Charles Bukowski- The inspiration behind Hank Moody

Being a journalism major, and an aspiring writer, I was drawn to the show Californication. The show follows the crazy life of the main protagonist, Hank Moody, A writer living in Los Angeles. While reading about Californication, I came across a reading that said Hank Moody’s character has been based on the writings, and life style of Charles Bukowski. Being a fan of the show, the search was on to understand the inspiration behind one of my favorite TV characters.

Charles Bukowski, born Heinrich Karl Bukowski on August 16th 1920, was an American poet, short story writer and novelist. Having lived in Los Angeles most of his life, he drew much of his inspiration from the town. Time magazine called him, the “laureate of american lowlife.” Adam Kirsch of the New Yorker said “He combines the confessional poet’s promise of intimacy with the larger than life aplomb of a pulp fiction character.”

In his autobiographical novel “Ham on Rye” he talks about his physically and mentally abusive father, along with his apathetic mother. As a child he was made fun of a lot for his accent and the clothes he wore. He was found to be dyslexic at an early age. This caused him to be shy, depressed and reclusive. His depressive nature and his dyslexia never stopped him from practicing his art, which he was revered for as a young child.

In his early teen years, he was introduced to alcoholic beverages by his friend William Mullinax. He is known as Eli Lacroose in “Ham on Rye”. Bukowski’s view of alcohol involved looking at it as a tool he could use to put his life into more friendly terms.

Having seen Californication, the idea that Hank Moody is based off of him is spot on. The story takes place in LA, he a best-selling author, with a bit of a drinking problem and he never really quits causing trouble. But after reading some of Bukowski’s work, I can see the similarities are all based in the craziness. Even though some of Bukowski writings are scandalous, the show fails to bring out the philosophical genius that is Charles Bukowski.

As an aspiring writer, one thing I do is pay attention to other writers. Given that Bukowski is a forlorn god of the underground writing world, I have picked out a few of his writings, then given my opinion on what they say.

A cop out to a possible immortality

If we can’t make literature out of our agony

What are we going to do with it

Beg in the streets?

I like my minor comforts just like any other son of a bitch


Here, he is saying is that if we cannot harness our sorrow, than what are we to do? Sit out in the street and beg for quarters. We cannot sit idly, being depressed. We must harness our sadness and make something of ourselves. What we make may live on longer then ourselves.

The Anarchists

One time I got to sitting around my place and all those fellows had long dark beards and were very intense. But crowds of people come to see me. I usually roust them, get rid of them and then a new gang arrives. None of them ever bring enough woman, they hide their woman from me. I drink beer and listen, but not too attentively.

But this particular crowd kept coming back. To me it was mostly beer and chatter. But I noticed that they usually arrived in caravans and had some central yet confused organization. I kept telling them that I didn’t give a fuck either about America or about them. I just kept drinking. And each morning when I awakened they’d be gone — and that was better than some others. Finally they stopped arriving and few months later I wrote a short story about their political chatter — which of course was their total idealism. The story was published somewhere.

About a month later the leader walked in and sat down and split a 6-pack. I want to tell you something Bukowski, we read that story. We held a council and took a vote on whether to murder you or not. You won, 6 to 5.

I laughed at him then, some years ago but I’m no longer laughing. And even though I paid for most of the beer and some of fellows pissed on the toilet lid, I still appreciate that vote.

Charles Bukowski


This made me laugh out loud. Many of Bukowski’s other works have a great underlying tone of depression to them. This depression muddles the true nature of what he is trying to say I think. In this one, he talks about his life, not in terms of depression, but in words of thanks. Even though he paid for his drinks himself, and someone may have forgotten to lift the seat, he is still here. He was not wasted by the anarchists. He is thankful for that one lifesaving vote!

A song of the glorious lonely

Too long

I guess

ive hunkered down over the wood of

bars looking for music

I don’t know what made me feel that people of

soul might be more in bars than


That cost me

many years of barren


It was when I began finding more interesting things

in the grains of wood

than in the people

That I got what I need to drink

and took to the room

and closed the door

Men who drink in rooms alone are less

afraid the men who drink


It’s like dying alone

cheaper by the ounce

and a better high

than any western movie.


This piece describes that even the ones who are looking for something in a crowd, or a in a bar, may not find it. You may need to just grin and bear it and not look for something from others. Maybe it is in you. I love the line “men who drink in rooms alone are afraid less than men who drink together.” Many people fear being alone. Maybe, being alone is what it takes to figure out what you want. Being alone may be what it takes to dig deep down within you to find an inner confidence. Being alone may just be a depressive way to be. Never have I heard people say it’s better to be alone, than it is to be with someone. Just because you drink with someone doesn’t mean you are happy, and just because you drink alone, doesn’t mean you are sad.

Damnation of Recognition

The damnation of recognition this where even the genius sometimes fails and talent always whores out

Oh boys be careful,

It was not easy getting there and there’s no getting back

Remember what you’ve carved in cold places and know that the gods were good and that it is not the living crowd of now that decides anything themselves or least of all you.

Charles Bukowski

The first line is amazing. Smart people never get their feet off the ground and talented people let their talent get the best of them. They give themselves away, sometimes with-out any recognition at all. For what are these talented people selling out? We don’t know. You cannot go back the way you came however, according to Bukowski. The end says that the creationist has given you what you need. The people on the earth are not the ones to decide anything. The last thing they can decide is what you will do.

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