on 17 May 2014
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. With just a couple of lines of dialogue, he could tell us more about a character than many could say with a chapter. In fact, his characters often seem more real than you and I, and perhaps even more real than the great writer was himself. What’s not for you to like?
on 20 June 2016
Yeah surprisingly good. The old man still
Had some stuff to tell
Me. Very important things. I cannot believe that some stuff in there was not published when he was alive. Some of the words are some the best he has ever written, some of the best anybody has ever written. Such as "if you're unkind to yourself, you will
Know no worse and deserve no better" I can't stop repeating these words and Everytime they appear more powerful. And that's truly astonishing what this old man has been able to write for us.
on 10 July 1998
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".
on 7 November 1996
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".