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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."
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.