chapter  4
26 Pages

bukowski and beat mythology

The beats are defi ned and critically analyzed as a subcultural movement and the fi rst-wave troika of beat writers are situated within this phenomenon, with their literary and cultural tastes appraised to show important infl uences. Terms such as beatitude, fl ânerie and the existential notion of outsider are adopted to construct the individual beat antihero. Charles Bukowski is then evaluated in relation to these writers and his broader literary preferences are outlined. There are a number of problems and ambiguities concerning cultural imperialism, gender and ethnicity within beat mythology which are assessed alongside Bukowski’s own issues with women. Other key areas explored concern transgression, dissent and the importance of style. He is positioned as the apolitical beat outsider or antibeat, although heavily infl uenced by the beat writers and William Burroughs in particular, who off ers a highly singular antiheroic focus and anarchy associated with deviancy, narcissism and cool. This is appraised in terms of the recuperation and ideological co-option of Bukowski, the major beat writers and subculture.