Charles Bukowski - Poet and Novelist Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Charles Bukowski - Poet and Novelist

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It may be difficult to describe Charles Bukowski as a nice man, as anyone who is familiar with his works will readily appreciate. His style of writing was sometimes brutally unforgiving, the kind that Kerouac would produce if he drank a bottle of whiskey a day and left off taking all the funny little pills he was so fond of. Charles habitually frequented bars throughout his adult life, a theme common throughout his work, as were the type of women that you wouldn't take home to your parents.

Bukowski was born in Andernach in Germany, before moving to America at the age of three. He grew up in Los Angeles during the difficult times of the 1920s. A constant drifter, he seldom held a job down for longer than a couple of weeks at a time, and by his own admission his work was the only thing that kept him from madness and an early death. Perhaps this is the reason that he produced so much written material.

The longest he stayed in one job was when he worked for the American postal service, which inspired his most well-known novel Post Office (1970) which sold over a million copies in a dozen languages. As well as Post Office, his novels include Factotum (1975) and Women (1978), along with 32 collections of poetry and five books of short stories. If, as Oscar Wilde said of Meredith, 'His style is chaos illuminated by flashes of lightning', then Bukowski can be said to have been writing in a non-stop thunderstorm, his words burning into your skull forever.

As a poet he played a part in the Beat scene along with Ginsberg and Kerouac. Most of his early work is very difficult to track down, but the Black Sparrow Press has collated some of his works of poetry. They include, among others:

  • Play the Piano Drunk Like a Percussion Instrument until the Fingers Begin to Bleed a Bit (1979)
  • The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992)
  • Love is a Dog from Hell: Poems 1974 - 77 (1977)

A brief flirtation with mainstream success resulted in the production of a semi-autobiographical screenplay entitled Barfly (1987), starring Mickey Rourke and produced by Francis Ford Coppola.

Charles Bukowski died on 9 March, 1994, and will be missed by many.

Nothing can be taken from us but our lives
- Charles Bukowski

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