Charles Bukowski Biography

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Birth Name: Charles Bukowski
Born: 08/16/1920
Birth Place: Andernach, , DE
Died: 03/09/1994

Born in Germany but raised in California, Bukowski seemed to be at odds with life from an early age. Brought up in an abusive household, he displayed shy loner tendencies, which were only exacerbated in his teenage years by serious acne and its subsequent facial scars. Far from a conventionally handsome guy, Bukowski shaped his writing persona around the image of the shunned outsider. During World War II, he was briefly jailed for draft dodging and later found to be unfit for service. Bukowski began writing short stories, but he soon became discouraged with the literary world, and entered a period where work, drinking and a series of failed relationships largely defined his life. He returned to these themes when he began writing again in the late 1950s, this time initially focusing on poetry. Drawing on his long stint with the postal service, Bukowski finally completed his debut novel, Post Office, which saw the light of day in 1971 and marked the first of many books that he would publish under the small company Black Sparrow Press.

Gaining notoriety for his transgressive writing, Bukowski became a cult hero in more rebellious literary circles, due to his simple, bleak and heartbreaking poems and semi-autobiographical novels such as Factotum, Women and Ham on Rye. A serial womanizer, Bukowski finally settled down with restaurant owner Linda Lee Beighle, and they were married in 1985. During the early 1980s, "Tales of Ordinary Madness," an Italian-produced film loosely based on the writer's stories surfaced, with Ben Gazzara as the Bukowski stand-in. Later, the writer had a banner year in 1987, with director Barbet Schroeder's "Barfly" arriving in movie theaters to much acclaim and another film, "Crazy Love," offering up a Belgian perspective on Bukowski's down-and-out aesthetic. In 1989, his novel Hollywood was published, with the book largely informed by his experience of bringing "Barfly" to the silver screen. Shortly after finishing the novel's follow-up, Pulp, in 1994, Bukowski died from leukemia at age 73.

Though derided by some critics as vulgar and simplistic, Bukowski was discovered by a new generation of readers and aspiring writers following his death, becoming a notable counter-culture figure. In 2003, "Bukowski: Born into This" was released, with the documentary featuring his widow, Linda, and a number of his most famous admirers, including Sean Penn, Tom Waits and U2's Bono. Two years later, the feature "Factotum" was released, working from the namesake novel, along with various non-fiction and poetry by Bukowski. Forever a pop-culture underdog, Bukowski left behind a legacy that is felt most heavily on the page. However, in 2013, restless Renaissance man James Franco started production on an movie adaptation of the coming-of-age novel Ham on Rye, signaling that the late writer may still receive occasional cinematic odes.