Charles Bukowski American Literature Analysis
Bukowski seldom commented on his own work, as most of his readers know that virtually all the novels, short stories, and poems are thinly veiled approximations of his actual life. Indeed, his highly acclaimed novel Ham on Rye (1982) is not only his autobiography but also an American portrait of the artist as a young man. Literary critics find his work difficult to interpret because it so closely resembles the actual day-to-day routine of an unapologetic, hard-drinking, womanizing gambler who loves playing the horses and brawling in barrooms. His work records the despairing lifestyles of the poor and infamous in Los Angeles in unrelenting detail. In Hollywood, his alter ego, Henry Chinaski, announces himself as “a historian of drink” who has no peer and wryly adds that he has outlived his drinking companions principally because he “never gets out of bed before noon.”
The great French playwright and novelist Jean Genet called Bukowski “the best poet in America,” words of high praise from an artist who rarely commented on another poet’s work and is considered the archetypal “underground” writer of the twentieth century. Bukowski’s themes are the same in most all of his poetry, novels, and short stories: violence, despair, poverty, hopelessness, alcoholism, suicide, madness, and how alcohol, sex, gambling, and, most important, writing can intermittently relieve the agony of these lives of dramatic desperation. He is among...
(The entire section is 3690 words.)
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