On Writing by Charles Bukowski

I wouldn't call myself a Bukowski fan. I read Post Office and Women long ago, in another era, under a Japanese sun, on Japanese trains. I've only read a handful of his poems, of which he wrote thousands. I've watched a lot of his interviews on YouTube, and through those I got well and truly enamoured by the man's character. I get why people would travel cross-country, six-packs in hand, hoping to sit and shoot the shit with him. This collection of formerly private correspondence illuminates the man's life-journey and how he saw himself as a writer. It's strange to read someone else's mail. Isn't that illegal? I can't help but wonder what Chuck would think of a book like this. I'm amazed it even exists! For all these writers and publishers to have hung on to these scraps of paper, some dating back as far as 1945, and then to relinquish them for publication? It makes me nostalgic for the act of letter-writing, and the old-school process of archiving and preserving the written word. We have it pretty easy nowadays with computers and cloud storage. It makes me wonder if technology has perhaps diluted a little of the magic out of everything. Are we going to see the "collected emails of so-and-so on craft" in the future? And would that have anywhere near the same feeling as a drunkenly hand-written 76-year-old missive?

Anyway, this review. As far as books on writing go, Bukowski's letters have certainly inspired me to do more with my words. It's just relatable. I started writing "seriously" at a later age (35, some eleven years gone now) and only just rediscovered the joy of simply shitting out poetry. Although a lot of Bukowski's misanthropy falls flat with me, the feeling of isolation, the dissatisfaction with the trappings of Art, and the desire to "write or die" all resonate. I don't think you need to be a snarling cunt to be a great writer, but a certain amount of cuntishness is necessary to persevere.

And that's all I have to say about this book.


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