Title: Betting on the Muse
Author: Charles Bukowski
Page Count/Review Word Count: 402
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 shit 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?