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Charles Bukowski

Bukowski's 21 Friendly Tips for the Young


The US writer’s singular suggestions could maybe enrich your life.

Youth is the decisive factor in the drawing of this reference map as a guide to life. Each line in it will have a certain weight in our future decisions. But it is crucial to have the useful ingredients when drawing up the determinate document.

It should be stressed that although it is most intense and accelerated when we are young, our role as cartographers continues throughout life. At the end of the day it is all about the cumulus of allusions that will define how we interpret, and how we understand, what we experience.

Luckily we have the experiences of people who condensed their lives, and which were often privileged, into precise advice or valuable clues. For example, Tarkovsky didn’t hesitate to say that young people (and, by extension, everybody) should learn how to be alone, while Gurdjieff gave his daughter Duska a beautiful gift, a list of 83 beautiful teachings.

In 1957 Charles Bukowski wrote his poem “Friendly Advice to a Lot of Young Men” (that appears in the anthology The Roominghouse Madrigals: Early Selected Poems 1946-1966). In a disposition that differs greatly from the Russian film director’s or that of the Armenian mystic, but which clearly reflects the author’s spirit – a mixture of humor, sarcasm and playful decadence – the poem lists 21 peculiar recommendations that we could include – or not – in our instructions for life.

Friendly advice to a lot of young men

Ride a camel.
Read the Bible.
Dye your shoes blue.
Grow a Beard.
Circle the world in a paper canoe.
Subscribe to “The Saturday Evening Post.”
Chew on the left side of your mouth only.
Marry a woman with one leg and shave with a straight razor.
And carve your name in her arm.


Brush your teeth with gasoline.
Sleep all day and climb trees at night.
Be a monk and drink buckshot and beer.
Hold your head under water and play the violin.
Do a belly dance before pink candles.
Kill your dog.
Run for Mayor.
Live in a barrel.
Break your head with a hatchet.
Plant tulips in the rain.


But don’t write poetry.

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