Charles Bukowski was a prolific novelist, short story writer, and poet who achieved cult status for his work, which expressed his experience, emotion, and creativity via words. Bukowski, unlike many of his contemporaries, was a natural at what he wrote. He did not aim to portray himself as a hero in his autobiographical works, instead addressing the urban life of Americans, the act of writing, his alcoholism, his relationships with women, and so on. He wrote various poems, short stories, and novels over his lifetime, finally publishing over sixty publications. Time named him ‘Laureate of American Lowlife’ for his extraordinary contribution to the world of American literature. Interestingly, despite having a successful literary career, Bukowski first failed to create an impression and instead fell to a decade-long phase of inebriation. Bukowski wrote a number of works, all of which included Henry Chinaski, a fictional character based on himself. Bukowski wrote so much during his live that his original works were still being published a decade after his death.
Childhood and Adolescence
Heinrich Karl Bukowski was born on August 16, 1920, in Andernach, Germany, parents Heinrich Henry Bukowski and Katharina. They later relocated to Los Angeles’ South Central neighborhood. Given his father’s harsh and abusive treatment, insulting comments from neighborhood lads, and the Great Depression, his early childhood recollections were dismal. As a result, he grew up introverted and socially isolated. Bukowski was exposed to alcohol at a young age by his devoted friend William ‘Baldy’ Mullinax, which led to chronic alcoholism later in life. He graduated from Los Angeles High School and went on to Los Angeles City College to pursue his interests in art, journalism, and literature. He dropped out of college after two years to pursue a blue-collar job in New York.
Career of Charles
His foray into writing began shortly after he graduated from college, with his first piece of published work being a short tale titled ‘Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection.’ In 1944, it was published in Story magazine. ’20 Tanks from Kasseldown,’ his second short tale, was published by Black Sun Press in 1946. He gave up on his writing ambitions after not having much success with his written works. Bukowski went on a ten-year personal journey after being discouraged by his early failures in writing. Excessive drinking and travel were prominent at this time. These ten years served as the foundation for his later semi-autobiographical writings.
In 1952, he began working for the US Postal Service in Los Angeles as a fill-in letter carrier. He resigned just before the three-year mark. After recovering from a severe bleeding ulcer that nearly killed him, Bukowski was given a second chance in 1955. He resumed his literary career after his near-death experience, producing poetry. His second inning of professional writing began for underground newspapers and publications, as it did for many of his colleagues. His poetry and short stories, which were mostly semi-autobiographical and revolved around the life of a destitute writer Henry Chinaski, quickly earned him cult status.
‘Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wail,’ his first book of poetry, was published in 1959. The book received a lot of praise for its free poems that beautifully depicted a sense of desolation and abandonment. In the same year, he wrote his most famous essay, ‘Manifesto: A Call for Own Critics.’ He returned to work as a mail filling clerk at the Los Angeles post office in 1960, a job he had held for nearly a decade. During this time, he wrote a series of poems and short stories on his early life’s sufferings and agonies. In 1963, he published ‘It Catches My Heart in Its Hands,’ a poetry collection. Each poem in the collection was unrivaled in terms of content and wonderfully melded together, having been written between 1955 and 1963. His other work, ‘Crucifix in a Deathbed,’ was released later in 1965.
Since 1967, he has written the column “Notes of a Dirty Old Man” for the Los Angeles underground publication Open City. Interestingly, the column survived the closing of Open City, appearing in the Los Angeles Free Press and the NOLA Express in New Orleans, among other underground publications. In 1969, he teamed together with Neeli Cherkovski to start ‘Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns,’ a short-lived mimeographed literary magazine. Over the next two years, they published three issues. In 1969, he accepted a full-time writing job offer from Black Sparrow Press, which prompted him to leave his post office position for good. He finished his semi-autobiographical debut novel, ‘Post Office,’ a month later.
Bukowski’s literary career took off in the 1970s, when he released an extensive collection of works, both in poetry and fiction, in small independent publications. Novels such as ‘Factotum’ and ‘Women’ were published in the 1970s, as well as poems such as ‘Mockingbird Wish Me Luck,’ ‘Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame,’ ‘Scarlet,’ and ‘Maybe Tomorrow,’ among others. He also published ‘Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness,’ his first collection of short stories.
Bukowski debuted in the screenplay writing field in the 1980s with the film ‘Barfly,’ which was released in 1984. The film was semi-autobiographical and focused on three days in the life of Bukowski when he was 24 years old. The film included his alter-ego persona Henry Chinaski as the protagonist, as in his prior works. His next novel, ‘Hollywood,’ is based on his experiences in the creation of ‘Barfly.’ He finished his final work, ‘Pulp,’ just before his death. ‘Pulp’ dealt with the concept of mortality wrapped in stinging humor, much like his last poetry book published during his lifetime, ‘The Last Night of the Earth Poems.’
Major Projects of Charles
When Bukowski resumed his writing career in the late 1950s, his literary ambitions took flight. His semi-autobiographical novels revolved around the character Henry Chinaski, who was loosely based on his own experiences. ‘Post Office,’ ‘Women,’ ‘Flower, Fist, and Bestial Wall,’ ‘Hollywood,’ ‘Notes of a Dirty Old Man,’ and so on are some of his most well-known pieces.
Estimated Net Worth
Charles Bukowski net worth: Charles Bukowski was a $4 million poet, novelist, and writer who was born in Germany. Charles Bukowski was born in August 1920 in Andernach, Rhineland-Palatinate, Weimar Republic, and died in March 1994. He wrote thousands of poems, hundreds of short tales, and six novels, which were published in almost 60 books.