Pleasant hagiography of alcohol-fueled Los Angeles poet/novelist Charles Bukowski, by the author of Ferlinghetti (1979), etc. Cherkovski came to sit at Bukowski's feet as a lad of 15, then parted from him many years later after harsh words. But their friendship reawakened in the 80's, during the filming of Bukowski's script for Barfly, and Bukowski gave Cherkovski permission to do this bio. Cherkovski's version of the early years—despite interviews with Bukowski—derives largely from Bukowski's memoir novel Ham on Rye, since Bukowski's serious alcohol intake has wiped out much of his L.A. childhood and young manhood, and his parents are dead and there's no one else to interview. This lends the book's early pages a thin or spongy quality. Bukowski's embittered and iron-fisted German-American father was a milkman, who beat the boy. Called "Hank" by his friends, Bukowski was born in a shell and has refused from earliest memory to join into what he sees as social fraud. What's more, he was early hit with a disfiguring acne that left him doubly an outcast. We watch him stand outside the gym and sneer through the window at his high-school prom, and standing outside of everything but saloons for the rest of his social existence. At 23 he's still a virgin. A poet, his time and solitude are precious, and he becomes triply outcast, drawing his shade down in hundreds of dreary rooms and popping a six-pack beside his typewriter. His writing is so stripped and antiliterary that he attracts many followers in the little magazines of the 60's, at last—during a 12-year stint with the Los Angeles Central Post Office—winning a series of dedicated small-time publishers. We watch him shift from woman to woman, some of whom die early of booze. Finally, he becomes Bukowski, famed Dirty Old Man of L.A. (though he's a natty dresser), and is feted, filmed, famed. Shows Bukowski plain, rant and all, and should sell.
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