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 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2015

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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