Play the Piano Paperback – 25 Aug 1992
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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 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of two. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for over fifty years. 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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My only knowledge of Bukowski had been the little biographical notes from Beat literature books or things like that. I was under the impression that I was going to get a beating from some cold unemotional degenerate, or something akin to the dry wit of William S. Burroughs.
Bukowski's work is rich with emotion, but not sap. It is not the poetry of little delicate flowers and holding hands in the park; no, with this poetry you have to walk through a drunken hell before you can look at a woman with that special feeling of affection, before you can feel the grace of hearing classical music on the radio. Or maybe you can spend the in between time betting on horses, eating a sandwich, or just trying to understand a little bit about life.
Just dont' ask for any more than what's already here. Because herein lies all the secrets. Snapshots of heaven and hell, and how they are both right in front of us, whichever we see at the time.
I see Bukowski as a sort of literary philosopher-satyr who often writes about the crude, seedy side of life. Some of my favorite poems from this collection are as follows: "fire station," a bawdy, boozy narrative poem; "a radio with guts," about the narrator's drunken abuse of the title item; and "interviews," an ironic reflection on encounters with "young men from the underground / newspapers and the small circulation / magazines."
In this book the reader will encounter junkies, drunks, and various colorful characters. Bukowski's tone is sometimes melancholy; often the bawdy life of his poems is haunted by the specter of death. And I was intrigued by his occasional literary references: to Dos Passos, Mailer, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and others. Overall, a compelling volume.