Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories by Charles Bukowski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
If you've read any Bukowski before you'll know the story of his life, lived out in all his writings, from drunken, gambling, addled, street fighter in and out of jail, in and out of bed with various women to drunken, addled, middle age where the eventual success of his writing bought him a less hand-to-mouth existence, but essentially his passions remained the same. This 400 page book of poetry and short stories was published post-humously but doesn't at all feel like is the leftovers being churned out to earn a buck. The poems, in free verse with a good ear for vocabulary and line length are loosely chronologically arranged ending on his musings on imminent death. I loved a couple grumbling about losing poems he'd almost completed on his computer "it's like reeling in/ a fish/ and then it/ escapes the hook/ just as you reach/ for it." You can picture him there with a beer beside him banging away at his Mac at 3am and cursing at it. Many of the poems are seemingly quickly written and I think should be read in the same manner as he was a prolific writer, as if you are in a conversation alongside him on a bar stool. Often you'll finish it and forget it, but a line or an image here and there will come back to you.
The short stories I liked, snapshots of the underbelly of his Los Angeles largely and tales from its racetracks and bars, and the stories and poems being jumbled up together works well. If you've read his novels the same semi-autobiographical character is here throughout. If you enjoy spending a bit of time in his company fine, if you don't, then don't bother with this.
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