Always passionate, frequently funny, occasionally incoherent excerpts from a significant 20th-century American writer.

A selection of writing on writing from the “Dirty Old Man” of American letters.

Those who know Bukowski (1920-1994) as a barfly caricature will find revelation throughout these letters to editors and to fellow writers, Henry Miller and Lawrence Ferlinghetti among them. Many will be surprised at how well-read he was and how seriously he took his art. As he complains of aggressive editing, “my writing is jagged and harsh, I want it to remain that way. I don’t want it smoothed out.” He rails against those who aspire to fame, who think that anyone can teach writing, and who adhere to the strictures of academic rules. He proclaims himself “King of the hard-mouth poets” and “the Dostoyevsky of the ’70s” and dismisses more refined poems as “bloodless butterflies” and “stilted formalism, like chewing cardboard.” Bukowski’s rants are great fun to read, often illuminating and inspirational. Their chronological progression presents a kind of alternative memoir to the thinly disguised autobiography of his fiction, since the life that informs the writing keeps seeping through the selected passages. However, there is plenty of obsessive repetition here, perhaps partly because of the format of the letters, which were never meant to be read as a whole, and partly because of the nature of alcoholism. “To get through this game drinking helps a great deal,” he writes of the writing racket, “although I don’t recommend it to many. Most drunks I’ve known aren’t very interesting at all. Of course, most sober people aren’t either.” Of his foray into film collaboration with the autobiographical Barfly, he writes of his surprise that the director “wants a plot and an evolvement of character. shit, my characters seldom evolve, they are too fucked-up. they can’t even type.” Drawings and handwritten notes enhance the intimacy and vitality of the selections.

Always passionate, frequently funny, occasionally incoherent excerpts from a significant 20th-century American writer.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-239600-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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