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Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories Paperback – 6 Jun 1996


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 3rd Edition edition (6 Jun 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574230018
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574230017
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 2.6 x 22.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 293,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Charles Bukowski is one of America's best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose, and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in Andernach, Germany, and raised in Los Angeles, where he lived for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944, when he was twenty-four, and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp (1994).

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From the Publisher

In these new poems and stories Bukowski the erstwhile street brawler battles on until his last breath, punching away at hypocrisy and fakery to lay bare essential truths. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Charles Bukowsk is one of America's best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose, and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of three. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944 when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.


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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 10 July 1998
Format: Hardcover
Simply put, if you are a Bukowski fan, you MUST read this. If you aren't a Bukowski fan, this is a very good (and gradual) introduction which may help you understand his earlier work. Not that his writing needs any explaining, but for some reason it is terribly misunderstood and unapreciated. I think "Betting on the Muse" will help readers understand the virtue of Bukowski's literature. Two very noteworthy things in this book are the poem "Let it enfold you" and "An empire of coins". This book is everything that Bukowski stood for: Good but minimalistic literature for the masses, with an pseudo existential twist (although Bukowski himself may not admit to that). Like another reader said "Bukowski loves life and hates life, but he lives life to the fullest".
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Betting on the Muse sees Charles Bukowski return from the dead with a collection of poems and stories which he left behind to be published after his death – it’s good to know that the great writer planned ahead and left instructions about what was to be done with his work after his inevitable demise. In many ways, it’s a miracle that he lived as long as he did, what with the booze and the women and the horses.

Bukowski is famed for his unique voice and for his alcoholic lifestyle, and both of these are well-represented here – while the poet was nearing the end of his life when he wrote much of the material for this collection, he still reflects upon some of the crazy goings on earlier in his life. ‘Reflects’ is the right word to use, too – the older, wiser Bukowski has mellowed out, and his work is much more pensive here than it was when he first started out.

This collection also contains one of my favourite Bukowski poems, one which was once read by Tom Waits – The Laughing Heart. I love the poem so much that I sampled Waits’ recording in to one of my songs, ‘Kinda Lazy‘ – “Your life is your life, don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.”

Of course, the beauty of Bukowski’s writing is that the prose is just as good as the poetry, and here we’re given a good selection of both – in fact, it’s weaved together masterfully, and it’s a joy to see how he uses words to convey a story, whether we’re seeing a glimpse of his own life through the eyes of his alter ego Hank Chinaski or whether we’re watching an argument between Harry and Diana about the “piss and s*** all over the floor.”

That’s one of the many reasons why I love to read Bukowski – he had a knack for capturing characters that few other writers have been able to replicate.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 7 Nov 1996
Format: Paperback
For Bukowski fans, this latest volume is a godsend. I
thought all we we would see of the great Chinaski from here
on was unpublished personal correspondence (e.g. Screams
From the Balcony). Yet here is a collection of heretofore
unpublished poems and short stories, which, in my besotted
and humble opinion, ranks among his best. Some especially
good thumbnail sketches of his 30's L.A. boyhood, nostalgic
and obviously heartfelt. Also some of Hank's finest
philosophical poems as he looks back and reflects on the
true meaning of his "wasted years".
Top notch.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 18 reviews
18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
don't bet on this one 18 Dec 2002
By Kirk Alex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have been reading Bukowski for 25 years now--and I can honestly say this is not very good here at all. Maybe 5 to 10 percent has merit and is worth reading--and the rest? Babble, gibberish, flat. Mind you, this is not easy for a Buk fan to admit--but the way it is. I bought it cheap so I don't really regret getting it. But if you're looking for great writing, great poetry you won't find it here.
If you're looking for excellent Buk prose try Notes of a Dirty Old Man, Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and General Tales of Ordinary Madness (broken down into two volumes and titled something else, from City Lights) Factotum, South of No North--even Hollywood. Living On Luck worked for me as well, so did Screams From the Balcony (letter collections, etc.) As far as his poetry? As someone else stated: the early or middle stuff. Septuagenerian Stew (stories and poems) isn't very good either. Could be one reason why Martin decided to sell the store.
The problem with Buk's later stuff is just this, I believe, he liked to say that writing was too easy for him, that there was nothing to it--and that what he produced was all good stuff. Well, as any writer knows, if it's that easy and you think everything you write is terrific, it very often means just the opposite.
I believe his publisher continued to publish the Buk's stuff because he was THE BUK, and we understand that.
My conclusion regarding Bukowski's work is just this: a third of his output is truly great and original, a third is fair--and the rest is blatantly bad, just too awaful to have any meaning or worth reading. And yet, having said that, as terrible as it may sound to the diehard Buk fan, I maintain it is a great compliment to the man, because the third that is good will forever keep him up there at the very top of the best writers ever. So, please don't despair because not everything he wrote isn't gold--it can't be. Nobody is that good; nobody can be. Buk was human and had his limitations.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Stronger than much of the other posthumous work. 23 Aug 2005
By Robert Beveridge - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Charles Bukowski, Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories (Black Sparrow, 1996)

