I have long been a huge fan of Charles Bukowski. Indeed, I've rarely -- if ever -- met a bigger fan, although I'm sure such exists. I have a number of books, and a Bukowski t-shirt, he personally autographed for me when he was alive and we were corresponding. When he died in March 1994, I was deeply saddened, although I'd known he'd been in the hospital, was in his 70s and his health was waning. So when HarperCollins, through ECCO, announced they'd be publishing new poetry editions by Bukowski posthumously, I was grateful and full of expectations. And while a couple of my writer friends have largely discounted these volumes, I have generally enjoyed reading them as they've come out, particularly "The Flash of Lightning Behind the Mountain." Word came out that there would be five new books. Apparently, that didn't count the anthology that came out last year, "Portions of a Wine Stained Notebook." So, when the last one, "Come On In!," was published, I was understandably distraught. No more Bukowski. Still, what a legacy. A good 45 books during his life, over 50 all told. Not too shabby for an author who got such a late start in his career.
Thus, imagine my surprise when a small new volume of poetry was published over a month ago with little fanfare! As soon as I found out about "The Continual Condition," I ordered it and got it a day later from Amazon. It appeared to be tiny at 127 pages, compared to Bukowski's typically large 300-400 page poetry books. However, I was ready to dig in. Unfortunately, I had heard rumors of discontent on FaceBook, from friends who are fans themselves. Still, I went for it!
I finished a few days ago. How can I put it? The book is Weak Shit!!! Maybe, just maybe, there are three decent poems in that book. It's a travesty, a tragedy, and I'm pissed off. Clearly, this was an effort on the part of -- at a minimum -- the publisher to put out another Bukowski and make a few more millions. I mean, this is a $26 hardcover. Sell enough of those to Bukowski fans around the world, you've done well, financially. That said, I really, really am ticked at his widow, Linda, and his long-time editor, John Martin, for allowing this joke to occur. I mean, they truly scraped the bottom of the barrel with this one. The thing just plain stinks! I don't claim to be the best writer out there -- I know that's not true. (I have claimed to be one of the very hardest working writers out there, and I think my career has backed that up.) So, when I say that half or more of my work vastly exceeds the material in this book in terms of both skill and interest, it's a sad day indeed. Frankly, Buk got USED, by people he trusted and who allegedly loved the man, and in my opinion, this damned little book has tarnished his great legacy. The world would be better off if this book had never been published. I feel like a traitor for saying that, but it's the truth. Don't waste your money on Buk's new book. It's a sad little joke, and that's a real pity.
Causes Scott Holstad Supports
PEN, The Authors Guild, Sierra Club