Plans to turn late writer Charles Bukowski’s former east Hollywood apartment into a civic monument may be halted due to claims by the current owners that Bukowski was a Nazi sympathizer. The accusations stem from Visceral Bukowski: Inside the Sniper Landscape of L.A. Writers, in which the book’s author, Ben Pleasants, claims that the notoriously hard-drinking, hard-living Bukowski made several anti-Semitic remarks.
What the commentators said
These claims are “truly fishy,” said David Weigel in the blog Reason. Pleasants said that Bukowski wrote stories that were inspired by Mein Kampf, but when Bukowski’s FBI file became public, these stories were never found. These claims are just “slightly more believable than the anti-Semite accusations hurled at the very Jewish Michael Chabon.”
The only way to contest a cultural designation is to prove that the honoree had questionable character, said Matthew Fleischer in the L.A. Weekly, and “calling someone a Nazi is a pretty good way to do it.” Bukowski “was born in Germany, and in his semiautobiographical Ham on Rye he writes that he used to harangue classmates and teachers at L.A. City College with fascists diatribes to antagonize them.” But his “maternal grandmother was Jewish—her last name was Israel.” And “Pleasants admits that Bukowski had several Jewish friends, himself included.”
What’s really strange is that “there’s nothing about the architecture that makes” Bukowski’s “former Hollywood apartment stand out,” said Alex Dobuzinskis in the Los Angeles Daily News. If it does become a cultural landmark, “it will be one of the rare times the city has placed that status on a building solely because of who lived there, not for its architectural significance.”
Not to mention the fact that “landmarking where he worked seems somewhat antithetical to the guy’s entire aesthetic,” said A.F. Duncan in the blog Kung Fu Rodeo. “The irony would be amazing, though.”