barry miles' Buk bio

Bukfan

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I'm glad to hear you agree! Yes, reading Miles'book after Sounes', as most of us did, is a bit of a disappointment. I would recommend Sounes'book, and when you have read it you won't need to read Miles'book too. It's better to read Neeli Cherkovski's Buk bio instead, I think...
 
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hoochmonkey9

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New York Times review of the Miles book.

didn't like the book, but seems pro Bukowski (what? the New York Times pro Bukowski!)
 

mjp

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It is very pro-Bukowski. But:

Bukowski's [...] poems and stories, barren of metaphor...

maybe some day someone who actually understands his work will write one of these mainstream outlet pieces. I don't know if barren is quite accurate.

I just wonder what Sam Hall and pigmantoo think.
 
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bospress.net

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I just wonder what Sam Hall and pigmantoo think.
I'm sure that Sam Hall thinks that Buke does not write enough rhymers about jesus nearly enough and pigmantoo believes that everybody gota die someday.

Bill
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
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I did'nt care for Miles'book either, and neither does Ron Powers in his review:

Miles is too often content to let the writer's work stand for the historic record.
Miles leaves most of this material unexamined.
This passive approach to fact-gathering can pose a problem...
This ambiguity, however, seeps into Miles's account: he rarely seems to know, or very much care, whether a given incident is fact or fantasy.
 
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zenguru

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I've read Miles' bio of Buk and enjoyed it. It does well as an introduction to Buk's life. But Sounes' book is apparently more in-depth, I hear. So if I come across that, I'm gonna pick it up and compare the two. That's probably the best way to go about it. Yes? No?
 

Olaf

Over 100 posts
bukowski used millions of metaphors in some of the most surprising and subtle ways. really pisses me off people constantly repeat he didn't use them. ya know, he used metaphor, simile. all the time.
 

Bukfan

"The law is wrong; I am right"
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I've read Miles' bio of Buk and enjoyed it. It does well as an introduction to Buk's life. But Sounes' book is apparently more in-depth, I hear. So if I come across that, I'm gonna pick it up and compare the two. That's probably the best way to go about it. Yes? No?
Yes, Sounes'book is much better. Most of us can agree on that. Sounes talked to a bunch of people who knew Buk and dug up some new information. Miles on the other hand, seems to rely too much on Buk's poetry in comparison.
 
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zenguru

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I've never heard a bad thing about Sounes' book, so I'm eager to read it. And although I enjoyed Miles' book very much, I'm intrigued to hear why people think it was not as good.
 

Ponder

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zenguru; when I read the bio "Hank" in 1991? I was thrilled and I liked the book very much. But in the 90ties there was no comparisons material yet.
There is another thread somewhere where we discuss the "bio-memoires".
Some of them are really good.

Oh, I found the thread: https://bukowskiforum.com/threads/best-buk-bio-s.2228/
 

zenguru

Over 500 posts
Thanks, Ponder! I just glanced through that thread. Never heard of a bio by Cherkovski either. Next time I go online shopping, I'm tracking down Sounes.
 
Barry Miles' book is the worst bio I've read of Bukowski. Thankfully I picked it up at the library. Miles calls "Fire Station" a short story and references the Bukowski poem about showering with Linda King as a poem about Linda Lee. No way am I an expert on the particulars of Bukowski's work and life, but if glaring errors like these are popping up, I can only wonder about the factual errors that fly by me. The book is a real tired enterprise - a piece of shit.
 
I've read several Barry Miles books, William Burroughs, Jack Kerouac , Allen Ginsburg etc...
And they all read like reference books. Nothing you didn't already know.
Howard Sounes book is a great read ;
However I think his Dylan book leaves a lot to be desired..
 

BukFan Brad

Over 100 posts
I love Barry Miles book on Burroughs and his 'Beat Hotel' is another great read. But, from what I've read, the best Buk biography so far that I've read is the Sounes one.
 

Dora

Over 100 posts
Thing is, there's no such a thing as "evidence" when it comes to the 30s, 40s, and early 50s, save a few letters -and B. could be contradictory in his letters!- and very few surviving documents re. his birth, marriage, etc. Those are the "unverifiable" years. If someone wrote a biography using factual evidence, the 1920-1958 period would not amount to more than 15-20 pages, and there would be quite a bit of "gloss" in those 15-20 pages.
Cicerita I am currently writing on the biographies and I also had to say that there is hardly any evidence left from these years - actually, Sounes also had to rely on Ham on Rye for accounts of Bukowski's childhood.

But we have Ben Pleasants' memoirs, and apparently he was the only person who found track of two of Bukowski's childhood friends: Mullinax ("Baldy") in the 1970's and Harold Mortensen after Buk's death("Abe Mortensen" in the novel). Those two told some very different stories about Bukowski, and when Pleasants wanted to confront Mullinax with Bukowski, the latter refused, and flatly denied what Mullinax said about him.

What I found most interesting in Pleasants' reaction after meeting Mullinax. He says that was why he gave up on writing a biography of Bukowski, because he realized it would be impossible to find "the truth" about Bukowski's childhood, since there were so many contradictions between what Buk said and what Mullinax said -and it turned out there were probably more lies when Pleasants met Mortensen.
So from wanting to be the official biographer of Bukowski, Pleasants ended writing a dual memoir. I think that's interesting, and raises the question of the impossibility of a truthful biography -at least for that period.

