There's a story that's circulated on the web about Bukowski exaggerating his life as a wino. and it claims he "borrowed" some of the experiences he wrote about from a real life wino/hobo/homeless guy. I don't have a link, but people here probably know what I'm referring to. I don't know if there's any truth to that claim about borrowed experiences. Even if there is, I say so what -- he was turning life (his, anyone's) into art, great art.
If you have a copy of The Charles Bukowski Tapes, you'll want to watch #38, "Red Strange", where Bukowski explains who Red was, and how he influenced Bukowski. Actually, you can watch this on Google Video:
I agree, it really doesn't make too much of a difference. Suppose that's why I called it minutiae.
For myself, I believe literature at its highest level is something akin to Super-Empathy, and that the best parts of it take place (by either reader or writer because we must believe they meld into one entity at some point) within this mindset of empathy.
So the real question for me isn't whether Buk "stole lives" to make them his own but if he was truly empathetic while doing so.
The proof is in the pudding. It seems Buk succeeded.... And to continue this circular reasoning....succeeded at being homeless too.