Charles Bukowski

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Charles Bukowski (16 August 19209 March 1994) was a Los Angeles, California poet and novelist sometimes mistakenly associated with Beat Generation writers because of alleged similarities of style and attitude. Bukowski's writing was heavily influenced by the geography and atmosphere of his home city of Los Angeles. He wrote more than fifty books and countless smaller pieces. He is often mentioned as an influence by contemporary authors and his style is frequently imitated.


listed chronologically
  • It's 4:30 in the morning, it's always 4:30 in the morning.
    • Rooming House Madrigals (1954)
  • Van Gogh writing his brother for paints
    Hemingway testing his shotgun
    Celine going broke as a doctor of medicine
    the impossibility of being human
    • "Beasts Bounding Through Time" (1986)
  • Shakespeare a plagiarist
    Beethoven with a horn stuck into his head against deafness
    the impossibility the impossibility
    Nietzsche gone totally mad
    the impossibility of being human
    all too human
    this breathing
    in and out
    out and in
    these punks
    these cowards
    these champions
    these mad dogs of glory
    moving this little bit of light toward us
    • "Beasts Bounding Through Time" (1986)
  • I've never met another man I'd rather be.
    • Bukowski: Born Into This (2002)

Notes of a Dirty Old Man (1969)[edit]

  • If you want to know who your friends are, get yourself a jail sentence.
  • An intellectual is a man who says a simple thing in a difficult way; an artist is a man who says a difficult thing in a simple way.
  • The difference between a brave man and a coward is a coward thinks twice before jumping in the cage with a lion. The brave man doesn't know what a lion is. He just thinks he does.

Tales of ordinary madness (1967-83)[edit]

  • I was given the job of milking the cows, finally, and it got me up earlier than anybody. But it was kind of nice, pulling at those cows' tits (pg. 172).
  • Show me a man who lives alone and has a perpetually clean kitchen, and eight times out of nine I'll show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities.
  • The free soul is rare, but you know it when you see it - basically because you feel good, very good, when you are near or with them.

Post Office (1971)[edit]

  • It began as a mistake.
  • But I couldn't help thinking, god, all these mailmen do is drop in letters and get laid. This is the job for me, oh yes yes yes.
  • I didn't even have a uniform, just a cap. I wore my regular clothes. The way my shackjob Betty and I drank there was hardly money for clothes.
    "Don't be silly, he's an obvious sadist," I said.
    "How long have you been in the Post Office?"
    "Three weeks."
    "What does that have to do with it?"
    I believe the poor fellow actually wanted to kill me.
    ..."All right," I said, "Jonstone is a fine man. Forget the whole... thing." Then I walked out and took the next day off. Without pay, of course.
  • I thought about taking a shower but I could see the headlines: MAILMAN CAUGHT DRINKING THE BLOOD OF GOD AND TAKING A SHOWER, NAKED, IN A ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH. ...I found out later that mail for the church was delivered to the parish house around the corner. But now, or course, I knew where to... shower when I'm down and out.
  • It was the poor part of town—small houses and courts with mailboxes full of spiders, mailboxes hanging by one nail, old women inside rolling cigarettes and chewing tobacco and humming to their canaries and watching you, an idiot lost in the rain.
  • "Any damn fool can beg up some kind of job; it takes a wise man to make it without working."
  • "Wouldn't you like to come in and have a cup of tea and dry off?"
    "Lady, don't you realize that we don't even have time to pull up our shorts?"
    "Pull up your shorts?"
    "YES, PULL UP OUR SHORTS!" I screamed at her and walked off into the wall of water.
  • “Look, you're small-town. I've had over 50 jobs, maybe a hundred. I've never stayed anywhere long. What I am trying to say is, there is a certain game played in offices all over America. The people are bored, they don't know what to do, so they play the office-romance game. Most of the time it means nothing but the passing of time. Sometimes they do manage to work off a screw or two on the side. But even then, it is just an offhand pasttime, like bowling or t.v. or a New Year's Eve party. You've got to understand that it doesn't mean anything and then you won't get hurt. Do you understand what I mean?"
  • "Fay had a spot of blood on the left side of her mouth and I took a wet cloth and wiped it off. Women were meant to suffer; no wonder they asked for constant declarations of love.”
  • "I squeezed Fay’s hand, kissed her on the forehead. She closed her eyes and seemed to sleep then. She was not a young woman. Maybe she hadn’t saved the world but she had made a major improvement. Ring one up for Fay."

