Living on Luck: Selected Letters, 1960s-1970s


Living on Luck is a collection of letters from the 1960s mixed in with poems and drawings. The ever clever Charles Bukowski fills the pages with his rough exterior and juicy center.

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Living On Luck

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Living on Luck is a collection of letters from the 1960s mixed in with poems and drawings. The ever clever Charles Bukowski fills the pages with his rough exterior and juicy center.

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Editorial Reviews

A text for students and practitioners working in medicine, health, and science, offering a broad understanding of complementary and alternative medicine. Describes the development and key ideas and approaches of systems and therapies including homeopathy, herbalism, healing touch, ayurveda, Chinese medicine, and curanderismo, reviewing the status of scientific research in each field and discussing the relevant cultural, historical, and contemporary contexts in which to view complementary and alternative systems. Includes a CD-ROM. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780876859810
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/2002
  • Series: Selected Letters of Charles Bukowski Series , #2
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 599,432
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.76 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowsk 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 three. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944 when he was twenty-four and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.


During the course of his long, prolific literary career, Charles Bukowski was known as a poet, novelist, short story writer, and journalist. But it is as a cult figure, an "honorary beat" who chronicled his notorious lifestyle in raw, unflinching poetry and prose, that he is best remembered. Born in the aftermath of World War I to a German mother and an American serviceman of German descent, he was brought to the U.S. at the age of three and raised in Los Angeles. By all accounts, his childhood was lonely and unhappy: His father beat him regularly, and he suffered from debilitating shyness and a severely disfiguring case of acne. By his own admission, he underwent a brief flirtation with the far right, associating as a teenager with Nazis and Nazi sympathizers. After high school, he attended Los Angeles City College for two years, studying art, literature, and journalism before dropping out.

Although two of his stories were published in small literary magazines while he was still in his early 20s, Bukowski became discouraged by his lack of immediate success and gave up writing for ten years. During this time he drifted around the country, working odd jobs; fraternizing with bums, hustlers, and whores; and drinking so excessively that he nearly died of a bleeding ulcer.

In the late 1950s, Bukowski returned to writing, churning out copious amounts of poetry and prose while supporting himself with mind-numbing clerical work in the post office. Encouraged and mentored by Black Sparrow Press publisher John Martin, he finally quit his job in 1969 to concentrate on writing full time. In 1985, he married his longtime girlfriend Linda Lee Beighle. Together they moved to San Pedro, California, where Bukowski began to live a saner, more stable existence. He continued writing until his death from leukemia in 1994, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.

Bukowski mined his notorious lifestyle for an oeuvre that was largely autobiographical. In literally thousands of poems, he celebrated the skid row drunks and derelicts of his misspent youth; and, between 1971 and 1989, he penned five novels (Post Office, Factotum, Women, Ham on Rye, and Hollywood) featuring Henry Chinaski, an alcoholic, womanizing, misanthrope he identified as his literary alter ego. (He also wrote the autobiographical screenplay for the 1987 film Barfly, starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway.) Yet, for all the shock value of his graphic language and violent, unlovely images, Bukowski's writing retains a startling lyricism. Today, years after his death, he remains one of the 20th century's most influential and widely imitated writers.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      August 16, 1920
    2. Place of Birth:
      Andernach, Germany
    1. Date of Death:
      March 9, 1994
    2. Place of Death:
      San Pedro, California
    1. Education:
      Los Angeles City College, 2 years

Read an Excerpt

Living on Luck

Chapter One

* 1 9 6 1 *

[To John William Corrington] January 17, 1961

Hello Mr. Corrington:

