neeli cherkovski's buk bio

hoochmonkey9

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I read this one when it was called "Hank". Now I understand it was revised after Buk's death and is now titled "Bukowski: A Life."
Anyone out there know if the revisions are substantial? Is it worth picking up?I was left a bit cold when I read it originally, though not as cold as some. I liked Howard Sounes" bio, and loved his "Bukowski in Pictures."
 

mjp

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I think the revisions were just minor corrections of factual errors, but overall, yeah, the book was very disappointing. It was the first major biography, but it set a low standard that later bios easily exceeded.
 

Brother Schenker

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neeli choked

piece o' shit is what it was. thin on revelations, hardly a scrap of meat in it. even Buk thought it was shite. in a letter marked 11/20/91 8:51pm, to someone named Howington, buk wrote that he found the "writing awkward and unrelentingly dull", and, "it's a dirty trick against the reader and there's nothing i can do. Now. Regrets, plenty, Buk".

the thing is, it's like all he did was read the main bodies of Buk's work and then list Buk's life from birth to death. no in-depth interviewing with key figures in Buk's life. no real love & passion put into the project. not nearly enough detective work. seriously doubt he spent much time at the universities that hold collections of Buk stuff.

Sounes' book is much better...but, having perused some of the contents on this bukowski.net, i'd have to say that his book will eventually need revised, updated, or even bettered by someone else. the de-mythologizing process is not yet finished.

this site, bukowski.net, is clean and easy on the eyes. i like it very much. kudos to one & all who have made it happen and hopping. it's a fucken orgy of bukowski ephemera. totally useless information as far as the wife is concerned. won't help pay the bills. won't elevate one's soul. but fucken ay, i love it!:D
 

mjp

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Brother Schenker said:
the de-mythologizing process is not yet finished.
I think you're right about that. Most of the biographies have had a bit of a fanboy tinge to them. That or they were horribly dry and academic (Russell Harrison's book comes to mind).
this site, bukowski.net, is clean and easy on the eyes. i like it very much. kudos to one & all who have made it happen and hopping.
Easy on the eyes it was meant to be, so mission accomplished. Gracias. And it's people like you who keep it jumping, so keep throwing your opinions up against the wall.
 

hoochmonkey9

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mjp said:
I think you're right about that. Most of the biographies have had a bit of a fanboy tinge to them. That or they were horribly dry and academic (Russell Harrison's book comes to mind).
Yeah, that's the only book about Buk that I haven't been able to finish. Someday, maybe...
 

cirerita

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I certainly could do that, I even thought of assembling a documentary on B using all the videotaped interviews... but I have to finish the diss. first, and that will take some time.
 

HenryChinaski

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wow I didn't even think of that. I bet it would be quite accurate. you should look into that sometime in the future cirerita. I for one can honestly say that I would read it enthusiastically. and being on the subject of Buk bios, what are everybodies opinions on what the best one is? I myself havent read one yet. Maybe somebody good suggest a good one to start with.
 

hoochmonkey9

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HenryChinaski said:
and being on the subject of Buk bios, what are everybodies opinions on what the best one is? I myself havent read one yet. Maybe somebody good suggest a good one to start with.
The Howard sounes "Locked in the arms of a Crazy Life" is probably the best place to start. A good, well researched, level headed assessment.
Then the Steve Richmond "Spinning off Bukowski" one is a good read. Then some off the smaller memoirs are kind of intriguing "Bukowski in the Bathtub" by John Thomas, Jory Sherman's "Friendship,Fame and Bestial Myth" is slim but incisive. But, as said, these are mostly memoirs. Start with the Sounes.
 

Charlie

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cirerita said:
I certainly could do that, I even thought of assembling a documentary on B using all the videotaped interviews... but I have to finish the diss. first, and that will take some time.
How long have you been working on that dissertation, and how long is it now? I wish I could convince to say "fuck off" to the dissertation, but come to think of it, this dissertation will itself probably end up being your Buk bio!
 

cirerita

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I've been working on this for several years now, but never too regularly. I can't say something like: "I've been working on this for 5 years now", because most of the time I was doing something else and maybe devoting a few weeks to the diss. I know, that's a sin, you're supposed to devote the full year to it, but I do things my own way. So it's a long way yet...

Come to think of it, not that long, I remember I had to hand the dissertation back in 2002 because there was a deadline and I wrote 60 pages in 6 days. not too bad, huh? I mean, 60 academic -or kind of academic- pages, which are not as easy to write as 60 pages of ramblings on B. That's VERY easy.

a minor note: in the US a dissertation is understood as the PhD dissertation, but in the UK it's the "minor" one, the one you hand before the big one. In other words, I already handed the minor one -the dissertation- and now I'm working on the big one -the PhD dissertation or doctoral thesis.
 

Charlie

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Why are you not more known in the community of Buk, C? I mean, eventually you'll be pretty much a professor of Bukowski.
 

cirerita

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I hate the limelight, that's why. I've gotten invitations to talk about B in several places -even abroad- and I've turned all down.

I don't mind sharing this stuff in a forum, though. It's a really different arena.
 

cirerita

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Charlie,

Besides, I don't think I'll ever be a professor. I'm very happy as a translator: I work home, never get stuck in traffic jams, never get stressed, etc. I will never be rich this way, but... Being a professor would change that freedom for sure.

