Hanks Bukowski was unusual in the world of literature, he was unusual in that he never actually wrote anything. But he talked about writing, about all the stories and the poems and the books that he was going to write, talked about them constantly, so much that people just started believing in them. Then the stories and the poems and the books started appearing, nobody knows how. Maybe people believed in them so strongly that they felt compelled to write them for him and get them published, and the belief was so powerful that everyone involved immediately forgot their involvement. Maybe he actually did write them. I don't know. I can't remember. That whole period is a blur.
It was in 1971 that hard-drinking celebrity postman Charles "Hanks" Bukowski decided to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a writer. However, after weeks of struggle, the dream was still no closer to reality, so he joined the New York Dolls instead, leading to their only hit: a cover of Tommy Steele's Flash, Bang, Whallop!, which they recorded at his repeated insistence.
Although he was the sole architect of that brief flirtation with success, Hanks never quite fit in with the Dolls. No-one really knows anymore how he came to be in the band. One thing's for sure, though: with him around, the New York Dolls never ate a dull lunch. Hanks had a peculiar gift for sandwiches. His creativity and inventiveness were astounding. They were real works of art. Fucking amazing sandwiches.
By 1975, the Dolls were over. However, Bukowski drew on his experiences with the band for his semi-autobiographical debut novel, Music Industry (1978), which detailed the gritty, blue-collar rock 'n' roll adventures of his fictional alter-ago, Chuck Hankowski. It was an immediate bestseller, and was followed by two sequels of sorts in what was to become known as the 'trilogy': Factato (1981) and Bees (1985).
David Hyde Pierce
Bees were Hanks' real passion. Man, he loved bees. And that was the first thing he did, when the money from the writing started coming in, he got himself a big old apiary. He used to take those bees out - "release the bees!" he'd yell, with this huge grin, this look of pure, innocent joy. His face would be so soft and beautiful. And he'd take them for walks, take them around town while he conducted his business. Wore them as a beard. That was his party piece. "Hey, Dave, d'you like m'beard?" "Oh, Jesus, Hanks..." And they were so angry, the angriest bees I'd ever met. Real assholes. They used to sting him, sting him up real bad. I hated them for that. Hanks doted on those asshole bees. He wouldn't stand for that kind of behaviour from a human, but he tolerated it from his bees. He loved them that much - knew every one of them by name. And that was how they repaid him.
Nevertheless, beekeeping gave the notoriously self-destructive Bukowski's life a sense of meaning he had never known before. By 1987, he'd given up drinking, and for the next decade devoted himself to his new vocation. Then the internet came along.
Bukowski first became involved with the internet as a means to connect with other amateur beekeepers. But it wasn't long before this seductive new technology began to appeal to his worst instincts. Bukowski soon took to sitting up all night in his underwear, lurking in AOL chatrooms... and also, inevitably, drinking.
The bees were neglected. But without their stabilising influence, and chained to his computer, Bukowski's literary mojo returned. He produced a new novel, his last, and a work which many consider to be his finest.
Extract: Internet, 1997
The Internet is society's toilet. A place where those who can't cut it in the real world can go and float around with all the other shits. But the rules are the same as the real world's. If you don't look like them, talk like them, smell like them or taste like them, you're a misfit. Grab your coat and leave, they don't want you around. I never fit in the real world or the Internet. But you get used to that feeling, and you make them used to you.
BigBallsChuck20 gets himself a whisky ;)
user71853 hey chuck i think u shuld take it easy w/that stuff
SoundgardenRule (Admin) yeh, chuck. time 2 call it a nite huh? u've had enuff, buddy
BigBallsChuck20 fuk u, i'll tell u when i'v ehad enough, n00b
SoundgardenRule (Admin) alrite, chuck - i've warned u b4. ur barred >=(
BigBallsChuck20 left the room
But in 1998, disaster struck. Arguing with his wife one hot summer night, Bukowski, drunk and raging, flung his computer through the open kitchen window. Landing among his cherished bees, the computer immediately caught fire in the LA heat. The entire apiary was destroyed.
Hanks was a broken man after that. The only healthy passion he ever had, killed by the poison that had blighted so much of his existence. Crestfallen, he retired silently to his bed that night, and that was where he stayed for the last six weeks of his life. In the final days, we gathered by his bedside and took it in turns to remind him of everything he ever did wrong. He liked that. It reinforced his self-image. As the great man himself once wrote: "No man should die / A stranger to himself."