Charles Bukowski’s “Some Picnic ” is mean-spirited –what a picnic ought not to be. I rank it among the most unpleasant and psychologically cruel.

When he’s not at his typewriter, Bukowski likes to enjoy a drink or two or more. Unknown photographer.

When Bukowski says he, his girlfriend Jane, and his parents picnicked and “made a nice/foursome,” he means the situation was fraught with anxiety because “my parents hated her/I hated my parents.” When everyone laughs, Bukowski is silent. When they eat, it’s perfunctory—weenies, potato salad. And beer (lots of it).

Looking at Jane’s distended belly, Bukowski is sure his parents will ask if Jane is pregnant. They do not ask. She’s not pregnant, and her bloated belly is stomach cancer, though Bukowski doesn’t say so. What Bukowski does say about Jane is not complimentary:
“I shacked with Jane for 7 years
she was a drunk
I loved her.”

At home, Bukowski and Jane get drunk (as usual), and looking at her “beer-belly,” he says,
oh, I said, well here’s to our beautiful

here’s to our beautiful child,
she said.”

Some picnic.

Featured Image: In Bukowski’s semi-autobiographical screenplay, Jane (played Faye Dunnaway) and himself (played by Mickey Rourke) never sober. He changed their names to Wanda and Henry but not their tumultuous relationship.

See Charles Bukowski. Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument Until the Fingers Bleed. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1979. Jane Baker died in 1962 of complications of alcohol abuse and stomach cancer. Barbet Schroeder. Barfly (1987). Screenplay by Charles Bukowski. American Zoetrope.