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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Charles Bukowski. New Book: PORTIONS FROM A WINE-STAINED NOTEBOOK: Uncollected Stories and Essays, 1944-1990. City Lights, San Francisco, 2008. (255 pages)

After struggling through many posthumous ECCO publications, I found this recent City Lights book refreshing and highly rewarding. It features a wealth of previously uncollected Bukowski material, including his first published short stories, book reviews, essays on literature, U.S. politics, his writing craft, biographical accounts, entries from his famous NOTES of a DIRTY OLD MAN newspaper column, tips on how to win at the racetrack and even a review of a Rolling Stones concert. David Stephen Calonne provides a lucid and highly learned introduction to the book.

I found most interesting his essays which are written in an innovative and typically no bullshit Bukowski style. ‘In Defense of a Certain Type of Poetry, A Certain Type of Life, A Certain Type of Blood-Filled Creature Who Will Someday Die’ (1966) clearly provides a manifesto for his poetics. Also memorable are ‘The L.A. Scene’ (1972) in which he provides a satirical take on the L.A. poetry scene and ‘Should We Burn Uncle Sam’s Ass’ (1970) in which he justifies his pacifist/ apolitical stance during the Vietnam War.

Also highly engaging are some of Bukowski’s uncollected short stories- the best being ‘The Night Nobody Believed I Was Allen Ginsberg’ a sprawling, mad narrative, ‘Workout’ (Hustler, 1977), a shrewdly observed story of an ugly old man entering the lives of beautiful young women and 'Distractions in the Literary Life' (High Times, 1984), a hilarious meta-fictional story which morphs from one moment of insanity to the next.

Bukowski’s voice comes across loud and clear. It helps the reader fill in some more of the gaps on where he is coming from. No Bukophile should miss out on this book. Buy it here:

Absence of the Hero: Uncollected Stories and Essays, Volume Two: 1946-1992 is also available thru City Lights: