PORTIONS FROM A WINE-STAINED NOTEBOOK by Charles Bukowski

PORTIONS FROM A WINE-STAINED NOTEBOOK

Uncollected Stories and Essays, 1944-1990

KIRKUS REVIEW

More posthumous uncollected prose from the Dirty Old Man.

Calonne (English/Eastern Michigan Univ.; William Saroyan: My Real Work Is Being, 1983, etc.), who previously edited a volume of Bukowski’s interviews, digs up a few more fragments from the author’s vast—and scattershot—oeuvre. As with many “uncollected” selections, the results are a mixed bag, but Bukowski’s gruff directness and take-no-crap attitude shine through. Discussing his style in “Basic Training,” he writes, “I hurled myself toward my personal god: SIMPLICITY. The tighter and smaller you got it the less chance there was of error and the lie. Genius could be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.” Certainly, much of Bukowski’s genius lay in his plainspoken, immediate, self-assured prose, but his constant attack on the literary establishment also earned him accolades—and scorn—from fellow writers and critics. He held special contempt for pretentious elitists, those, as Calonne eloquently notes in his illuminating introduction, “who tried to domesticate the sacred barbaric Muse: the disruptive, primal, archaic, violent, inchoate forces of the creative unconscious.” In the more than 35 pieces that comprise the volume, Bukowski runs through all his favorite topics—drinking, fighting, women, horse-racing (“A track is some place you go so you won’t stare at the walls and whack off, or swallow ant poison”)—but he’s at his most lucid and powerful when he explores the process of writing, both his own and others (Artaud, Hemingway, his hero John Fante). There’s a neat deconstruction of Ezra Pound, excerpts from his “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” column and a peripatetic review of a Rolling Stones concert. Though a few of the selections are little more than ill-formed rants, probably originally scrawled across a bar napkin, there is plenty of the visceral, potent, even graphically sexual (tame readers beware of “Workout”) material to satisfy fans.

Not for novices, but a welcome addition to Bukowski’s growing library.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2008
ISBN: 978-0-87286-492-4
Page count: 284pp
Publisher: City Lights
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 2008




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