Bukowski, Charles

born Aug. 16, 1920, Andernach, Ger.
died March 9, 1994, San Pedro, Calif., U.S.

German-born U.S. poet, short-story writer, and novelist.

His family immigrated to Los Angeles in 1922. He began publishing short stories in the mid 1940s. His first poetry collection, Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail, appeared in 1959, and the poetry volumes he published regularly for the next few years earned a devoted cult following. His novels include Post Office (1971) and Factotum (1975); he also wrote the screenplay for the film Barfly (1987), a semiautobiographical comedy about alcoholic lovers. The novel Hollywood (1989) dealt with its filming. His writing, often scurrilous but humorous, frequently reflected his perpetually down-and-out mode of existence.

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▪ 1995

      U.S. poet, novelist, and screenwriter (b. Aug. 16, 1920, Andernach, Germany—d. March 9, 1994, San Pedro, Calif.), probed into the life of the inner city and the inner self and described what he found there in uncompromising, often crude, language. A cult figure, first in Europe and, after the success of his screenplay for the motion picture Barfly (1987), in the U.S. as well, Bukowski parlayed his life of hard drinking and womanizing into a literary genre. Born in the German Rhineland of a U.S. occupation soldier and his German wife, Bukowski moved to Los Angeles when he was two. His childhood was marred by an abusive father, and after a short stint at a local college and a few years in New York trying to become a writer, Bukowski embarked on what was essentially a 10-year drinking binge, finally arriving at the brink of death in the charity ward of a Los Angeles hospital with an ulcerated liver in 1956. He achieved his first successes in local and underground publications. Los Angeles publisher John Martin recognized the peculiar genius of the self-described "dirty old man" and established Black Sparrow Press to publish Bukowski's works. Bukowski's poetry appeared in dozens of volumes, including Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail (1960) and Poems Written Before Jumping out of an 8 Story Window (1968); his novels and short-story collections include Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969), Post Office (1971), Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972), Factotum (1975), and Ham on Rye (1982). He completed a mystery novel, Pulp, just before his death. Although he was too much of an underground figure ever to have won wide critical acclaim, Bukowski was reportedly selling one million books a year worldwide.

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▪ American writer
born Aug. 16, 1920, Andernach, Ger.
died March 9, 1994, San Pedro, Calif., U.S.

      American author noted for his use of violent images and graphic language in poetry and fiction that depict survival in a corrupt, blighted society.

      Bukowski lived most of his life in Los Angeles. He briefly attended Los Angeles City College (1939–41) and worked at menial jobs while writing short stories, the first of which were published in the mid-1940s. In 1955 he began publishing poetry. Beginning with Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail (1959), volumes of his poetry appeared almost annually. By 1963, the year he published It Catches My Heart in Its Hands—a collection of poetry about alcoholics, prostitutes, losing gamblers, and down-and-out people—Bukowski had a loyal following.

      Bukowski's short stories are unsparingly realistic and usually comic. They often observe the thoughts and actions of Bukowski's alter ego Henry Chinaski, a hard-drinking unskilled worker, a lover of classical music, and a gambler on the horses. Collections of his stories include Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969), taken from his underground newspaper column of that name, and Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972). His later works include the novels Post Office (1971) and Factotum (1975) and the screenplay (published 1984) for the 1987 motion picture Barfly, a semiautobiographical comedy about alcoholic lovers on skid row. The filming of Barfly was the subject of his novel Hollywood (1989). The novel Pulp was published posthumously in 1994.

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Universalium. 2010.

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