City Lights Strikes Again: New Buk Collection for 2010 - Absence of the Hero (1 Viewer)

Hello friends:

This is Garrett Caples, editor here at City Lights. I'm extremely pleased to announced that, based on the success of Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook, City Lights will publish a second book of uncollected/unpublished Bukowski stories and essays, in the Spring of 2010. As ever, I wanted you guys to be the first to know.

The new collection is called Absence of the Hero and it is filled with various goodies. There's around five of his earliest published stories, including "Cacoethes Scribendi" (about which I saw some scuttlebutt on a thread below), a couple of unpublished essays, and at least four unpublished stories ("The Invader," "Christ with BBQ Sauce," "Absence of the Hero," and "The Bully") possibly 1 or 2 more. There's more uncollected Dirty Old Man columns and some high-quality short fiction like "Vern's Wife," "Cat in the Closet," "The Gambler," "The Ladies Man of East Hollywood," "Fly the Friendly Skies," and many more. A couple of classic stories of his public performances ("The Big Dope Reading," "I Just Write Poetry So I Can Go to Bed with Girls") and much else.

I feel like this book is easily as good as Portions. What it lacks in historical markers (first essay, first story, first Notes, etc. as in Portions) it makes up for in unpublished material.

I'll keep you all posted on developments; feel free to post any questions or comments about the new book!


Garrett Caples
City Lights Books
That's great news! I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks for keeping us informed, Garrett!
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Good news Garrett. Keep them coming. and I may as well be the first to ask... Hard Covers?
I was in City Lights and they still had some on the shelves, but hopefully they sold a TON of them.

Of course, Garrett, I'm always willing to bind in hardcovers; 1000 copies for you from the paperback copies. Just let me know!

Awesome news. I really enjoyed the Portions collection. It seems especially good as Ecco seems to have little interest in stories and non-fiction pieces... Can't wait!
If its nearly as good as Portions we're in for a treat.

By the way: you mention that Portions was successful, could you give us some details on how successful? How many copies have been sold so far.
Were the foreign sales good?
I at least got our local library here to order one!
It sounds like a good collection, although the title is a bit on the dull side. How about "Christ with BBQ Sauce"? Now that would leap off the shelf.
Rekrab, you stole the thoughts right outta my brain!!! if i saw a book titled "Christ with BBQ Sauce" on the shelf, i would just have to buy that!
To clarify, "Absence of the Hero" is a fine title for one piece but it's not strong enough to carry a whole collection. Not enough weight, no madness to it. It's a quiet, forgettable title. Just my dumb opinion.
Hey guys:

Just to let you know, there will be a limited edition hardcover of the book. We're not sure how many copies just yet. The collapse of the economy between the last volume and this one obviously affects the publishing industry like everything else--hence there are a few hardbacks of Portions left (note to collectors--snap 'em up). So there'll be a smaller run of the hardcover than for Portions.

Christ with BBQ Sauce is an excellent title, yes, but unfortunately not one that will get your book prominently displayed in a bookstore (which, if you intend to keep publishing books, is a factor).

To respond to Erik: I can't give out specific figures but I can say that it's been a very successful title for us. The foreign rights for the first book sold splendidly everywhere from Japan to Serbia. (In fact, as I was typing this, someone just handed me the Czech edition of Portions, which is the first foreign translation actually published so far--apparently my name in Czech is Garrettu Caplesovi.)

Right now it looks like the book is scheduled for April. It also looks like we'll be placing an unpublished piece in the March issue of Playboy, so again, collectors take note.

As an editor, I feel like this is a great collection; again, not as many historical milestones as Portions, but more unpublished material, so hopefully there's a lot here even for the assiduous collector.

Any more questions/comments, please post 'em and I'll try to get to them as soon as possible.


Limited edition HB is cool. Those of us that are fans/readers/collectors will snap them up. Maybe you can start holding copies? If so, please put me down for one. I know that you can get a bunch of reservations and even prepaid orders if you can guarantee us a copy...

Why not let us vote on the title? As long as we DON'T pick the BBQ sauce one? It would be non-binding, of course, but maybe we'd hit on a title that may work a little better....

