Happy 93rd Birthday, Charles Bukowski

Bukowski cake

Bukowski cake made by Tess Munster.

Today would have been Charles Bukowski’s 93rd birthday. He was born on this day, August 16th, in 1920.

Bukowski died in 1994, at the age of 73, leaving behind a massive body of work, including numerous short stories, columns, poetry and novels, not to mention a screenplay.

There have been several Happy Birthday, Bukowski articles on the web today. Here’s a rundown of some of the more prominent ones:

 

  • The Huffington Post ran an article titled “Charles Bukowski Birthday: 7 of the Famous Author’s Best Quotes” which includes usual suspects (“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.”; “We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us.”; “Genius might be the ability to say a profound thing in a simple way.”) to the somewhat more rare Bukowski quotes (“To be young is the only religion.”; “‘listen, Hank,’ he asked, ‘what makes a man a writer?’ ‘well,’ I said, ‘it’s simple, it’s either you get it down on paper or you jump off a bridge.'”).

 

  • The Wall Street Journal, of all places, had a short writeup about Bukowski’s birthday as well. It isn’t all that exciting, and, perhaps expectantly for the WSJ, it mostly features a business letter Bukowski wrote to Daniel Halpern, president and publisher of Ecco. The letter, written while Bukowski was working on his final novel, Pulp, demonstrates the loyalty he had, even at the end of his life, to publisher John Martin, who gave him the break of his life, getting him out of the post office and into writing full-time.

 

  • Fittingly, Bukowski’s hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, wrote the longest, and most worthwhile birthday tribute. The article is a pretty basic Bukowski primer, but it’s nice to see his legacy laid out so clearly by the LA Times. They give him his due respect as well as profiling him in an honest way. Take this paragraph from the article as an example:

Bukowski became a prolific underground writer of both prose and poetry, publishing more than 40 books. He often maintained an outsider stance in his writing, leading off poems with lines like, “don’t ever get the idea I am a poet; you can see me / at the racetrack any day half drunk.” Yet before long he was celebrated in France and eventually given grudging respect by the American literary establishment.

 

So Happy Birthday, Bukowski! Your legacy continues to grow, even in your home country where you were often overlooked during your life – although the Europeans always knew what was up. Rest assured that today many are cracking open a bottle of beer and one of your books, saluting you for your prolific and prophetic work, as well as your uncompromising life.



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One Comment

  1. Rest assured I am on a 6 pack for his Birthday. Didn’t even know his birthday was the 16th. He’s out there looking at me. I am sure of it. My daughter was born the 17th. I love you Buk. You wouldn’t want to hear it, but your bluebird would. I hope to see you again in my dreams.

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