Factotum (1975)[edit]

  • My ambition is handicapped by my laziness.
  • Frankly, I was horrified by life, at what a man had to do simply in order to eat, sleep, and keep himself clothed. So I stayed in bed and drank. When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.
  • "Baby," I said. "I'm a genius but nobody knows it but me."
  • "People don't need love. What they need is success in one form or another. It can be love but it needn't be."
  • "Every man is a poet"
  • "I'm no preacher but I can tell you this-the lives that people lead are driving them crazy and their insanity comes out in the way they drive."
  • That was all a man needed: hope. It was a lack of hope that discouraged a man. I remembered my New Orleans days, living on two five-cent candy bars a day for weeks at a time in order to have leisure to write. But starvation, unfortunately, didn't improve art. It only hindered it. A man's soul was rooted in his stomach. A man could write much better after eating a porterhouse steak and drinking a pint of whiskey than he could ever write after eating a nickel candy bar. The myth of the starving artist was a hoax.
  • It was true that I didn't have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?

Women (1978)[edit]

  • I was glad I wasn't in love, that I wasn't happy with the world. I like being at odds with everything. People in love often become edgy, dangerous. They lose their sense of perspective. They lose their sense of humor. They become nervous, psychotic bores. They even become killers.
  • Human relationships didn't work anyhow. Only the first two weeks had any zing, then the participants lost their interest. Masks dropped away and real people began to appear: cranks, imbeciles, the demented, the vengeful, sadists, killers. Modern society had created its own kind and they feasted on each other. It was a duel to the death--in a cesspool.
  • People with no morals often considered themselves more free, but mostly they lacked the ability to feel hate or love.
  • Morals were restrictive, but they were grounded on human experience.
  • Many a good man has been put under the bridge by a woman.
  • Once a woman turns against you, forget it. They can love you, then something turns in them. They can watch you dying in a gutter, run over by a car, and they'll spit on you.
  • I was drawn to all the wrong things: I liked to drink, I was lazy, I didn't have a god, politics, ideas, ideals. I was settled into nothingness; a kind of non-being, and I accepted it. I didn't make for an interesting person. I didn't want to be interesting, it was too hard. What I really wanted was only a soft, hazy space to live in, and to be left alone. On the other hand, when I got drunk I screamed, went crazy, got all out of hand. One kind of behavior didn't fit the other. I didn't care.
  • Nothing was ever in tune. People just blindly grabbed at whatever there was: communism, health foods, zen, surfing, ballet, hypnotism, group encounters, orgies, biking, herbs, Catholicism, weight-lifting, travel, withdrawal, vegetarianism, India, painting, writing, sculpting, composing, conducting, backpacking, yoga, copulating, gambling, drinking, hanging around, frozen yogurt, Beethoven, Bach, Buddha, Christ, TM, H, carrot juice, suicide, handmade suits, jet travel, New York City, and then it all evaporated and fell apart. People had to find things to do while waiting to die. I guess it was nice to have a choice.

Ham On Rye (1982)[edit]

  • And my own affairs were as bad, as dismal, as the day I had been born. The only difference was that now I could drink now and then, though never often enough. Drink was the only thing that kept a man from feeling forever stunned and useless. Everything else just kept picking and picking, hacking away. And nothing was interesting, nothing. The people were restrictive and careful, all alike. And I've got to live with these fuckers for the rest of my life, I thought. God, they all had assholes and sexual organs and their mouths and their armpits. They shit and they chattered and they were dull as horse dung. The girls looked good from a distance, the sun shining through their dresses, their hair. But get up close and listen to their minds running out of their mouths, you felt like digging in under a hill and hiding out with a tommy-gun. I would certainly never be able to be happy, to get married, I could never have children. Hell, I couldn't even get a job as a dishwasher.
  • The problem was you had to keep choosing between one evil or another, and no matter what you chose, they sliced a little more off you, until there was nothing left. At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole goddamned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves. I had no interests. I had no interest in anything. I had no idea how I was going to escape. At least the others had some taste for life. They seemed to understand something that I didn't understand. Maybe I was lacking. It was possible. I often felt inferior. I just wanted to get away from them. But there was no place to go.

The Last Night of the Earth Poems (1992)[edit]

  • on the radio I heard the news
    of that day
    at least 6 times, I was
    well versed in world
    the remainder of the stations played a
    thin, sick music.
    the classical stations refused to come in
    and when they did
    it was a stale repetition of standard and
    tiresome works.

