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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Henry Charles Bukowski began his career as a writer with the beatniks of the 1950’s, was sustained by the network of short-lived underground magazines of the 1960’s, became a cult hero with his poetry readings in the 1970’s, and finally arrived as a Hollywood darling as the subject of the movie BARFLY in the 1980’s. As he is presented in this long, rambling, and carelessly written biography, he is an unlikely candidate for such adoration and fame.

Probably the two most significant influences that made Bukowski the snarling, sneering, and booze-swigging persona he presents in his mostly autobiographical poetry and prose are that he had a harsh and unloving German father and mother and that he had a particularly bad case of acne when he was a teenager. Receiving little love from his parents and unable to get a girlfriend because of his pimples, he quite naturally became an outcast, a cynic, and, according to many of his admirers, therefore, a genius.

Although Cherkovski is clearly a Bukowski acolyte, albeit one who was not always in favor with the master, his picture of “Hank” is not always flattering. However, it is a picture consistent with the public persona Bukowski has portrayed both in his writings and in his drunken public readings and appearances.

Although Bukowski is as close as anyone has ever got to being poet laureate of Los Angeles, his appeal has always been limited to the literary fringe and the social outcast. Bukowski fans will find this biography a paean to a legendary figure; others will wonder what all the fuss has been about for all these years.