Anyway, when I'm done, we'll see what happens. There's also this chance to get a fellowship to teach English or Spanish abroad. That might be cool. Teaching Contemporary American Poetry in Berkeley or something. Time will tell.
 

poptop

Over 500 posts
I read this one when it was called "Hank". Now I understand it was revised after Buk's death and is now titled "Bukowski: A Life."
Anyone out there know if the revisions are substantial? Is it worth picking up?I was left a bit cold when I read it originally, though not as cold as some. I liked Howard Sounes" bio, and loved his "Bukowski in Pictures."
Crucifix of a Deaf Bio

According to my recollection of "Hank," which I read when it first came out, Neeli had over 40 or 50 hours worth of interviews with Buk. That's a hell of a lot of drinking, barfing and taping, and lord only knows what Neeli did with them, and what's still on them, that never got into the book. (I hope someday this treasure-trove of recollections will be made available, if not already.)

My main objection and disappointment is that I had a constant nagging thought in back of my mind that I would rather have been reading the transcriptions of the tapes themselves"”B's story in his own words"”rather than Neeli stepping down the feeling and tone and then interpreting in his words most everything B. said. This nagging thought remained throughout my entire reading of the book, and I concluded that Neeli was out of his league here. I would rather have read Neeli's own accounts of his experiences with B. and have that be his contribution to elucidate certain aspects of his life.

This process of "stepping down" is my main objection to many of the bios I've come across of authors of soaring talent and spirit. The biographer, out of unconscious envy or competitive spirit, ends up reducing the stature of these geniuses down to their own level of mediocrity, at least when compared to the level of genius they are trying to write about. That's why I prefer the version of these immortal writer's lives primarily from their own words and recollections, whether the "facts" are literally correct or not. Beyond a certain point, I'm not interested in a literal reality. It may get the facts right but it can lead to a misinterpretation of the subject's outlook, attitude and inner life going on at the time. (The same thing happened to Henry Miller when Jay Martin published his terrible bio, "Always Merry And Bright." It was so bad that Miller tried to block Martin personally and legally from publishing it, to no avail.)

Nevertheless, Buk and Neeli were friends and he felt that Neeli deserved a shot at writing the first bio"”or it wouldn't have happened"”and there are some Bukowski quotes in it that I've never seen anywhere else. So, it's not entirely without merit.

The bio also presents a useful overview of B's entire life as a starting point for those who haven't gleaned the gist of it from the original writings.

If Bukowski thought that even some of the so-called greatest writers and poets in history held little interest or magic (such as his complaints about Tolstoy), what is he likely to say about the literary efforts of these biographical attempts by friends? Not much.

Having said that, I still feel this is a disappointing work, though still worth reading, but Neeli was in over his head trying to write about a literary giant and make it interesting as only the subject could himself"”he did not have the background or experience to meet the challenge.

I may get around to glance at some of the other bios, though I have no burning desire to do so. I am enamored of first person narratives and I don't like my favorites watered down or being told what to believe about them. There's something beyond the literal words on the page that the reader can absorb from the original source. That's where the strength comes from reading them. You can make that essence a part of you even if you forget the words or never read them again, and I've never read a bio that could do that better than the writer him- or herself.

One reader's opinion.

Poptop
 
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ROC

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Hello all

This is my first post on this forum, but I feel like I know some of you already. Partly because we have transacted on eBay and partly because, by reading these threads, I see we share the same mania.

I guess I wanted to write how much I agree with the above post from poptop - the essence of the writer is in the writing.
Of course a writer can be so much more or so much less than what his readers perceive. But the relationship (reader/writer) rarely transcends this distance and, if it does, the reader is no longer merely a reader.
Well...now I'm rambling.

What I wanted to add is that I too have read all the Buk bios and found some aspects of all mildly interesting but felt mostly let down.
Except for one (and it's not really a bio). Gay Brewers critical analysis of Bukowskis work is one of the only RE-readable books on the man.
The author has critical distance but clearly enjoys his subjects work. He shows respect in his evaluations but is never obsequious.

Most importantly, it pulls you back to the original works, giving you a renewed appreciation for Buks writing. And that's what matters most.

Yes?
 

cirerita

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Brewer's and Baughan's (with an intro by Brewer) are fine and share a similar approach: the academic vision is intertwined with B's life.
 

poptop

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Next after the first

Sounes' book is much better...but, having perused some of the contents on this bukowski.net, i'd have to say that his book will eventually need revised, updated, or even bettered by someone else. the de-mythologizing process is not yet finished.
Your write-up got me interested. This
will probably be the next one I read.

Poptop
 

ROC

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Over 1000 posts
The challange for any biographer of Bukowski is avoiding utter redundancy.
His poems and novels are so revealing of both the day-to-day man and his 'inner life' that most biograpies simply read like a synopsis - starting at Ham on Rye and ending with his 'deathbed poems'.
What really shits me are the multitude of 'me too!' books by people with some connection to the man - but nothing important to say - and worse - bad writers.
I believe Sounes fits in among the above - albeit with more altruistic intentions(?).
His one 'scoop' was the photo of Jane.
Perhaps the intimation that CB was not living as a bum for 10 years also (the photo of him with his M&D).
As all here are no doubt aware, one is better off reaching for books by the man rather than on the man.
Come to think of it, it really is hard for me to imagine a biography that would serve us well. There's just not that much more to say.
 

Bukfan

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What really shits me are the multitude of 'me too!' books by people with some connection to the man - but nothing important to say - and worse - bad writers.
I believe Sounes fits in among the above - albeit with more altruistic intentions(?).
His one 'scoop' was the photo of Jane.
Perhaps the intimation that CB was not living as a bum for 10 years also (the photo of him with his M&D).
I disagree. I think Sounes bio is the best so far (and he was not connected to Buk in any way). Miles bio is also quite good. There are info in it that does?nt appear in Sounes. Neeli?s bio may not rank among the best but it?s ok.
I haven?t read any of the "me too" books although I would like to read Locklin?s "A sure bet". Of course there?s a lot of those books on the market. Some people just want to cash in on their relationship with Buk, others are more sincere (I think). And as far as I?m concerned Sounes bio is a "real" bio and not a "me too" book...
 
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