on 5 February 2001
Run With the Hunted is, ostensibly, a collection of poems and short stories, along with novel excerpts, written by Charles Bukowski. It is also, however, a biography, plotting out the mans' life through his writing. The reason for this is that Bukowski's work is to a large degree autobiographical, and is presented by John Martin in a linear fashion, giving it a chronological authenticity. Therefore, through Martins sensitive editing, we have a portrait of the artist, first as a misfit child, and then as a young man, starving for his art and his booze, through to the middle-aged writer trying to keep his writing honest despite many distractions, and then, finally, as an old man facing death.
Martin begins his collection with Ham-on-Rye, Bukowski's novel, written about his childhood. The family scenario it depicts is one of a child living in a dysfunctional family, whose patriarch is an unstable cruel insecure man. It seems to have been a lonely childhood, one where the young "Chinaski" fails to fit in with the normal kids in school, or with his family at home. There are some happy memories, but there are many sad, uncomfortable recollections. The poetry and stories Martin selects reinforce these memories, and delve deeper into the emotions the young Bukowski experienced. They also give us a glimpse into an America in depression, before F.D.R.'s " New Deal," where poverty was widespread, mass unemployment hit many households, misery seemed the overriding emotion in life. This is not to say the writing is all "doom and gloom," it is not. Bukowski's eternal optimism and ability to derive pleasure from the most unlikely of circumstances is almost always discernible in Martins selections.
Martin moves on chronologically, with excerpts from Factotum and Post Office. With the poet now in his young 'man-hood', we are presented with a life that is sometimes exhilarating, sometimes dark and depressing. It was a hard, sometimes lonely existence, and the poetry Martin includes lets us into the young mans emotions in a way that is not possible in the novel or the short story. The tone is often dark and at times suicidal, but Bukowski's essential love of life and optimism is never utterly defeated.
The short stories that Martin uses are mainly from South of no North and these again are to a degree semi-autobiographical, however they also include more pure fiction, some fantastical even, written with the skill of a writer very much at home in the genre. Even in this fantastical short-stories Bukowski's concern is with those on the lower social scale, the real people who have to fight the real fights, with landlords, bad teeth, unfaithful partners and so on.
When Martin introduces excerpts from 'Women' we find that Bukowski's life has changed somewhat. Older now he has given up the security of the post office to try and make it, writing full time. He is nervous and insecure, yet he writes his first novel in seventeen nights. Bukowski has achieved a modicum of fame at this stage and has built up a small army of female fans, most of whom seem to end up in his bed. Again away from the necessary limitations the novel imposes we get a deeper indication of the authors emotions in the poems. Some of the poems Martin includes are the love poems referred to in the novel and are not your conventional love poems. They are crude, bawdy, funny, raw and passionate.
Finally the book ends with excerpts from "Hollywood," Bukowski's account of the period when he was writing the screenplay for the movie "Barfly", directed by Babet Schroeder. Bukowski has mellowed somewhat by this point but his writing does not suffer for it and retains the edge and humour. The same is true of the poetry , taken from "Septuagenarian Stew..." Again the poetry seems the best window to the soul of the poet as we find him ruminating on his well lived life and squaring up to death as he feels its breath on his neck as he hunches over the typewriter. As one would expect Bukowski deals with this sad subject matter in a way that is completely devoid of maudlin self pity.
John Martins' task in compiling Run With the Hunted must surely have been daunting. Bukowski was a prolific writer throughout his life with most of the work to the same high standard. Therefore fitting this body of work into 'reader' format was no small task, but then editing the writing of Charles Bukowski was something John Martin did for a large part of his adult life, his company Black Sparrow Press with its unique presentation, being an integral part of the Bukowski reading experience. However, as was necessary, there is a huge amount of work unmetioned, not represented in this book. Therefore to the virgin Bukowski reader this book offers a mere taste of the brilliance of the man, an irrefutable invitation to delve deeper into the world of Charles Bukowski. To the Bukowski addict it is a welcome addition to the collection, a celebration of the life's work of a genius still shunned by the literary establishment, and an excuse to reread some old friends.
on 11 July 2015
What put me off reading Bukowski for a long time was not his writing, but the people I met who were 'into bukowski' or the emulation of his myth, they were usually pretentious talentless hacks who drank too much at parties and ended up throwing up in the recycling box on the porch. I read a few stories from Tales of Ordinary Madness in the early 90's but never followed it up, until about ten years later, I started a more comprehensive reading of his work, poetry mostly and some of his letters, so when I dropped by the bookstore where I work the odd day now and again, and the owner was cleaning the covers on a stack of recently purchased books, I noticed the Bukowski Reader and decided to snap it up before it hit the shelf. If you're looking for the hard drinking, brawling, womanizing, tough guy there's some of that here, but there is also so much much more...the hard is there to protect the soft....that blue bird in the heart...... edited with care by John Martin, the right man for the job.
on 22 August 2013
Well, this is interesting - the first ever review on SocialBookshelves.com that has been assigned three different categories - fiction, non-fiction and poetry. With Bukowski, it almost doesn't matter - he flows effortlessly between mediums but always retains the same, unique genre. That's why we love him.
Interestingly enough, this collection of short stories and poems is arranged in chronological order in the order in which they happened in Bukowski's life, rather than the order in which it was published. This makes the whole work flow equally and almost feel like a new novel, despite the fact that much of it has been seen before.
Interestingly, the first edition of this book was published in 1993, the year before Bukowski's death - it's like an eerie precursor to his oncoming demise, and as such it acts in many ways as the ultimate memoir. Of course, that doesn't necessarily make it the most obvious choice for new readers to begin with - it was edited together by John Martin, the lifelong friend and editor of Bukowski, but the author himself didn't have a huge amount of input (as far as I'm aware).
Still, there are some gems in here - I'm more of a fan of the poetry than the prose, but both are enjoyable and reading the two of them transposed together makes for an interesting, new experience. Expect to see the usual mixture of horses, women, bars and booze, and Hank Chinaski is back in all his majesty.
Perhaps most interesting is the chance to observe the author's troubled relationship with his father - even the way that he describes his father eating food is repulsive in some subtle way: 'when my father ate his lips became greasy with food'. Other pearls of insight include, 'No wonder Hemingway was a drunk, Spain be damned, I can't stand it either.'
To be honest, I can just let the poetry do the talking: 'I was a bum in San Francisco but once managed to go to a symphony concert along with the well-dressed people and the music was good but something about the audience was not, and something about the orchestra and the conductor was not, although the building was fine and the acoustics perfect I preferred to listen to the music alone on my radio and afterwards I did go back to my room and I turned on the radio but then there was a pounding on the wall: "SHUT THAT GOD-DAMNED THING OFF!"'
That's one of the interesting things about Bukowski's poetry - that was poetry, but I presented it as prose for the sake of formatting. You often can't tell the difference, his prose can be just as abstract and it always offers a glance in to the world that the poet existed in. This'll take a long time to read, but it'll be enjoyable at every step of the way.