Opinion: What Elliot Rodger could have learned from poet Charles Bukowski

A makeshift memorial outside the I.V. Deli Mart where one of the victims of Friday's rampage was shot and killed near UC Santa Barbara.
(Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

One of the best things about author Charles Bukowski is that he was not pretty and yet he still found intimacy with women.

It’s a truly valuable lesson because any man can strut around if he’s tall, handsome and wealthy. Imagine you’re squat, pockmarked, fat and poor. If you can attract women with all that working against you, then, yeah, people should read your books.

Friday night, Elliot Rodger, a rich pretty boy from the Valley, drove a new BMW around a college town and shot at girls who in his mind wouldn’t give him the time of day. In the end, he killed six UC Santa Barbara students and wounded 13 during his rampage around Isla Vista.

In a series of YouTube videos, Rodger said he was frustrated because he was 22 and still a virgin despite being what he considered to be beautiful.

Bukowski needs to be taught in every school. The author too was dismayed by a good chunk of American society, but he pushed through. In fact, the main themes of his poetry and prose focus on an important message: No matter what cards you are dealt, you play them. You don’t turn over the table, you don’t cheat, you don’t raise your fist at the sky and ask why wasn’t I born a 6-foot-5 water polo god. You do your thing, you make your own luck, you turn to the woman next to you, and you accept what comes next.


Despite being ridiculously prolific, Bukowski would sometimes go back to his masterpieces and edit them before they were published or placed in an anthology.

The 1977 poem “The Crunch” probably would have resonated best with Rodger.

Here are the three versions of it, all great in their little ways.

“there is a loneliness in this world so great

that you can see it in the slow movement of

the hands of a clock,” states Bukowski, plainly, almost scientifically.

Please tell me the city college virgin wouldn’t have seen himself in this bit from the final edited version:

“we forget the terror of one person

aching in one room




cut off

watering a plant alone

without a telephone that would never



The lesson of Bukowski is he can bust out with something like that, such a clear stark blast, but when he’s done he pours a glass of wine, smiles to himself, drinks the wine, alone or otherwise, and feels beautiful inside where it counts.

Tony Pierce, formerly The Times’ blog editor, is the Community Manager at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. He blogs at