Why you should care

The truly unrepentant are so few and far between; we must study how the hell they managed to tell the prevailing orthodoxy to kiss its own ass.

His name was Charles Bukowski. Twenty years spent working at the Post Office. Even longer at the racetrack. And even longer in his cups and at his typewriter. L.A.’s Skid Row poet laureate took just as little crap from anyone as humanly possible, and now, almost 20 years after his death, it behooves us to remember just how coolly he did it.

Mickey Rourke played Bukowski’s alter-ego Henry Chinaski in the most well-known cinematic depiction of his life (Barfly, 1987). But so did Ben Gazzara. And Matt Dillon. Which, if you were counting, means they’ve made no fewer than three movies about him. And this is not factoring in the documentaries. Or his own work: thousands of poems, hundreds of stories, six novels and more than 50 books in print in multiple languages. Fairly phenomenal by any standard but also fairly business as usual for Bukowski, the hard-living son of German immigrants, who, as Hemingway was spiritual heir to Cuba, was himself a part of the sinews of the city of Los Angeles until his death in 1994 (from leukemia, not the copious amount of booze he consumed).

With his sing-song, almost lisping voice in the clip below, this barroom tough guy holding forth on the toughest of all topics — love — is pure extemporaneous gold. Enjoy.

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