Charles Bukowski (1920 – 1994)

Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994), was a Los Angeles poet and novelist.

Bukowski is sometimes associated with the Beat Generation writers because of his informal style and non-conformist literary attitude, though he did not identify himself as a Beat. Bukowski closely associated his works with his home city of Los Angeles and wrote over fifty books before his death.

Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany in 1920 after his mother, a native German, met his father, a Polish American serviceman, during the occupation of Germany at the end of World War I. His family moved to Los Angeles when he was two years old. During the Great Depression, Bukowski's father was often unemployed, and according to Bukowski, verbally and physically abusive. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, Bukowski attended Los Angeles City College for one year, taking courses in art, journalism, and literature.

At 24, Bukowski's short story "20 Tanks From Kasseldown," was published in Portfolio III's broadside collection. Bukowski grew disillusioned with the publication process and quit writing for almost a decade. He spent this period in Los Angeles, and roaming across the United States, working odd jobs and staying in inexpensive rooming houses. In the early 1950's Bukowski took a temporary job as a letter carrier with the United States Postal Service in Los Angeles, but quit after less than two years. In 1955 he was hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer that was nearly fatal. When he left the hospital, he began to write poetry. He resumed drinking.

He returned to the Post Office in Los Angeles, where he worked as a clerk for over a decade. In 1965 a daughter, Marina Louise Bukowski, was born to Bukowski and Frances Smith. Smith and Bukowski lived together but were never married. In 1969 Bukowski quit his job at the post office to make writing his full time career, after being promised a monthly stipend of $100 "for life" from Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin. He was 49 years old. As he explained in a letter at the time, "I have one of two choices--stay in the post office and go crazy...or stay out here and play at writer and starve. I have decided to starve." Less than one month after leaving the postal service he finished his first novel, titled Post Office. In 1976 Bukowski met Linda Lee Beighle, a health food store owner. Two years later the couple moved from the East Los Angeles area, where Bukowski lived for most of his life, to the port town of San Pedro, at the Southern tip of Los Angeles. Bukowski and Beighle were married in 1985.

Bukowski died on March 9th, 1994 in San Pedro, California at the age of 73, shortly after completing the novel "Pulp", his last. The rites were conducted by Buddhist monks.

Bukowski published extensively in small literary magazines and with small presses beginning in the late 1950s and continuing on through the early 1990s, with the poems and stories being republished by Black Sparrow Press (now HarperCollins/ECCO) as collected volumes of his work. A prolific author, Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories and six novels, eventually having more than fifty books in print.

Bukowski acknowledged Anton Chekhov, Knut Hamsun, Ernest Hemingway, John Fante, Louis-Ferdinand Celine and others as influences on his writing. Though he is sometimes associated with the Beat Generation of writers because of his writing style, Bukowski didn't consider himself a Beat writer (like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg). Bukowski associated with Los Angeles. In a 1974 interview, he said, "You live in a town all your life, and you get to know every street corner. You've got the layout of the whole land. You have a picture of where you are....Since I was raised in L.A., I've always had the geographical and spiritual feeling of being here. I've had time to learn this city. I can't see any other place than L.A."

One critic has described Bukowski's fiction as a "detailed depiction of a certain taboo male fantasy: the uninhibited bachelor, slobby, anti-social, and utterly free." Since his death in 1994, Bukowski has been the subject of a number of critical articles and books about both his life and writings. Although he became an icon to the disaffected and those with problems stemming from alcoholism, his work has received little attention from academic critics. ECCO continues to release new collections of his poetry, culled from the thousands of works published in small literary magazines. A documentary movie about his life, Bukowski: Born Into This, was released in 2004.

Criticism and Biographies

* Hugh Fox - Charles Bukowski A Critical and Bibliographical Study - 1969
* Jory Sherman - Bukowski: Friendship, Fame & Bestial Myth - 1981
* Neeli Cherkowski - Bukowski - A Life - 1991
* Russell Harrison - Against The American Dream - 1994
* Amber O'Neil - Blowing My Hero - 1995
* Gerald Locklin - Charles Bukowski: A Sure Bet - 1996
* Steve Richmond - Spinning Off Bukowski - 1996
* A.D. Winans - The Charles Bukowski/Second Coming Years - 1996
* Gay Brewer - Charles Bukowski, Twayne's United States Authors Series - 1997
* Jim Christy - The Buk Book - 1997
* John Thomas - Bukowski In The Bathtub - 1997
* Ann Menebroker - Surviving Bukowski - 1998
* Carlos Polimeni - Bukowski For Beginners - 1998
* Howard Sounes - Charles Bukowski. Locked in the arms of a crazy life - 1998
* Jean-Francois Duval - Bukowski and The Beats - 2000
* Gundolf S. Freyermuth - That's it. - 2000
* Daniel Weizmann (editor) - Drinking with Bukowski- Recollections of the Poet Laureate of Skid Row - 2000
* Aubrey Malone - the hunchback of east Hollywood - 2003
* Jon Edgar Webb Jr. - Jon, Lou, Bukowski and Me - 2003
* Ben Pleasants - Visceral Bukowski - 2004
* Michael Gray Baughan - Charles Bukowski - 2004
* Enrico Francheschini - I'm Bukowski, and then? - 2005
* Barry Miles - Charles Bukowski - 2005
* Tom Russell - Tough Company - 2005 .
* David Charlson - Charles Bukowski: Autobiographer, Gender Critic, Iconoclast - 2005
* Linda King - Loving and Hating Charles Bukowski - 2006

Books by Charles Bukowski