Women - Charles Bukowski I always forget how much I enjoy Bukowski's writing, and then I'll pick up another of his works, start reading, and am flabbergasted by how long I let it sit untouched on the shelf. Women was no exception, and despite my disbelief at having ignored the novel for so long, I loved it.

Then again, I'm not easily offended nor do I suffer from an overload of ultra-sensitive feminist bullshit. Literature is a product of the world we live in, and that world is not always pretty.

Perhaps as a woman I should have been offended to the point I got the vapors and was forced to toss the book aside. But as a reader who appreciates authenticity, acknowledgement of reality, and unyielding grit in a book, I was engaged and ultimately satisfied. It's true, Bukowski's presentation of women is (a lot) less than politically correct, but the portrait is a genuine representation of an equally less than stellar segment of the male population. He doesn't hold anything back, the writing is all in, balls out, totally unapologetic. No flinching.

Yes, the author was likely a jerk-off. So was Hemingway. Get over it.

The reader isn't expected to view any of this as glamorous. Women portrays life as a never-ending cycle of dirt, shit, fuck-ups, and the occasional piece of good luck. Alcoholism is presented as the living hell it is, and more than one passage nails the down and out desperation of gambling. Some sections of the novel are disgusting while others are profound. None of the relationships are illustrated as anything other than dysfunctional, destructive messes, a fact that Bukowski repeatedly states in these same pages. (I find this point of view a far better alternative to a certain series aimed at impressionable teenage girls that presents obsession, stalking, and submission to the point of zombie-hood as a "healthy" relationship. The fact that the male "love" interest is a sparkly vampire simply adds insult to freakin' injury.)

And let's be honest here: there's no shortage of real life women who act exactly like the women in Bukowski's writing. The delusions, the irrational behavior, the freak outs and mind games, their own jacked up double standard, the sheer insanity...I've dealt with a Lydia before. It isn't pretty, not in books and certainly not in real life. Preach it, Bukowski.

Bukowski's writing is deceptively simple; it's also effective. The situations are repetitive but the character's emotional response is not, just pay attention to the gradual changes over time. His behavior doesn't change, but at least there's self-awareness at play. (Yet another element sorely lacking in the aforementioned series.) At the end of the day, love it or hate it you're still thinking about it, and that's a sign the author did his job and did it well.

Like I said earlier, I loved this. If you dislike generous use of the f-bomb, the c-word, and explicit sex, it would be best to pass on this one. If you fall into the militant feminist category, you're going to hate it with a passion.

But if you're open-minded, pick this up and give it a shot. Women isn't a hard or time-consuming read, so you've got nothing to lose and a lot to gain.