She kissed me and left. I turned off the TV and opened another beer. Nothing to do on this island but get drunk. I walked to the window. On the beach below Dee Dee was sitting next to a young man, talking happily, smiling and gesturing with her hands. The young man grinned back. It felt good not to be part of that sort of thing. I was glad I wasn't in love, that I wasn't happy with the world. I like being at odds with everything. People in love often become edgy, dangerous. They lose their sense of perspective.

Can someone explain to me the meaning of the highlighted sentence? This excerpt is taken from the book Women, written by Charles Bukowski.

  • When you search for define "at odds", none of the definitions in the search results make sense?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 17:27

3 Answers 3


be at odds with something

if one statement or description is at odds with another, it is different when it should be the same (thefreedictionary)

to disagree with someone
(Cambridge Dictionaries Online)

The narrator is simply saying that he likes being dissatisfied/in conflict with everything and everyone.


at odds

In disagreement, opposed. For example, It is only natural for the young and old to be at odds over money matters. This idiom uses odds in the sense of “a condition of being unequal or different,” and transfers it to a difference of opinion, or quarrel. [Late 1500s ] The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary

Being "at odds" is contrasted with being "edgy, dangerous" which is actually confirmed by modern science.

When the central nervous system is released from the depressed state, the opposite state develops-feeling edgy and irritable. Missouri Department of Mental Health

Further, the most common drug which causes this sort of depression described in the quotation above is alcohol.

So tying all of these together in this particular instance saying "at odds with everything" means to remain depressed, drunk - because he remains not happy with the world and thus has a reason to keep drinking and remain in a depressed state - whereas if he were to fall in love maybe he wouldn't want to drink and that would bring him out of his depression and, as medical science will support, would cause him to go into another extreme state of being edgy, irratable and potentially even dangerous. He concludes by saying that to stay in a depressed state is the correct perspective - that the world is ultimately unhappy (and what is implied is that to fall in love risks losing that perspective and then becoming edgy and even dangerous especially when the brief illusion of happiness will ultimately be shattered by the reality - the correct perspecive - that the world is unhappy).


This sentence conveys ironic comfort found in a relative state of discord. The writer declares that he is pleased not by order (here, order is that which is assumed to be pleasing by consensus) but by chaos (assumed otherwise). The boldface nature of the declaration, most likely, is hardly accidental. The author uses an obnoxiously self-insistent articulation, causing the narrator to seem disingenuously pleased with himself. That is, the reader is likely meant to roll their eyes at this self-underlining sentence, whose meaninglessness is matched in volume only by the pseudo-misanthropy of its meaning.

  • 1
    I don't think the sentence was highlighted in the original work. I believe it was only highlighted for purposes of asking the question - which kinda takes a lot of wind out of the sails of your answer.
    – Brillig
    Commented Oct 3, 2014 at 22:14

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