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Charles Bukowski: Life and Works Completed by University of Outline 1. Introduction 2. Early childhood a. University and adult life 3. Progressive ideas 4. Themes and major works 5. Life philosophy 6. Conclusion 7. Works Cited Henry Bukowski met wife-to-be, Katherine Fett, in Andernach, Germany, when he was stationed there as a young GI in 1920. Katherine's brother Heinrich managed a canteen for the American troops, and it was there that he met Henry Bukowski. The two men liked each other, and sometimes the American brought meat and other condiments to the Fett household — which, like other families in Andernach, was suffering from a lack of food brought on by the war. One day he glimpsed Heinrich's sister Katherine and wanted to meet her. Being a shy woman, she resisted, but finally Henry came for dinner at the Fett's. The tall American fell in love with the diminutive German girl, and it wasn't long before they married. Their son, me, Henry Charles Bukowski, Jr., was born in Andernach on August 16, 1920. Throughout my school years, I found himself singled out over and over by kids like David. I concluded that the oddballs and sub-normals were inexplicably attracted to me. In a strange way I had really taken after my father, considering his cynical view of life. Henry Senior's negative view of the world had filtered down, into me. I hardly found a schoolmate with whom I felt comfortable. As far as I was concerned, I could do without an ongoing friendship. "There wasn't any escape. Home was bad. Then you'd be in school and that wasn't an escape, and then you'd be walking home and you'd be followed by the mob, guys threatening to beat the shit out of you. There was no release" (1). Adults sensed my rebellion: my eyes and facial expressions told them that I was the cool observer, that I meant to let them know that they could not pull anything over on me.
Fifty-six years later, the being the famous poet, I sat down and wrote "We Ain't Got No Money Honey, but We Got Rain," a document of what times were like when the promise of the American heartland turned to dust and jobless millions waited in despair for good times to come again. When I was caught for a prank at school, along with Baldy and another classmate, the principal wrote a note to my father, who again took me into the bathroom, already the scene of many beatings. Although the laying on of the strop continued, which hurt like hell, my response was profoundly different: my fear had gone away. A certain victory over my father had been won. For quite some time I had known that the beatings were senseless, more of a ritual in which my father satisfied his own needs than actual punishment. I sensed that my father understood something was different in my attitude. Suddenly he stopped beating me and walked to the bathroom door. "Why don't you give me some more, if it makes you feel any better," I asked. Commenting on this incident in his autobiographical novel Ham on Rye, I wrote: I looked at him. I saw folds of flesh under his chin and around his neck. I saw sad wrinkles and crevices. His face was tired putty. He was in his undershirt, and his belly sagged, wrinkling his undershirt. The eyes were no longer fierce. His eyes looked away and couldn't meet mine. Something had happened (Bukowski Ham on Rye, 45) As one can tell, I illustrated my childhood in Ham on Rye (1982), portraying my father as a cruel, glossy bastard with bad breath. He died in 1958. To protect myself, I began my life-long occupation with alcohol very early, in my youth. I also suffered from severe vases of acne - the boils were "the size of apples" - which left scars on my face forever. During my school years, I was truly amazed by Sinclair Lewis's Main Street, Ernest Hemingway's Nick Adams stories, Carson McCullers, and D.
H. Lawrence. After graduating from Los Angeles High School, I decided to attend a Los Angeles City College, taking courses in journalism and literature. I left home in 1941 - my father had read some of my works and threw my belongings onto the lawn. However, despite of everything I still returned to my parents' house when I was totally broke. During World War II I lived the life of a wondering bum and horrible alcoholic. I used to travel a lot, taking some od jobs, anything to keep me going for a while. At the age of thirty-five I started writing poetry. In 1944 my story “Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip” was finally published in Story. The only thing that I can tell about this period in my life is that if you are going to write, you have to develop something to write about. The gods were good. They kept me on the street. Although a few people believed me, but my stories were almost completely my biographies, I lived the event first and then merely depicted it. In 1955 I resumed my writing poetry practices, publishing volumes almost annually. My first collection, Flower, Fist and Bestial Wail, was published in 1959. It contained 30 pages and the print run was only 200. At this point, have to admit that my early poems have much in common with the literature of Robinson Jeffers. I truly liked strength and endurance, and featured violent and sexual confrontations between men and women. My first volume of prose, All Assholes in the World and Mine, was created seven years later. Gradually I built a loyal following for my illustrations of down-and-out people. "A constant rumor for many years stated that those gusty poems signed with his name were actually written by a nasty old lady with hairy armpits," said Arnold Kaye in Literary Times (1963) (3). Later one I shifted in poetry from introspection to more open and bold type of writing, as seen in At Terror Street and Agony Way (written in 1968) and The Days Run Away like Wild Horses over the Hill (1969).
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My columns, The Notes of a Dirty Old Man had a place in Open City and Los Angles Free Press. The texts were later collected in a book (1969). In 1970 I finally left my job because the publisher John Martin of the Black Sparrow Press had given me an offer of $100 a month for life to write full time. As my social situation changed, my works no longer engaged the adventures of an outcast, but turned into meditative and sarcastic comments on my surroundings, trips to the race track or my daily cores. Although very productive, I largely remained a literary outsider who published his works with small presses, primarily on the West Coast. In 1973 I was able to gain gained a wider audience when an award-winning television documentary by Taylor Hackford was shown. I published a great deal in various small literary magazines and with small presses starting from the late 50’s and continuing through the early 60’s. My poems and stories were usually republished by Black Sparrow Press as special volumes of his work. Many considered me to be a prolific writer when I produced thousands of poems, hundreds of short stories, and six novels. Eventually I realized that I had more than 50 books in print. I have to note that several writers had significant influence on me. Among them were Anton Chekhov, Knut Hamsun, Ernest Hemingway, John Fante, Louis-Ferdinand Celine, and others. Though many consider me to be a Beat writer (just like Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) because I used to spend some time with the Beat generation of authors, I only associate myself with one place – Los Angeles. This city was my truest love, dream and passion for many years. In one of my interviews in 1974 I remember saying, “One spends in a town al his or her life, and this person gets to know every street corner.
This individual gradually gets the layout of the whole land. One has a picture of where he is. Since I was raised in Los Angeles, I have always possessed the true feeling of being here. I’ve had time to learn the city and can’t cant see myself anywhere else but here. My own ego is presented in the books. For instance, Henry Chinaski, gets its literary roots from Dostoyevsky's underground man and Louis-Ferdinand Celine’ main hero. Chinaski is a tough person who drinks a lot and seduces women, who lives with the bums and criminals, sometimes also visiting high society. The protagonist was introduced in the autobiographical Confessions of a Man Insane Enough to Live with beasts (written in 1965. I would depict my fiction as the detailed description of a certain taboo male fantasy: the unsettled eternal bachelor, sluggish, anti-social and completely free. I know that when I die I will be subject to many criticism and discussion. How do I know that? Well I have heard enough criticism on me while being alive and I can only imagine what will happen after I pass away.
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