The outspoken, ragged-edged poet and novelist Charles Bukowski entered our world 93 years ago this Friday, and presumably began making trouble immediately. HarperCollins marks the occasion a bit early this year by releasing today eight Bukowski audiobooks, the first of their kind. (Sign up for a Free Trial with Audible.com and you can get one for free.) Alas, Bukowski didn’t live quite long enough to commit Post Office, South of No North, Factotum, Women, Ham on Rye, Hot Water Music, Hollywood, and Pulp to tape himself. “It would be Bukowski himself reading here, if the technology had advanced quickly enough,” Galleycat quotes publisher Daniel Halpern as saying, “but his voice rings clear and deep in these renditions – and from them, the genius of Bukowski flows forth.” Whether or not you plan to purchase these new audiobooks, we offer you here a dose of Bukowski out loud.
At the top you’ll find one of Bukowski’s own readings, 42 minutes recorded before a full house at San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill Neighborhood Center in 1972. Consider chasing that with “Something for the Touts, the Nuns, the Grocery Store Clerks, and You” just above, or previously featured here, “The Secret of My Endurance.” If you’d like other ways to hear the genius of Bukowski flowing forth, as Halpern puts it, you can listen to the poet as interpreted by other distinctive voices: u2’s lead singer Bono, for instance, as incongruous as the two personas may at first strike you. Below you can hear Bukowski’s “Nirvana” as read by another vocalist: Tom Waits, who possesses a voice famously evocative of unforgiving American life, one that perhaps sounds more like that of a Bukowski poem than Bukowski’s own. And if you missed our earlier post featuring Waits’ interpretation of “The Laughing Heart,” what more suitable occasion could you have to circle back and heed its battered yet optimistic guidance: “Your life is your life. Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.”
Colin Marshall hosts and produces Notebook on Cities and Culture and writes essays on literature, film, cities, Asia, and aesthetics. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall.