Letters from Chuck


Hadn’t read Charles Bukowski for years, and just ran across this great last three sentences from the story Nut Ward Just East of Hollywood in the collection Tales of Ordinary Madness.

I reached over, opened it in the middle, and began reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Nothing had changed. It was still a lousy book.

It makes me laugh, and I don’t mean that as a comment on Tolstoy. I have not read War and Peace and I would have laughed if almost any “great” title were in its place. And I’m sure if Bukowski had read that line, he would have gone, “Were? You cocksucker.” And the beer would have gone up to his face, then the cigar, then out with the smoke and a cough and again “Were?”


Bukowski’s unique strength was that most improbable combination of ugliness and squallor, mixed with amusement and optimism. He delivers the straight goods, with reality as plain as a stained toilet bowl, but still as squirrelly as a bad drunk trying to get out of a phone booth.

The other thing remarkable about the man are the range of images from the typical tortured artist photos to the deranged street dog to the contemplative.


3 comments on “Letters from Chuck

  1. Bukowksi had an odd habit at times of slamming certain authors in print and then, later on, in another story, he would praise them. In “Hollywood” he mocked Jack Kerouac (changing his name improbably to Mack Derouac) but in another story — I think in “Tales of Ordinary Madness” — he had nothing but kind words for Kerouac. I duuno. I guess it was just the mood he was in when he sat down to write that day.

  2. K, I wanted you to write *more*

    I figured you’d come back and finish it.

  3. […] Letters from Chuck Literary high wire acts Literary high wire acts 2 Literary high wire acts 3 […]

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