The general rule of thumb is that Bukowki's posthumously-published works are of lesser quality than those published during his lifetime. So far, I have come across two exceptions to this rule. One is The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship, a wonderful book of journal-like observations and such. The second, in parts anyway, is Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories.

Much of the poetry in the book seems as if it was written in the fifties and sixties, during the peak years of Buk's quality output (though there are some of the later "I couldn't care less what it's about" poems scattered throughout). Much of it may well have been. Some, however, bears timestamps in the work that show them as having been written early in the nineties; makes me wonder what Buk might have come up with had he lived a few more years.

The final selection of poems (I divided the book up in my head while reading into sections, each bounded with short stories) is a series of meditations on death. Not Buk's normal death writing, which always had some fierce spark of hope in it, but writing that made it clear he knew he was facing his own demise. With the exception of the amazing "Last Call," which is roughly halfway through the book, this final selection is perhaps Buk's best work since Burning in Water, Drowning in Flame back in 1973. The process of "observe and write with as little translation is possible" is abandoned, and the work shows that either Buk revised these poems, or turned them over in his head a lot more before putting them down on paper. It shows.

The short stories (and one short nonfiction sketch about publishing his first chapbook in 1960 that is far more optimistic) are a pretty fair reminder that despite Buk being known mostly for his poetry, he was always a strong writer of short stories-- arguably, his short stories are stronger than his poetry. Reading them is like reading Spillane, if Spillane had spent most of his life drunk in a flophouse and didn't care about the mystery aspect of what he wrote. These are quick, easily slices of life, biting with satire and rife with well-drawn characters.

This is good stuff, and the first of Buk's books I've read in quite a while I would unhesitatingly recommend to those few people who have not yet encountered the writing of Charles Bukowski. ****
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great 5 Jan 2000
By "jumpyclown" - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I have to confess i'm not a Bukowski connoiseur. I only recently discovered him so i'm not fortunate enough to place this book in any formatted context. All i can say, from the point of view of someone who hasn't read much Bukowski, i thought this was brilliant. His writing style is so incisive and simple, i love it. Filled with paradox and irony. Its worth getting. I found myself ticking off the page corners when i would come across a great poem or interesting short story. Excellent stuff
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
my personal Bukowski favorite 25 Dec 1999
By Oz du Soleil - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Collections of poetry tend to be uneven--especially when they're as enormous as Bukowski's work (as packaged by Black Sparrow).
Betting on the muse is uneven also, but it is surely worth the money spent. There are enough poems in here ranging from 'superb' to 'good enough' to make this worth buying.
The poem "Drink" is hilarious. Buk takes us into a New Orleans bar and excellently describes what he sees. The dark humor in it keeps me coming back to it.
"Until it hurts" is a poem about writer. It's a statement to any true writer.
Betting on the Muse has the usual fare: getting drunk, hanging at the horsetrack, woman troubles... and it never gets tiresome; but it also has Buk's words of wisdom about life and the process & meaning of writing.
I'd recommend this book above any of Buk's other collections.
I give 5 stars because as far as collections go it's about as consistent, from page to page, as you could ever hope for
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In my opinion this is the best Bukowski to date. 10 July 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Simply put, if you are a Bukowski fan, you MUST read this. If you aren't a Bukowski fan, this is a very good (and gradual) introduction which may help you understand his earlier work. Not that his writing needs any explaining, but for some reason it is terribly misunderstood and unapreciated. I think "Betting on the Muse" will help readers understand the virtue of Bukowski's literature. Two very noteworthy things in this book are the poem "Let it enfold you" and "An empire of coins". This book is everything that Bukowski stood for: Good but minimalistic literature for the masses, with an pseudo existential twist (although Bukowski himself may not admit to that). Like another reader said "Bukowski loves life and hates life, but he lives life to the fullest".
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