Well, it helps sometimes to receive a letter such as yours. This makes two. A young man out of San Francisco wrote me that someday they would write books about me, if that would be any help. Well, I'm not looking for help, or praise either, and I'm not trying to play tough. But I had a game I used to play with myself, a game called Desert Island and while I was laying around in jail or art class or walking toward the ten dollar window at the track, I'd ask myself, Bukowski, if you were on a desert island by yourself, never to be found, except by the birds and the maggots, would you take a stick and scratch words in the sand? I had to say "no," and for a while this solved a lot of things and let me go ahead and do a lot of things I didn't want to do, and it got me away from the typewriter and it put me in the charity ward of the county hospital, the blood charging out of my ears and my mouth and my ass, and they waited for me to die but nothing happened. And when I got out I asked myself again, Bukowski, if you were on a desert island and etc.; and do you know, I guess it was because the blood had left my brain or something, I said, YES, yes, I would. I would take a stick and I would scratch words in the sand. Well, this solved a lot of things because it allowed me to go ahead and do the things, all the things I didn't want to do, and it let me have the typewriter too; and since they told me another drink would kill me, I now hold it down to 2 gallons of beer a day.

But writing, of course, like marriage orsnowfall or automobile tires, does not always last. You can go to bed on Wednesday night being a writer and wake up on Thursday morning being something else altogether. Or you can go to bed on Wednesday night being a plumber and wake up on Thursday morning being a writer. This is the best kind of writer.

... Most of them die, of course, because they try too hard; or, on the other hand, they get famous, and everything they write is published and they don't have to try at all. Death works a lot of avenues, and although you say you like my stuff, I want to let you know that if it turns to rot, it was not because I tried too hard or too little but because I either ran out of beer or blood. [* * *]

For what it's worth, I can afford to wait: I have my stick and I have my sand.

the mention of Frost below alludes to his reciting of his poem "The Gift Outright" ("The land was ours before we were the land's. / ... (The deed of gift was many deeds of war)... ") at the inauguration of President John F. Kennedy on January 20,1961.

[To John William Corrington) [ca. February 1,] 1961

I am listening to "Belly up to the bar, boys!" and I took the ponies for $150 today, so what the hell, Cor, I will answer, tho this letter-writing is not my meat, except to maybe gently laugh at the cliffs coming down. And it has to end sometimes, even though it has just begun. I'd rather you were the one who finally didn't answer. And I'd never kick a man out because he was drunk, although I've kicked out a few women for it, and the "wives-to-pinch," they are gone, mental cruelty, they say; at least the last one, the editoress of Harlequin said that, and I said, ok. my mind was cruel to yours...

I think it is perfectly ok to write short short stories and think they're poems, mostly because short stories waste so many words. So we violate the so-called poem form with the non-false short story word and we violate the story form by saying a lot in the

little time of the poem form. We may be in between by borrowing from each BUT BECAUSE WE CANNOT ANSWER A PRECONCEIVED FORMULA OF EITHER STORY OR POEM. does this mean we are necessarily wrong? When Picasso stuck pinches of cardboard and extensions of space upon the flat surface of his paper did we accuse him of being a sculptor or an architect?

A man's either an artist or a flat tire and what he does need not answer to anything, I'd say, except the energy of his creation.

I'd say that a lot of abstract poetry lets a man off the hook with a can of polish. Now being subtle (which might be another word for "original") and being abstract is the difference between knowing and saying it in a different way and not knowing and saying it as if you sounded like you might possibly know. 'Mis is what most poetry classes are for: the teaching of the application of the polish, the rubbing out of dirty doubt between writer and reader as to any flaws between the understanding of what a poem ought to be.

Culture and knowledge are too often taken as things that please or do not disturb or say it in a way that sounds kindly. It's time to end this bullshit. I am thinking now of Frost slavering over his poems, blind, the old rabbit hair in his eyes, everybody smiling kindly, and Frost grateful, saying some lie, part of it: "... the deed of gift was the deed of many wars"... An abstract way of saying something kind about something that was not kind at all.

Christ, I don't call for cranks or misanthropes or people who knock knock knock because their spleen has a burr in it or because their grandmother once fucked the iceman, but let's try to use just a little bit of sense. And I don't expect too much; but when a blind blubbering poet in his white years is USED ... I don't know by WHAT OR WHO ... himself, they, something... it ills me even to drink a glass of water and I guess that makes me the greatest crank of all time. [* * *]

Living on Luck. Copyright © by Charles Bukowski. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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