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The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship by Charles Bukowski

“Well, my 71st year has been a hell of a productive year. I have probably written more words this year than in any year of my life.”


literature fiend The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship provides an interesting look  into Charles Bukowski’s personal life.

Most of Bukowski’s novels are written from the perspective of Henry Chinaski – his literary alter ego – which are undoubtedly based on real experiences.

This is a diary – recorded on Bukowski’s computer – which begins in 1991 and ends in 1993 – the year Bukowksi died of leukaemia aged 73.

It’s  great to imagine Bukowski, sitting at his desk night -after-night banging away at his keyboard with dogged determination just to “get the words down.”

Bukowski was always a prolific writer,  but this diary provides a  glimpse into his frustration with the writing process.   On the 20th October 1991, he writes:

“This is one of those nights where there is nothing. Imagine being always like this. Scooped-out. Listless. No light. No dance. Not even any disgust.” (p. 57)

However, In the same entry he writes about his productivity, showing “the block” as a rare occurrence:

“Still, I’ve had a good year. Masses of pages sit in the bookcase behind me. Written since Jan. 18. It’s like a madman was turned loose. No sane man would write that many pages. It’s a sickness.” (p. 57) 

Although most of the entries are filled with the mundane, the diary really highlights the importance of a routine.  For Bukowski is went pretty much like this:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Drive to the Horse Racing.
  3. Write at night while listening to classical music.

BukowskiThe best part of the book  was Bukowski’s  transition from typewriter to computer. The fact that there was to be “No more carbons, no more retyping,” was something Bukowski was excited about. It meant more time to create fresh content.

“This computer that I started using on Jan. 18 has had much to do with [enhanced productivity]. It’s simply easier to get the word down, it transfers more quickly from the brain (or wherever this comes from) to the fingers and from the fingers to the screen where it is immediately visible – crisp and clear” (p. 73)

This passage left me thinking about technology and how easy it is to create a document, edit that document and then print it. Something that is maybe taken for granted by  those of us born in the “computer generation.”

In retrospect, there is also a sad element to this book.  It isn’t clear whether Bukowski knew about his Leukaemia in any of the diary entries, although he is certainly thinking about his own mortality:

“The other day I was thinking about the world without me. There is the world going on doing what it does. And I’m not there. Very odd. Think of the garbage truck coming by and picking up the garbage and I’m not there. Or the newspaper sits in the drive and I’m not there to pick it up. Impossible. ” (P. 107)

The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship contains pretty much what you’d expect from Charles Bukowski. Lots of talk about drinking and betting and literature and classical music; all of which is delivered in a raw and honest style.


What did you think of the diary? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you. 






Wait Until Spring Bandini by John Fante




I was so impressed by Ask the Dust, that I went straight to Amazon and ordered the “Bandini Quartet.” It has the four novels: Wait Until Spring Bandini, The Road to Los Angeles, Ask the Dust and Dreams from Bunker Hill.

It works out much cheaper than buying them separately, and if you want to read them all – which after reading one Fante novel, trust me you will – is well worth the investment.

In this novel we get an insight into what things were like for Arturo Bandini (or Fante, however you want to look at it) as a child. And the answer is pretty bleak; the family are poor – like most during the depression era – and constantly struggling to pay their food bill at the local shop, let alone the rent.

Arturo – in typical fashion – has his mind consumed with a girl from his school, Rosa. She however, doesn’t reciprocate his feelings:

“Rosa, his girl. She hated him, but she was his girl. Did she know that he loved her? Was that why she hated him? Could she see the mysterious things that went on inside him, and was that why she laughed at him?” (p.42)

Svevo,Arturo’s Father, is a bricklayer and hates the winter; he is constantly being “rained off” as we say in England, due to bad weather. He is ashamed that he cannot bring more money into the household; in the first few pages we see these worries as he walks into:

“…the yard of his house that was not paid for..” (p.8) and  to his “…house that was not paid for” (p.7).

On the other hand his wife is a deeply religious woman, rich, in the sense that she makes the home a home. She is described as angelic and despite the lack of money, the love in the household is strongly felt:

 “Maria had a white rosary, so white you could drop it in the snow and loose it forever” (p.7). 

The routine of the Bandini household is torn apart – partly through miscommunication and partly through the local rumors in the neighborhood, when Svevo goes to work for the rich widow Hildegarde to earn money for his family. It is his pride that obstructs his true feelings:

“Bandini sobbed – a grown man, forty-two years old, weeping because it was Christmas Eve and he was returning to his sin, because he would rather be with his children” (p.137)

Through the use of a omniscient narrator the reader can identify with every character at one stage or another; this way their love, thoughts and feelings towards each other really shine through. That said,  I much preferred the first person narrative (from Arturo) in Ask the Dust, which made me laugh out loud on many occasions.

This novel, is an excellent piece of writing; which is poetic throughout, not to mention heartbreaking at times. The more Fante I read the more I begin to understand the term “way ahead of his time” because if it wasn’t for the popularity of Bukowski we may have seen Fante’s work buried deep in dark attics and second hand bookshops.

And that my friends, would be a tragedy in my eyes.


Best Part

Arturo is trying to be a little more “saintly”,  but for reasons I’ll not reveal he lashes out in frustration. He is in his garden when:

“He [Arturo] found a lump of coal the size of his fist, stood back and measured his distance. The old brown hen nearest him got the blow in the neck as the whizzing lump all but tore her head loose and caromed off the chicken shed” (p.46)

This was a harsh act, but the reason I liked it so much is that a few pages later the hungry family are tucking in to a succulent roast chicken.


Rating: 7/10


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