Also, You guys sold a book that had "Erections, Ejaculations" in the title. Of course, it was a different time....

Bill: you read my mind on both points. "Christ with BBQ Sauce is an excellent title, yes, but unfortunately not one that will get your book prominently displayed in a bookstore..." makes a certain humdrum business sort of sense until you remember this is the company that once had the balls to publish "Erections, Ejaculations and General Tales of Ordinary Madness." Now which title will get a book displayed, and which will attract new readers to Bukowski? "Erections..." or "Absence..."? Has City Lights lost it's nerve? Won't a gutsy title sell these days?

I bet a vote of fans here would get less than 50% favoring "Absence of a Hero." That is simply a dull title.

Me too, I'll buy the hardcover.

Thanks, Garrett, for the news.
this thread is great. if i were a publishing exec, i would marvel at how garrett is "leveraging the assets of web 2.0" by taking advantage of a "ready-made focus group of core enthusiasts" and using it to "drive publicity and fuel development from inception to production."

nice work, i mean.
The true title is "Christ with Barbecue Sauce," and in the 1969-70 correspondence, B. said it was his best story in the last two years. No wonder Playboy rejected it :)

btw, the Huntington gardens are great, especially the Japanese and Chinese ones. And if you're a "Reader", they're free.
Hey guys:

Well, about that title: basically the goal is to find one of Buk's titles that will fit the whole collection. It was a little harder this time--Portions from a Wine-Stained Notebook suggested itself quite readily given the somewhat miscellaneous nature of the book. I thought it might be fun to use "I Only Write Poetry So I Can Go to Bed with Girls" except there's no poetry in the book and, let's face it, putting "poetry" in the title of a book is like tying a stone to it. Most people avoid poetry like the plague. (I'm a poet myself and edit volumes of poetry for City Lights, so this isn't an anti-poetry remark but simply a publishing one.) The titles were a bit recalcitrant on this one.

That said, as someone who admittedly knew little about Buk before becoming one his editors (a humbling experience to do something both John Martin and Ferlinghetti did), I do think Absence of the Hero captures something fundamental about his work. His anti-hero, warts and all, brutally honest, existential side. The "hero"--as the protagonist of fiction is often called--would seem to him a fraudulent concept. That, in any case, was our primary rationale.

All that said, it's a done deal as we've turned in all the basic info to the distributor.

As for Barbecued Christ--I was hoping Playboy would take that piece of the unpublished ones we sent them; it would have been great to get it in there as I understand that's where he wanted to place it. But they were interested in an essay ("House of Horrors").

So anyways, folks, please bear with the title as the book beneath is excellent, as good as Portions. Many of the pieces were originally slated for Portions but ended up getting bumped as more material surfaced (the volume's editor--I'm the press's editor--David Calonne kept turning up great uncollected pieces and I must point out the generous efforts of Abel Debritto, who's unearthed so many gems). So I'm thinking you'll be happy with the finished product.

This is turning into an essay so I'd better sign off, but again, fire away if there's anymore questions/concerns. Book should be available come April. When I'm at the City Lights office on Thursday, I'll check into the hardcover ordering situation.

All the best,
We all want what is best for Buk. I agree that the words on the inside are more inportant than the title. I also agree that the word "poetry" will not sell many books. Sad, but true...

Garrett: we're not trying to make life difficult for you. ABSENCE OF A HERO is a good title...for a short piece. For a book, it's a bit ponderous. But if it's too late, everything is already turned in, how about a limited run dust jacket for the hardcover that has an alternative title, CHRIST WITH BBQ SAUCE, and livelier art than the standard edition? I'm only guessing the art will match the title on ABSENCE and be on the tame side. Maybe the first 100 copies have the renegade dj and the rest say ABSENCE. Any which way, it's fantastic that the book is being published, and City Lights deserves a ton of credit for that. I'll buy no matter what it's called.
Hi David;
I'm not sure that you need to let it die. The fact is that we, on this forum, are into this more than most other Bukowski readers. In the end, we will all buy the book anyway (if they do a special limited edition, many of us will buy both editions!). They can't fault us for trying to add our two cents!


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