Drafts of Women,
Factotum, Ham on Rye, Post Office, and Barfly; screenplays based on
Bukowski's fiction; periodical appearances; tape recordings; ephemera.
was born on August 16, 1920 in Andernach, Germany, the son of a US soldier
and German woman. His family immigrated to the United States in 1922
and settled in Los Angeles, where Bukowski spent most of his life. His
father was in and out of work during the Depression years and was a
reputed tyrant, verbally and physically abusing his son throughout his
childhood. It was perhaps to numb himself from his father's abuse that
Bukowski began drinking at the age of 13, initiating his life-long affair
from Los Angeles High School in 1939 Bukowski studied for a time at
Los Angeles City College, taking courses in journalism and literature.
He left school and home in 1941 after his father, who had finally read
some of Bukowski's stories, threw his son's possessions into the street.
Bukowski continued to write stories and traveled across America, supporting
himself with a string of odd jobs: gas station attendant, elevator operator,
truck driver, and overseer in a dog biscuit factory, to name a few.
In 1944 his story
Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip was published in the magazine
Story. He returned to Los Angeles and met Janet Cooney Baker,
with whom he lived for the next ten years. In 1955 Bukowski was hospitalized
with an alcohol-induced bleeding ulcer and came close to death. After
a brief marriage to Barbara Frye, the rich publisher of a small poetry
magazine, Bukowski began in 1958 twelve years of work as a Post Office
In 1955 Bukowski
began writing poetry, publishing volumes almost annually. His first
collection, Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail, appeared in 1959.
It was 30 pages long and the print run was only 200 copies. Bukowski's
first volume of prose, All Assholes in the World and
Mine, was published seven years later. By 1963, the year Bukowski
published It Catches My Heart in Its Hands--a collection of poetry
about alcoholics, prostitutes, losing gamblers, and other down-and-outs--Bukowski
had a loyal following, and was famous for his use of violent images
and graphic language in his work. His column Notes of a Dirty Old
Man appeared regularly in Open City and Los Angles Free
Press, and its run was later collected in book by the same title
(1969). In 1970 Bukowski quit his job with the Postal Service when John
Martin of the Black Sparrow Press offered him a $100 monthly stipend
to continue his writing
Bukowski remained a literary outsider who published his works with small
presses, primarily on the West Coast. His 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 racetrack gambler. This character
was introduced in the autobiographical Confessions of a Man Insane
Enough to Live with the Beasts (1965). In 1973 Bukowski gained wider
audience when an award-winning television documentary by Taylor Hackford
was shown, and began an incidental career in the film industry. The
1983 film Tales of Ordinary Madness, directed by Marco Ferreri,
was based on stories of the author. Its script drew material from Erections,
Ejaculations, Exhibitions and Tales of Ordinary Madness. The screenplay
for the film Barfly (1987) was written by Bukowski himself and
directed by Barbet Schroeder, and the experience of the filming became
the subject of the 1989 novel Hollywood. Crazy Love/Love is
a Dog from Hell (1989), directed by Dominique Deruddere, was based
on The Copulating Mermaid of Venice and other stories by Bukowski.
In 1985 Bukowski
married Linda Lee Beighle, a health food proprietor twenty-five years
his junior. He had one daughter, Marina Louise, who was born in 1965 to Bukowski and Francis Dean Smith. In his later years,
success caught up with the author at last and he evolved from down-and-out
to up-and-in: he lived in a house with a swimming pool, drove a black
BMW, wrote on a computer, and enjoyed his favorite recordings of Sibelius,
Mahler, and Rossini on a new stereo.
died at age 73 on March 9, 1994, at a hospital in San Pedro, California,
after an almost year-long bout with leukemia.