Charles Bukowski

Bukowski, Charles, 1920–94, American underground poet and fiction writer, b. Andernach, Germany. His family immigrated to the United States in 1922, settling in Los Angeles. A hard-drinking unskilled worker and sometime denizen of skid row, Bukowski published his first short stories in the 1940s and earliest book of poetry in 1959. Ferociously bleak in their portrayal of life in general and Los Angeles in particular, his usually self-referential, often angry poetry and prose typically depicts alcoholics, drug addicts, criminals, prostitutes, and other outcasts. During the 1960s he became an outsider hero, lauded by Sartre, Genet, and other literary celebrities. Many of Bukowski's "dirty realist" works feature as protagonist his alter ego, the womanizing tough-guy Henry Chinaski; they include the novels Post Office (1971) and Ham on Rye (1982). He wrote more than 40 volumes of poetry (some published posthumously), six novels, and several short-story collections as well as the screenplay for the semiautobiographical film Barfly (1987).

See his The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1951–1993 (2007); his selected letters (3 vol., 1993–99); D. Weitzmann, Drinking with Bukowski: Recollections of the Poet Laureate of Skid Row (2000); biographies by N. Cherkovski (rev. ed. 1997), H. Sounes (1999), M. G. Baughan (2004), and B. Miles (2006); studies by H. Fox (1968), J. Sherman (1982), R. Harrison (1994), G. Locklin (1995), J. J. Smith, ed. (1995), G. Brewer and F. Day, ed. (1997), J. Christy (1997), J. Thomas (1997), and B. Pleasants (2004); bibliography by A. Krumhansi (1999).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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