SORRY, BUKOWSKI by P.L. George
So I started this experiment that has been bubbling in me for a long time. To submit a legends’ work and see who rejects it. Partly because I wanted to feel better about my own stories and to finally do what most writers have thought about doing but didn’t have the balls to.
So I’d had five big lit journals on my radar for pushing two years, five high cliffs, five on my shit list.
I’ve got all of Charles Bukowskis’ books except for some of his beginning works in small lit journals because I can’t afford them on E-bay. I first took one of his short story collections, “The Most Beautiful Woman in Town”, published by City Lights, circa 1967. As I skimmed through those drunk bard stories, I pick one that’s semi- obscure, something all Bukowski, but without the appearance of the age of when it was written. I picked “Trouble With a Battery”, a story that’s all Chuck, where he ends up fucking a girl in a bed above a bar with her brother alongside them. I submit from a friends’ computer under the name of Chuck Bukow so no one will recognize my email address. The others who don’t accept e-mail submissions I strictly adhere to those guidelines, all those hoops, SASE, title page, some aloof bio, the works. This is all pushing nine months ago.
The first, Paris Review took the longest, approximately eight months. I went to the mailbox and the envelope was thin and light. Inside was the card they always give out, a one-size-fits-all rejection slip. The second, Iowa Review I always liked because Vonnegut used to edit for them now and again. But I always had reservations about them, that workshop cult, that doesn’t let the outside in. I get a rejection letter, but also something in ink. “Too much vulgarity, you need to learn to say things without expletives”. You hear that Charles, you don’t know how to write without a fuck you thrown in now and again. The third, Glimmer Train, I submitted to their contest with my own money in tribute to this dead author whom I respect. They don’t comment, just say that they regret they can’t use it and list the winners. Women editors, they don’t get it. The fourth was Tin House. I don’t really know if they read much of anything. You know how it is, that aura that drips off that little slip they give out all impersonal and what not. Rejection number four. The fifth is Zoetropes’-All Story, extremely heavy competition. They give options for films for accepted stories. They also had given out written comments on the bottom of my rejection slips. I’m thinking film, maybe they’d remember “Barfly” with Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway, jar their movie archived heads. I’m sorry Chuck, I’ve never received a comment like this. “Too vulgar, don’t submit here, not right, if this is an example of your best,” and I quote all of this. Ouch.
So the poet laureate dies in these big modern lit mags. You five are all indicted. All you writers out there, scribbling in your caves take heart. Old Buck’s been put on the ash heap too.