Day, like I told you I can say cunt. Where's my award for going down on you? When you get this book, think about what that means about your relationship and the person you're dating. Then save yourself.