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Declining Beauty: Bukowski’s ‘Most Beautiful Woman In Town’

I was reading some Bukowski story about a beautiful girl who tries to destroy her beauty, so men will prove to her they want her for something other than her face and her hot wetness; so they will show they desire her for her spiritual burning center core of aliveness, wildness, generosity. Men like generosity. This ideal woman of Buk’s does not desire handsome men, no, she prefers the squat and ugly, she drinks in the kind of bars that men like Buk drink in. She only wants him when he does not desire her and claims to not want to fuck. He is the calming influence, he stops her pushing pins through her nose and embedding studs under her eyes. She is a human voodou doll whose only target is herself. Of course, our intrepid male protagonist, the omnipresent Buk tries to save her, after he fucks her of course.

It is only fair, to Buk, that he gets to screw ‘the most beautiful girl in town’, after all men ‘need a good woman to make ’em feel like a good man should’, as Peter Greenwood once sang in Man of the World. It is his right, his prize, as a good man, the man who didn’t simply prize her for her beauty, after defining her by it by the act of calling the story The Most Beautiful Woman In Town. It is his sly game, his manly trick, his double talk, “of course I don’t love you darling for the way you look…., you are ‘the most beautiful woman in town”….He didn’t call the story or the woman, the most spirited, the toughest, the wildest, the most interesting or the most loveable, that indefinable ingredient x that I spent so many years wondering how to capture, and failed because love is not about us, it is all about them.

I, of course, called an end to that little game. I have no interest in making any man feel good about himself, coming as it does, always at a cost to myself, at a cost to almost every woman who enters into that devil’s bargain with her oppressor. There are good men out there, I know, I gave birth to one; I simply failed to interact romantically with any of ’em. I was entirely the wrong kind of woman, I was too much ‘myself’ and not about embellishing the men whose circles I moved in. Giving all of yourself, wanting love not just passion, wanting a companion, not just someone to make feel good about themselves, all of it is perpetually doomed as far as I am concerned. I’ll take loneliness instead. It is far preferable to being dismantled or dismantling myself in fragments and chunks to try and get that precious proof.

In an end game she slashes her throat in a wilder bigger attempt to destroy that ‘most beautiful girl in town’, and make men no desire her for her physical beauty, hiding the thick ugly scar until she gets them wanting her, sex for ten bucks, ten measly bucks that they let her keep after they run away from the ugly scar she creates. She proves her point. Men don’t want to get physically intimate with her for her: it is solely about them. They want to fuck her beauty, so she in turn will fuck her beauty up. Bukowski is obsessed with sex. Fucking up himself, fucking others, others getting fucked. Fuck fuck fuck. I am driven to want to wade into the pages and unfuck the lot of it.

Of course, as Buk’s ideal woman, she kills herself, quietly and with little fuss or drama, and thus gives Buk an excuse to drink. It is a hokey male fantasy, a wet dream of a self destructive woman, with a hint of savior complex that these drunks and bums develop, a desire to feel like they are good for something. A little token to give the mandated AA meeting in exchange for that eternal 6 month chip, telling them that really they are a hero after all, not a raging alcoholic waste of space. The reality lies somewhere in-between, at least some of the time.

The protagonist/Buk’s response is of course, to drink more. Pour a strong one. To possess a beauty that desires love and respect not ownership, as if they are a work of art, nor admiration for that which was not earnt and which will fade, is to be complicit in the destruction of beauty.

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There is a certain colonial subtext in the work, the ‘most beautiful woman in town’ is half native American, to make ugly so white men don’t come along and possess and take and destroy and own a country they waltzed into and decided was simply too beautiful to let be. I am left not feeling sure if I respect Buk’s self-understanding, or if I detest him for doing nothing about it, and merely recording, drinking and moving onto the next story, the next girl, the next page, the next fuckable part of life to either stick his dick or his ink pen into.

In the end, beauty doesn’t matter. In the end it is all fragile, all destructible, all fleeting and transitory. It is all vanity. Capture it, put it in amber. Paint it on a canvas. Write it in an ugly little story about the damage men do. Beauty is a bust. Beauty is a lie, an inabsolute, a trap, a pitfall. An intoxicating draw. Bukowski knew it, in his miserable brutal little stories of a world in which beauty died daily.


  1. slpmartin

    I may be wrong…and it wouldn’t be the first time…but I do recall Bukowski be associated with only one woman for quite sometime…his macho dialogues served to sell poems and books.

    1. The Paltry Sum: Detroit Richards

      I was thinking about this,’s not his promiscuity which is bothersome, it is the attitude towards the women and men he used up in his quest for more shit to write about. Just because the women are barflies and the men are mostly closeted vulnerable gay men doesn’t mean they deserve to be dehumanized. We all want more than to be a receptacle for a poets emissions….

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