Nine To Five

In zwölf Stunden sind viele von uns schon wieder auf dem Weg ins Büro, an die Werkbank oder (um mit Donald Trump zu sprechen – siehe unten): In der neuesten Folge einer TV–Serie.

In twelve hours time, many of us will be on their way back to the office, to the workbench or (to speak with Donald Trump – see below): In the latest episode of a TV–opera.

Bukowski in Hamburg 1984 – picture © Michael Montfort

In 1969, an offer was made: «Quit your job, and I’ll give you $100 a month for the rest of your life.» The offer came from John Martin, publisher and founder of Black Sparrow Press. Charles Bukowski  —  still an unknown writer  —  had spent his last decade at a post office job. He wanted out.

In a letter at the time, Bukowski wrote: «I have one of two choices  —  stay in the post office and go crazy… or stay out here and starve. I have decided to starve

Fifteen years later, Bukowski wrote a letter of gratitude to John Martin, thanking him for funding his escape:

Hello John,

Thanks for the good letter. I don’t think it hurts, sometimes, to remember where you came from. You know the places where I came from. Even the people who try to write about that or make films about it, they don’t get it right. They call it «9 to 5.» It’s never 9 to 5, there’s no free lunch break at those places, in fact, at many of them in order to keep your job you don’t take lunch. Then there’s OVERTIME and the books never seem to get the overtime right and if you complain about that, there’s another sucker to take your place. You know my old saying:

«Slavery was never abolished, it was only extended to include all the colors.»

And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse. People simply empty out. They are bodies with fearful and obedient minds. The color leaves the eye. The voice becomes ugly. And the body. The hair. The fingernails. The shoes. Everything does.

As a young man I could not believe that people could give their lives over to those conditions. As an old man, I still can’t believe it. What do they do it for? Sex? TV? An automobile on monthly payments? Or children? Children who are just going to do the same things that they did?

They never pay the slaves enough so they can get free, just enough so they can stay alive. I remember once, working as a packer in this lighting fixture company, one of the packers suddenly said: “I’ll never be free!” — One of the bosses was walking by and he let out this delicious cackle of a laugh, enjoying the fact that this fellow was trapped for life.

So, the luck I finally had in getting out of those places, no matter how long it took, has given me a kind of joy, the jolly joy of the miracle. I now write from an old mind and an old body, long beyond the time when most men would ever think of continuing such a thing, but since I started so late I owe it to myself to continue, and when the words begin to falter and I must be helped up stairways and I can no longer tell a bluebird from a paperclip, I still feel that something in me is going to remember (no matter how far I’m gone) how I’ve come through the murder and the mess and the moil, to at least a generous way to die.

To not to have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.

yr boy,

President Trump thinks of each day as a TV–episode …

From an interview with Fernanda Pivano

Fernanda Pivano: The impression someone might have from your books is that — in a way — you don’t love life. You live, but without loving living. Is that a bad impression? A wrong impression?

Charles Bukowski: No, it’s pretty accurate. I find life fairly uninteresting and I especially did when I was working the eight–hour day and the twelve–hour day. Most men work the eight–hour day at least five days a week. And they don’t love it either. There’s no reason for a man who works eight hours a day to love life. You sleep eight, you work eight. Any man who loves this is a big idiot. There’s no way I could love that kind of life.

Fernanda Pivano: And how about now?

Charles Bukowski: It’s getting better.

Fernanda Pivano: So now you start loving life?

Charles Bukowski: No, I’m very wary of loving life, because it may fool me if I start loving it. So, I’m very cautious about such matters. I’m still watching everything.

Fernanda Pivano: But now you don’t have to work eight hours a day.

Charles Bukowski: Now I work every hour of the day.

Fernanda Pivano: But you are not compelled to. You work because you love the work you do. You love writing. Don’t tell me that you don’t love writing.

Charles Bukowski: I like drinking — and I write when I drink — sometimes. No, writing isn’t work at all, you’re right. And when people tell me how painful it is to write — I don’t understand it — I don’t understand it, because it’s just like rolling down a mountain, you know. It’s freeing. It’s enjoyable, it’s a gift and you get paid for what you want to do.

«Nine to five» (1980)

Have a good start into your week.

4 comments on “Nine To Five
  1. Sehr liebevoller Brief. Ich bin immer wieder erstaunt über die Herzlichkeit dieses scheuen Mannes. Ich warte noch darauf, dass mir jemand ein monatliches Salär zahl, damit ich nur das schreiben kann, was mir durch den Kopf geht.

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