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Infidels, Freethinkers, Humanists, and Unbelievers
Bukowski, Charles (1920-1994)
"For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stone-written. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our education system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."

-- Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994), was a Los Angeles poet and novelist often mistakenly associated with Beat Generation writers because of alleged similarities of style and attitude. Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles. He wrote more than fifty books and countless smaller pieces. He is often mentioned as an influence by contemporary authors and his style is frequently imitated.

Life
Charles Bukowski was born in Andernach, Germany in 1920. His mother, a native German, met his father, a German American serviceman, during the occupation of Germany at the end of World War I and the family moved to Los Angeles when he was two years old. During Bukowski's childhood his 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 "Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip" was published in Story Magazine. Two years later, another 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 1950s 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. In 1957 he married writer and poet Barbara Frye but they divorced in 1959. Frye insisted that their separation had nothing to do with literature, though she often doubted his skill as a poet. Following the divorce Bukowski resumed drinking and continued to write poetry.

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 Hollywood 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.

Work
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 Céline and others as influences and often spoke of Los Angeles as his favorite subject. 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. Bukowski: Born Into This, a film documenting the author´s life, was released in 2004.

 
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