Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Odd links in the literary chain of being


Here’s something some of us never thought we’d see:  a major exhibition of Charles Bukowski’s work at a major, respected institution here in the U.S. I wonder if  the Times’ Carolyn Kellogg is trying to make something of the Bukowski exhibit’s proximity to a rare edition of Chaucer, as if to say, “Here is the work of a bum beside the work of an acclaimed artist.” I don’t think that’s her point — she seems too smart for that — and I certainly hope it isn’t. If anything, Bukowski owes a clear debt to Chaucer, as do Mark Twain and Hemingway and Carver and indeed every other writer in English who wrote in the vernacular. Chaucer invented that style. No Chaucer, probably no Bukowski.

I’m always glad to see it when academia and the forces of order working from their fortresses of solitude pry open their doors and let in someone new or underground, so it’s a delight to see Bukowski honored in this way. I’m not sure how he would have felt about it (half-embarrassed and half-exalted, probably), but I intend to ask our mutual friend Gerald Locklin. And I intend to go see the exhibit.

2 Responses to “Odd links in the literary chain of being”

  1. Dan Says:

    Now that Bob Kane and Stan Lee are considered Artists-with-a-capital-A, this doesn’t em to big a stretch.

  2. Lee Wochner Says:

    From Gerry Locklin:


    I attended a private reception for “Bukowskians” at the Huntington last night, and will be doing five minutes along with many others at the Buk Aloud event on Sept. 27. Your readers might find it interesting that Linda, his widow, told me she used to drop Hank off at Santa Anita and then spend the afternoon at the Huntington before returning to pick him up before the ninth race. So she had developed a special affection for the grounds and art and authors, and the Huntington became an obvious destiny for her husband’s papers. There are many library staff there particularly sympathetic to Buk’s work, none more than Sue Hudson, who is the curator of the Buk collection, and lectures brilliantly on it I think you’d love the exhibit, which occupies only two rooms but is both comprehensive and eminently “do-able.”

    I have not a doubt that Bukowski would have loved having his work preserved there. He loved apparent incongruities and he had, of course, been a voracious consumer of what libraries had to offer in his early days as an autodidact. I don’t know for a fact whether he and Linda had ever discussed this destination–I’ll have to ask her–but I suspect they must have and that he would have heartily approved. Writers are not averse to such aspirations, and it is only natural that one who had found his life’s meaning in his work, would wish to see it honored and read beyond his lifetime. I don’t know whether he would have admitted to the pleasure this honor would have given him, but I can not imagine he would have been immune to enjoying it. His last (and greatest) elegies, in their newly humble solidarity with humanity, dispensed with any illusions of distance from the rest of our species in the face of death. He was suspicious of what fame can do to a writer, but he always said it came too late to harm him. At this point his work is finished and his reputation is consigned to the ages. The pilgrimages have begun. He fought his way to the top, and he deserves to have the last laugh and light up (like a literary Red Auerbach) the final posthumous cigar. He has found as much immortality as this life has to offer.

    You may feel free to quote from the above.

    –Gerry Locklin

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