A Fifth of Whiskey & 3 Beers: R.L. Greenfield on Charles Bukowski’s Love is a Dog From Hell

Charles Bukowski,  Love Is A Dog From Hell:  Poems, 1974-1977, Black Sparrow Press, 1998



Bukowsi is often over-rated by bad writers but he tends to be under-rated by writers who are in the Classical academic snob mode & act like they are in the know.  Charles nails it  in this book better than any other book of his I’ve read.  I guess I’ve read 12 or 15 over the years.  He is brain sore from missing women & sex & the romance & he is often with a new dame it seems trying to get rid of an old one who is devouring his mind while he munches suspiciously & occasionally irresistibly on the new one & prepares for his next defeat.  And he knows it won’t take long for that death to arrive.


But what he does wonderfully is savor the melancholia.  He understands that Life is essentially melancholic but he never cries about it.  He manages to go to bed alone with that melancholy in the form of a dame or not.  And he is forever losing & missing the woman he wanted most.  But not for long.  Soon he will lose & miss a new one.  And the habit of finding a female replacement becomes almost his entire method of sex and romance & helps numb the pain of his latest lost lady.  In fact we begin to feel he enjoys losing women almost as much as finding a new one!  It gives him material for his poems & feeds his imagination big chunks of juicy story—plus activates the memory that “I have been through this dark alley many times before & it always ends in a cul de sac.  Let that not stop me from sexual pleasure!”  Crack open a fifth of whiskey & three beers.


He always has a glass of booze in his hand at home or in the restaurant or bar.  He also manages to lose a woman & then recognize her as trouble after he has lost her.  The great & naive rationalizer.  It happens again & again & becomes a creative experience & a cleansing form of suffering.  Glad to get rid of that bitch I wonder who she is killing now.  These are Bukowski’s actual words.  Though his use of the word ‘bitch’ is rare & always meant to be comic not merely or mainly vitriolic.  Thus he eases his mind with a smooth cheap pain-killing lie.  This has a healthy feel to it. The imagination is purifying itself.


Bukowski loves these women often & he always loses them.  He might drive his car up & down streets looking for that specific lady.  And he is almost crying he says.  He is also most excellent at not doing what he doesn’t want to do.  He seldom gets the woman he wants.  But what he doesn’t want to do is give up booze or cigarettes or pounding the story of his life on his typewriter.  He is also a champion masturbator before or after sex with women or after any old phone call or classical musical jag on the radio.  He is alone plenty   But he has many very excellent moments with women considering his incessant swearing off of them forever.  He has a tremendous appetite for appreciating the favors of females sexual & romantic & sentimental also.  And he is superb at staying away from male bullshit shop-talk sessions & that whole boring poetry-talk scene.  He is faithful to his booze & his typewriter & his appetites for women & the race track and above all conscious of writing it all down.  To fuck & to eat pussy is to write; and to write is to make love.  This is the unstated theology of real writers.  This book is solid as a rock in terms of its pounding out realistic details of the day to day & night to night life of Charles Bukowski.


He has taken us many miles beyond the formalist creations of Baudelaire & Paris.  Bukowski never hides in fantasy-land or in irony or paradox.  And there is never any fanciness or euphemisms.  And this book is considerably entertaining—totally unique in its dredging up of details concerning his intimate & raw experiences with women & booze & writing.  It may exaggerate but this book sure does give one the feeling of the author’s fidelity to the facts of his own life & experience.  And Charles Bukowski clearly loves women.  He is obviously in love with the wondrous vulgarities that make love so rich & thrilling & sometimes appalling.  And he leaves nothing out of this exciting bargain that promises us ecstasy & hell.



Love Is A Dog From Hell , Charles Bukowski



the night I fucked my alarm clock


starving in Philadelphia

I had a small room

it was evening going into night

and I stood at my window on the 3rd floor

in the dark and looked down into a

kitchen across the way on the 2nd floor

and I saw a beautiful blonde girl

embrace a young man there and kiss him

with what seemed hunger

and I stood and watched until they broke


then I turned and switched on the room light.

I saw my dresser and my dresser drawers

and my alarm clock on the dresser.

I took my alarm clock

to bed with me and

fucked it until the hands dropped off.

then I went out and walked the streets

until my feet blistered.

when I got back I walked to the window

and looked down and across the way

and the light in their kitchen was




3 responses to “A Fifth of Whiskey & 3 Beers: R.L. Greenfield on Charles Bukowski’s Love is a Dog From Hell

  1. Amy:

    Thanks very much for the reply. Sad news, indeed.

    all the best,
    Don, Lilliput Review / Issa’s Untidy Hut

  2. Just learned RL Greenfield passed away late March. Was “Googling” to see if he’d published anything new recently, and stumbled upon the sad news.

  3. R. L. Greenfield:

    Mail to you recently bounced. Please send along your new address via email

    Don at Lilliput Review