The life of Charles Bukowski, following his long bibliography, is easily recognizable. In his poems, in his stories, in his novels, all the situations that he experienced are reflected.
From his jobs as a factotum, never better said, his beginnings as a writer, his fights and his constant visits to the racetrack or even his childhood, which can be read profusely in “The Path of the Loser”, “Ham on Rye” (1 ), as it was originally titled, in a nod to Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye”.
But if his life was well known, in some cases almost in detail, his last years, obviously, could hardly be. In addition, his twilight work met fiction, when what was the reason for his writing was running out: the readings of poems, the women who in a multitude flattered him to bed, sleeping on a bench covered in poverty or describing perfectly with few adjectives the many boarding houses in which he lived and the life around him.
Bukowski lived many more years than he would have imagined or what any doctor would have predicted, but at the end of his long days he came to know the disease, which was gradually undermining his health, although in his seventies he still gave himself time to give yourself some spree.
And is that Bukowski’s life in recent years has changed a lot. His daughter Marina gave him a Macintosh IIsi at Christmas 1990. He took a course to learn how to operate it, although as he acknowledged, he was not very skilled in operating it.
He managed to erase half of the 1991 novel Pulp from his hard drive, which he was able to recompose. Of course, the computer helped to capture his creativity: «I got drunk to write one night. To review it, another. With the computer I did it in a single night «.
Bukowski had begun to be successful with women when he achieved fame for her. After meeting countless females, in 1983 he proposed to Linda Lee Beighle, who appears in his novel “Women”his novel “Women” and with whom he would spend the rest of his days. She was 46, He was 64.
From that moment on, he exchanged the high alcohol content of spirits for good wine. He began to vary all his routines, except for his visits and bets at the racetrack and began to frequent other friends, as we will see later, and to live a more relaxed existence.
It is said that he had more dealings with people his age or older than with the “young ladies” that he used to. With Linda Lee he found peace, although he also had disagreements. Maybe he was too complicated a guy. Called a misogynist, a misanthrope to the core and other little celebrated qualifications, he did not understand him even his mother-in-law, who from time to time came to visit them. The elderly woman, considerably older than Hank, did not understand him. Why does he have to write that way?
Why does he do it? ‘ And Bukowski was still the same: “I work well for a bottle and a half, after that, I’m like any old drunk in a bar: a repetitive and heavy guy.”
Bukowski with Madonna, Schwarzenegger, Sean Penn and U2
Sean Penn, already a friend of Bukowski, had volunteered to star in Barfly for a dollar.
The previous movie experience had not been very favorable. Bukowski spoke pests of “Ordinary Madness”, calling it “ridiculous and bad”, although from that moment on he did become famous or popular.
His outbursts were becoming known. Like that one meeting with Schwarzenegger, when coinciding with the birthday of a mutual friend, he snapped at him: «You’re a little shit … who do you think you are? Just because you make those shitty movies, you’re nothing special megalomaniac.
In the most illuminating biography of these years, the one written by Barry Miles in 2005, it is claimed that Schwarzenegger did not respond.
What is also not said is that it happened before Bukowski said such words. Perhaps nothing particular happened and the writer gave free rein to the memory of his past plagued with fights. Challenging Schwarzenegger had its sure point of danger.
Due to his popularity, he began to frequent previously unknown circles where Hollywood people mixed: musicians, actors, film directors.
This is how he began to frequent the company of what would be his great friend Sean Penn, who was married to Madonna at the time. We are in the era of the erotic book “Sex” that the singer published.
She apparently asked Bukowski to pose, we do not know what exactly the proposal consisted of, but we do know that she did not accept. Like her, she agreed to appear on famous television shows like Johnny Carson’s Late Night Show.
He would not want to repeat the Apostrophes scandal or he simply did not want to be part of the cathodic circus. At that time his income as a writer came mainly from Europe. Apparently he got to earn more than $ 100,000 in royalties per year for European sales of him.
