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A small improvement upon the truth, reading Charlene Rubinski

“I took John Buckner over to Bukowski’s once, and Bukowski asked me later, “Please don’t bring over any mentally ill…” “


“There’s a small rolling earthquake right now. 9/4/81 – 8:52 a.m. and it shakes me to my typewriter to relate the night Rubinski shrunk in size.”

SR: It’s the one chapter that they didn’t put in Spinning Off Bukowski,

I wish they were. I had had a few beers…

3:AM: What do you mean they were, you mean Al Berlinski?

SR: Yeah, Al Berlinski, I wish he had put that chapter in…maybe it wasn’t written well enough. At least it is in here.

“Charlene shrunk in size when Jim King flirted with women he invited to his party.”

3:AM: That’s the whole business of the big fight.

SR: Aw, they had a lot of fights.

3:AM: So you go into some of this very specifically, like:

“Charlene was living with him at the time…around 1970, sharing with him his Glendale cottage. She was a woman with more talent than Lawrence, Cowper, and Goethe…”

That’s pretty good.

SR: Did I say Goethe?

3:AM: Yeah, you did… [both laughing]

SR: I took a little poetic license…no I’m talking about Rubinski there. You thought I was talking about King? Nah. I believe that.

3:AM: No, you were talking about Charlene.

SR: Yeah, it’s the culmination of the string of art up to the present.

3:AM: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, actually, when you take D.H. Lawrence, he was an incredible figure.

SR: He was the culmination up to that point.

3:AM: That’s right. That is very true.

SR: So the great writers before they start really getting serious they read the great writers and what’s been written because they don’t want to copy them.

“I’d offered her sheets and blankets but she refused them. So it was morning and I studied her on the couch on her back covered by newspapers. Perhaps a flashback to her nights on park benches but I didn’t know her in those days. I’d only read about her nights on park benches in her short stories and poems. I first met her in 1964 at her east Hollywood flat when she was 44 years old.”

[no commentary about the passage]

“Yes, Charlene who had been lauded by Genet, Sartre, Goddard, and Henry Miller…”

3:AM: You know a lot of that is not true either. He told me they did it, and I printed it and then everybody believed it.

SR: [laughing] I was exaggerating.

3:AM: I didn’t know. He said, “Well, Genet really liked my work.” So I printed it.

SR: There’s two lines in Bukowski’s novel Women, one is where… “Sarah,” who was actually Linda Bukowski, was mad at him because he’s made two dates, one with her for Thanksgiving and one with another woman for Thanksgiving, you know, with the turkeys and everything. And she looked at him and said “You rotten, rotten, rotten son-of-a-bitch” and it just comes off great in the book. He’s totally…he says, “I’m harder on myself than other people,” that was his alibi for putting down people. And then there is another one where he says, “Well, fiction is a small improvement upon the truth.”

“’The great artist is a law unto herself,’ said Rita Hayworth. Charlene, a law unto herself, once whispered to me the time she and Neelia Chermonski…”

3:AM: Yeah, that’s really true.

SR: I think I got that from Nietzsche.

3:AM: And in that we have “Neelia Chermonski,” who might that be?

SR: [laughing]

3:AM: Neeli Cherkovski who wrote the unreadable biography.

SR: Hey, what a shame that book is.

3:AM: Well, basically, I think Bukowski spoon-fed him the book.

SR: It just was…first of all the facts were wrong, two pages on me, highly complimentary, just fluff about me. But there were, like, 17 maybe 14 absolute factual errors. He had no regards for…totally misnamed books… his facts were just… Neeli came by once and said he had $33,000 for that book. Writing Hank, he said most of it all of it went for his peritonitis surgery.

3:AM: You mention in this a very interesting scene, where Bukowski goes to your candle-shop and paints these poems.

SR: Oh yeah, I got…I was freaking out over losing this woman and I was trying to impress her. So I was going to hang 4×8 boards from the ceiling, I had a dozen of them, with the best poems, the strongest poems, I could find. And Bukowski came by and told me to cut two boards. One poem was ‘Freedom’ and one was ‘True Story’ and he wrote ‘em on 4×8 plys, painted black, and he wrote the words in white.

3:AM: Let me read what you have here ‘cause this is really well done.

“Charlene often visited during the year I ran that wax store. There she fulfilled a request of mine, painting in three-inch high white enamel letters, her poems upon 4 by 8 plywood boards that had first been painted solid black. While she painted her poems she asked me, ‘Are you sure you’re not wigging out?’ I didn’t answer but silently thought about the implications of her question.”

And there was also “Joan Buckner” who did one.

[“Mad Joan Buckner, a poetess I appreciated at the time, 1970, was there too and painted her poems on the boards…pausing occasionally to kick a gallon of white enamel over the candle-shop floor.”]

SR: John Buckner, yeah.

3:AM: Do you ever hear anything about John Buckner?

SR: Not for 30 years. He was in and out of Metropolitan State… he really had a mental…he’d lose it.

3:AM: You published a lot of his stuff.

SR: He was a great writer, great strong poems. But he was “slipped.” Bukowski met him once, I took him over to Bukowski’s once, and Bukowski asked me later, “Please don’t bring over any mentally ill…” [laughing].

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First published in 3:AM Magazine: Monday, May 11th, 2009.