And like everyone here, I usually only rely on the bukowski.net timeline :DD
 

mjp

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But we have Ben Pleasants' memoirs...
No, no, no, no and no.

Pleasants seemed pretty clearly biased - and borderline insane, if I may say so (and I may, because he's quite dead). I don't think any other "biographer" ever came to the table with more personal grudges and biases than Pleasants had. That makes me take everything he wrote with a barrel of salt.
 

Dora

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I'm very grateful that you're telling me this. I will have to mention that "memoir" anyway so do you have any source I can quote to prove that he had strong biases?
 

mjp

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I do not have any academic source, all I have is common sense. Sorry.
 

Dora

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That's fine. I trust your judgement more than anyone with things regarding Bukowski. I meant "source" in the broad sense, because I first thought you knew Pleasants when he was alive.
I was never interested in writing about the Bukowski memoirs and biographies, but realized only recently that I would have to. So because of the rush, I probably didn't notice what seemed obvious to you (although it's true his insistence on Bukowski's nazism did sound very strange).

Now that I think of it, when he said that he was supposed to be Bukowski's biographer with his benediction, for some reason it screamed "BS Alert" to me.
 
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Purple Stickpin

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I'm very grateful that you're telling me this. I will have to mention that "memoir" anyway so do you have any source I can quote to prove that he had strong biases?
One of the nice things about writing a dissertation on Bukowski and his writing is that you don't need to necessarily prove/disprove anything. But as you note, you sensed the BS factor. Go through Pleasant's bio a bit and then read what Buk had to say on the same subject. All you need are a few examples to opine that, while the book is out there, it shouldn't necessarily be taken as absolute truth. You don't need to disprove anything; you only need cast some doubt and then decide to draw your conclusions from other sources.

By the way, I'm not trying to tell you what to conclude, but if you do sense that the Pleasant's bio is a barrel of crap (*cough* - as you should :wb: ), then there are low-legwork ways of acknowledging it yet more or less dismissing it). I actually got rid of this book a number of years ago; I got tired of the hyperbole less than halfway in. That in and of itself isn't any reason to discredit it, but I got the sense that Buk's life was interesting enough on its own, but for some reason, Pleasants seemed to need to introduce conclusions about someone that went to great lengths to avoid conclusions being made about himself.
 
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Dora

Over 100 posts
You're absolutely right. Giving just one or two elements that prove that Pleasants is unreliable is amply enough. I am actually more interested in the why and how of the biographies than their content- and the fact that there is always an element of doubt.
And *even if* Pleasants was reliable, what he says still confirms the fact that Bukowski's childhood remains "unverifiable". So we end up with an author who, as you rightly say,
went to great lengths to avoid conclusions being made about himself.
and on top of that you add "biographers" who may have strong personal bias or worse. :rollfool:

Do you know by the way where to find a reliable bio of Pleasants? I don't trust the obituary :/
 

roni

Over 5000 posts
Dora, it's very important to know, that Bukowski and Pleasants had a serious fall-out with each other long ago (the early 80s as I seem to remember).

Gerald Locklin once (2004?) wrote in an email - not verbatim but from my mind - that he "would take whatever one of them [Pleasants as well as Bukowski] says about the other with a great deal of caution". I can look up the exact quote if you need it.

Pleasants was usually trying to sell his Nazi-claims on the basis of sound-recordings, he claimed to have, where Bukowski himself declares himself a Nazi. To my knowledge, none of these recording-tapes have ever been checked by anyone or even surfaced.

I definitely remember, that we had large discussions on the subject here at the time, when Pleasants came out with his book. Many valid points have been made.

I can also offer, to send you the chapter about the issue from my own Bukowski-biography, which never got finished. That text is in German, though, but I know that you know some German.
 

BukFan Brad

Over 100 posts
Bukowski did go to Nazi gatherings (he said this himself), but claimed that he only went there to drink the free beer on offer.

At around the same time, I remember reading one experience where he went out in a rowboat with 2 other guys one night, I think one was a Nazi, and one of them pulled out a gun and shot a hole in the bottom of the boat and the boat sank and they all had to swim back.
 
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roni

Over 5000 posts
Brad: The whole subject is pretty complex and has many factors, like Bukowski's German descent and how Germans have been treated in the US in the 20s and 30s.

The discussion, as it went some yeras ago, wasn't about the fact that he occasionally attended Nazi-gatherings during his student-years, but the question whether he was standing behind the ideology. What Pleasants claims in his book is that he did.
 

BukFan Brad

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I don't think he had a nazi ideology, he seemed more to think of Germany as the place of his birth and liked the culture, music, etc.
 

roni

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right, Brad, that's what most of us think.

Only after Pleasants came up with his book and serious claims, it wasn't possible to ignore. We had to deal with it, work on each of his arguments, check them, value them, etc.

In Germany, where we have a special sensibility for such things, we even had a hard and fighting discussion at one of our symposiums back then.
 

BukFan Brad

Over 100 posts
Buk, like Celine, was not Nazi material - he was too much of an individualist.

Is 'Mein Kampf' still outlawed in Germany?
 
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