The Poem The Dinner, dinner with Madonna and Sean Pean
Returning to the writer’s relationship with Madonna and Sean Penn, a curious event is perhaps more striking because of the characters in which the action is framed. Everything went well between them until the old spirit of the “indecent” genius quickened.
Like so many events in everyday life, the encounters with the famous couple bore fruit in the form of a poem. He did it with “The Dinner.”
In that poem he reflected things that he regretted. But he later regretted it because when he claimed to remove it from the collection of poems, the first edition had already been launched.
In this poem no names were reflected, but any would locate the characters that appeared on the paper.
In it, Bukowski, narrated the development of an evening, of a dinner with both.
And in it he criticized that both of them, being rich and famous, allowed themselves to be invited by him, an old writer who had just arrived at the orb of fame.
It doesn’t really seem like that either, since from the many meals they had, as well as the times they invited him to his mansion, they sent him his limousine. Bukowski, a professional blunder, was making another public mistake.
Of course, Sean Penn came to interview him for “People” magazine and it does not seem that the relationship became stormy. Although, clearly, it reflected again the temperament of Charles Bukowski.
As we mentioned before, the last years of him moved more along the paths of calm and tranquility. In 1986 he wrote in a letter to a friend: “My cats, my wife, they calm me down, they calm me down.”
The day after finishing the novel “Hollywood” where he reels the details of the movie “Barfly”, Bukowski falls ill.
The beginning of the disease
For almost a week she suffered from a high fever. Two doctors he consulted could not say what was behind these symptoms that ended up causing him to lose many kilos.
He tried acupuncture with no results. He wrote little, and he did it from bed.
Finally, after an X-ray of his chest, it was discovered that his disease had a name: tuberculosis.
But he got better, on November 14, 1989 he had his first drink. At nine months he was smoking cigars and his classic bidis, tobacco cuttings wrapped in Kendu leaf.
In 1992 an eye infection was detected. It is the first time that he has to stop writing out of obligation. The recovery was successful, but it was the worst preamble imagined.
In November of the same year, at a concert by the Irish group U2, singer Bono announced that the concert was dedicated to Charles and Linda Bukowski.
Apparently Hank gave a good account, in the stage or back stage, more modernly, of too many sevens up with vodka.
When he got out of the limo that was taking him home, he tripped and fell on the porch. He crashed against the stone floor.
In addition to a knee sprain, there was an occasional cut to the head. Bukowski was getting old, he was losing his reflexes.
In 1993 he was diagnosed with the beginning of leukemia. He spent 64 days in the hospital.
He received chemotherapy treatment and began to lose his hair.
He wore a hat. When he left the hospital he stopped smoking and drinking. He found himself finding that he was able to write without being intoxicated. Unfortunately, the doctors told him that he had about a year to live.
On August 25, 1993 he began studying Deepak Chopra’s Ayurvedic healing method, based on the mastery of the mind over the body, over matter.
He no longer had anything to lose, and he thought that transcendental meditation could help him bear the weight of death. When “Death is smoking my cigarettes.”
The end of the life of Charles Bukowski. Los Angeles, the city where he is buried
But the reality was stubborn and the disease was slowly creeping around. The chemotherapy weakened him, making him prone to other diseases due to the fragility of his health. He was diagnosed with the pneumonia that would eventually end him.
His life ended on March 9, 1994, at the age of 73.
Three Buddhist monks officiated the ceremony in two languages, with chants and bows, which was held in Los Angeles. Bukowski entered the grave dressing casually. The coffin almost fell over on the way.
Next to the tomb, one of the monks posed for a formal photograph. As his biographer Barry Miles claims, Bukowski would have grasped the irony.
He reflected on multitudes of pages about death. His little obsession became more apparent in his later days: “Being near death is invigorating.”
(1) Ham on Rye refers to the sandwich that workers took to work at the beginning of the 20th century.
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