    I turned the radio off.
    a strange whirling began in my
    head—it circled behind the forehead, clockwise...
    I began to wonder, is this what happens
    when one goes
    • "jam"
  • I was still proud of that moment
    back then
    when Jed handed me
    that pint
    I drained
    a third of it
    with all the disciples
    damn, there was no way
    it seemed
    we could ever
    but we did.

    and it took me
    3 or 4 decades to
    move on just a
    and Jed,
    if you are still here
    (I forgot to tell you
    here's a thanks
    for that drink.
    • "two toughs"
  • there's a bluebird in my heart that
    wants to get out
    but I'm too tough for him,
    I say, stay in there, I'm not going
    to let anybody see you.
    ...I only let him out
    at night sometimes
    when everybody's asleep.
    ...he's singing a little
    in there, I haven't quite let him
    ...and it's nice enough to
    make a man
    weep, but I don't
    • Bluebird
  • a woman can
    out of your
    life and
    forget you
    real fast.
    a woman
    can't go anywhere
    but UP
    leaving you,
    • "pulled down shade"
  • there were these people
    on the ground,
    they were reaching up their
    arms and trying to pull me
    they couldn't do

    I felt like pissing on
    they were so
    all they had to do was
    to work their way
    slowly up to it
    as I had

    such people think
    success grows on

    you and I,
    we know
    • "transport"

The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship (1998)[edit]

  • There's nothing to mourn about death any more than there is to mourn about the growing of a flower. What is terrible is not death but the lives people live or don't live up until their death. They don't honor their own lives, they piss on their lives. They shit them away. Dumb fuckers. They concentrate too much on fucking, movies, money, family, fucking. Their minds are full of cotton. They swallow God without thinking, they swallow country without thinking. Soon they forget how to think, they let others think for them. Their brains are stuffed with cotton. They look ugly, they talk ugly, they walk ugly. Play them the great music of the centuries and they can't hear it. Most people's deaths are a sham. There's nothing left to die.
  • We're all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.


  • LSD, yeah, the big parade – everybody's doin' it now. Take LSD, then you are a poet, an intellectual. What a sick mob. I am building a machine gun in my closet now to take out as many of them as I can before they get me.
    • in a letter to Steven Richmond (Published in Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life by Howard Sounes)
  • ... don't wait for the good woman. She doesn't exist. There are women who can make you feel more with their bodies and their souls but these are the exact women who will turn the knife into you right in front of the crowd. Of course, I expect this, but the knife still cuts. The female loves to play man against man, and if she is in a position to do it there is not one who will not resist. The male, for all his bravado and exploration, is the loyal one, the one who generally feels love. The female is skilled at betrayal. and torture and damnation. Never envy a man his lady. Behind it all lays a living hell.
    • in a letter to Steven Richmond (Published in Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life by Howard Sounes)


  • I think that everything should be made available to everybody, and I mean LSD, cocaine, codeine, grass, opium, the works. Nothing on earth available to any man should be confiscated and made unlawful by other men in more seemingly powerful and advantageous positions. More often than not Democratic Law works to the advantage of the few even though the many have voted; this, of course, is because the few have told them how to vote. I grow tired of 18th century moralities in a 20th century space-atomic age. If I want to kill myself I feel that should be my business. If I go out and hold up gas stations at night to pay for my supply it is because the law inflates a very cheap thing into an escalated war against my nerves and my soul.
    • "This Floundering Old Bastard is the Best Damn Poet in Town", interview by John Thomas, in LA Free Press (1967)
  • If I'm an ass, I should say so. If I don't, somebody else will. If I say it first, that disarms them.
    • Interview with Robert Wennersten (1974)
  • "For those who believe in God, most of the big questions are answered. But for those of us who can't readily accept the God formula, the big answers don't remain stonewritten. We adjust to new conditions and discoveries. We are pliable. Love need not be a command or faith a dictum. I am my own God. We are here to unlearn the teachings of the church, state and our educational system. We are here to drink beer. We are here to kill war. We are here to laugh at the odds and live our lives so well that Death will tremble to take us."
    • "The Meaning of Life: The Big Picture", Life Magazine (December 1988)
  • I found out that Hollywood is more crooked, dumber, crueler, stupider than all the books I've read about it. They didn't go deeply enough into how it lacks art, and soul, and heart— how it's really a piece of crap. There are too many hands directing, there're too many fingers in the pot, and they're all kind of ignorant about what they're doing. They're greedy, and they're vicious. So you don't get much of a movie.

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