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Updated on December 17, 2009



books and libraries, and voodoo

I was communing with Bukowski, listening to a couple of interviews on you tube, feeling the benefits of that cool soothing voice, when I heard him mention a writer called Fante. John Fante, born Denver, Colorado, novelist and screenwriter. Bukowski regarded Fante as his mentor, much the same way as I regard Bukowski as mine. He said, 'go on check him out, he's got more humanity in his soul than the whole of you in this room put together.' Lucky for me, I wasn't in the room, so I didn't get the sharp end of the barb in my butt, no doubt if I had been there, at the time, I would have. But that's another story.

Anyway, the teacher has spoken, so Fante is on now on my reading list and I will be discussing his works in more detail on these hub pages. Here in London there is a fantastic library system, once you sign up you can go wherever, choose whatever. The libraries are well stocked, you do a simple search online and you find whatever you need, (usually) in one or other library. Mostly I get what I need in the libraries nearest me, in Southwark or Westminster. Long may this system thrive.

I was thinking the other day, shit, even for the unemployed, the poor, pensioners, or children, blessed with a lot of imagination but with no place much to go, there is abundant richness in municipal city life. Who invented libraries?

he Public Libraries Act 1850 (13 & 14 Vict) is an Act of the British Parliament. In the 1840s, support grew for the concept of providing public libraries for the British people championed by chartist Edward Edwards and the liberal Members of Parliament (MPs) Joseph Brotherton, andWilliam Ewart. In 1849, a Bill was introduced by William Ewart in the House of Commons to provide for a system of "libraries freely open to the towns in Great Britain and Ireland." However he faced considerable opposition from Conservatives opposed to the idea of free public libraries that might encourage the working class to challenge their betters. Eventually a watered down Bill was passed in 1850 but it was still this Act that provided the genesis of the modern public library system in Britain. It was amended in 1853 to include Scotland, and again in 1855. It still took a long time for many towns to adopt the Act, as they had to raise a local rate or tax to pay for the library service.

Every time I go in my local library I see the hungry multitudes, (I among them) devouring books, knowledge, information, fiction, music, films, and all of it open to the public without stricture. What a great public resource, and one, that, so far, the greedy politicos haven't managed to co-opt into the round of privatisation. This precious resource is one that is paid for through the taxes of working people, and it is a sign, that there is at least some decency left in our money grabbing society.

It's my good fortune that I have wangled a way into University, where I have the benefit of even more books, i.e., London University library and SOAS library, at least during my studies, and possibly even beyond. But I have always been a local library goer, and have long ceased taking this valuable public resource for granted.

Bukowski in his early days of wandering, bad wine, lousy jobs, cheap rooms, spent a lot of time hanging out in the municipal library in Los Angeles. He describes picking up a typical book, being disgusted by the empty prose, beatnik or otherwise, none of it describing his reality. More often than not he shoved those bland books back on the shelf. Then he found Fante and was saved.

I found a writer on the shelf in Camberwell library the other day, an African American writer called Walter Mosley, whose acquaintance I never had the pleasure of making before. In his book, Tempest Tales, he sketches out the dilemma of good versus evil and charcoals plenty of grey area in between. By the time you finish absorbing Tempest Landry's deceptively simple debates with his nemesis, Joshua Angel, (an accounting angel come to earth to sort out Landry's soul), you know that the central premise of good versus evil as laid down by the ecclesiastical authorities, the churches, the preachers, the holy of holies, is a seriously flawed one. Mosley - through Landry - sets out to thwart the comfortable notions of right and wrong. A lot of the book is set in Harlem, check it out. It is a page turner, and gets you thinking about life and death and other matters.

SOAS - the School of African and Oriental Studies, which is one of the affiliates of London University is an exhilarating place. You walk in and there is a warm air of excitement, and mental stimulation. The library is comfortable, old, warmly textured, packed with fascinating books on the Orient, Asia, and Africa. There is a beautiful reading room, high ceilinged with spacious yellow pine slabs, where you can sit and read.

On a cold winter day what better place to be. I found a book on African religions, a beautiful edition, filled with stunning colour photographs of voodoo priests and priestesses, and their amazing ceremonies, filled with chanting, dancing, drum beats and chants. A lot of fuss is made about the sacrificial element to voodoo, blood of chickens and goats poured over their fetishes, (equivalent to Christian art, statuary, relics and other symbols of the divine).

And yet in the heart of the Christian mass a propitiatory blood sacrifice is repeatedly re-enacted, a human blood sacrifice.

So ... I wonder what Bukowski would say. Don't think he cared much about all that malarky. Life, living, women, writing about survival, getting drunk, observing humanity, those were his ceremonies, and that was his religion.

Reading Little Dorrit by Dickens. As usual, I love Dicken's characteristic portrayal of 19th century life in London, the Marshalsea prison, the characters therein, the streets and alleys, and mean little houses and lanes, the conversations, the pomp and ceremony of the rich, and the peppery dialogue of the poor, all wonderfully rich and evocative, but as for meek and mild little Dorrit, boy is she a bore.


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    • Alice Frances profile imageAUTHOR

      Alice Frances Wickham 

      5 years ago from London

      thanks for the comment chef ! sure some point .. check out looking for good writing :-)

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      5 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Bukowski would have said that he knew about sacrifice and blood but not when they were acting together as props for a priest's performance.

      He wrote some nice ego poetry but couldn't get out of his sexual relationships, his default position, his own blood bubbling up out of his words.

      not much singing is ok (a poem) and drooling madness at st litz? the old fellow got hooked on the trivialities of the flesh just like me - or the rest of us.

      Will you put some poetry on a hub?

    • voodoospell profile image


      6 years ago from 1958 South 950 East Provo

      Nice hub. I am glad to read.

    • Alice Frances profile imageAUTHOR

      Alice Frances Wickham 

      8 years ago from London

      Hi Donna, thanks for taking the time to read my hub, did you live in London in the seventies? Where do you live now? Why do you like to read about Italy and France so much? Did you live there too? What period of literature appeals most? I visited Florence recently and felt very inspired by that whole Renaissance epoch, when culture flowered, Dante Alighero, Michaelangelo, Bernini, Donatello and the whole Medici era. Have you ever read Dante's Inferno?

      I write yes, fiction, and occasionally poetry. I'll be putting a sample of work up here soon.

      Bukowski was a very fine writer, though you have to accept the premise that he was living a crazy, alcohol hand to mouth existence, and his words flowed out of that, but he wrote searingly and often beautifully about despair.

    • donna bamford profile image

      donna bamford 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Enjoyed reading this Alice. have yet to come across Bukowski but i shall seek him out. My tastes have narrowed

      in recent years - I a m happiest when reading books that take place in italy or France. Used to frequent the Chelsea library in the late seventies.Glad to find another hub by you that i can read. Do you write any fiction or poetry?


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