Prices of rare Buk material (1 Viewer)

Please forgive the duplication of this, a portion of a post I just made that was buried at the end of an old thread. I'd like to get as many thoughts on the following as possible.

Before I start, however, I know there are many of you put off by the prices asked for some Bukowski material. I can share your frustration at not being able to acquire everthing I covet, but I frankly don't understand the thought process leading to such anger. First, and let's be clear that there is no real doubt about this, Bukowski liked money. Alot. I'm not saying he was a pig, but he actively enjoyed his success beyond (i'd say above and beyond) the satisfaction of being one. Second, no one is taking his words away from you. Virtually everything is still in print. Were he alive today, I suspect he would oppose the reprinting of virtually nothing, provided he was duly compensated.

He comes the dupilicative part:

I speak at length with those dealers in the trade for whom I have the most respect, John Martin, university curators (or whatever they're called), and just about anyone who will listen, about the true (monetary) value of Bukowski material, especially whe compared to the Big Three in 20th century american literary collecting: Hemingway, Faulkner and Fitzgerald (novelists all). Sometimes we throw in Whitman to have a poet present. I think I have finally come out believing what I state in the description I wrote for the copy of Genius of the Crowd I have for sale:

"Many view this poem, correctly in our view, as Bukowski's most substantial. We'd go on to say that it is truly a beautiful piece of poetry by ANY standard and, together with works such as "Ham on Rye", may launch Buk into the rarified pantheon of great American authors inhabited by Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. Perhaps the earlier Buk periodical offprints, Signatures 1 and 2, are of discernably greater rarity, but rarity doesn't equate to importance or value. There are at least five times the number of copies of Hemingway's "Three Stories and Ten Poems" (each at $50,000+) on the market for every copy of "Genius", and this ratio is only likely to increase. Bukowski already outsells all three of the above-mentioned authors collectively on a worldwide basis. We suspect he outsells each individually here on their home turf."

In other words, Buk's contribution to his respective artforms was SUBSTANTIAL. The fact that he appeals to "knuckleheads" like us who in large measure (please, I realize there are many of you who don't share the following generalization to some extent or another) couldn't give a shit about Faulkner, can't read Pynchon, won't read Joyce, and aren't scared by the word "cunt", does not minimize this fact.

Thoughts?
 

bospress.net

www.bospress.net
Hi Andrew,
I'm not sure who it is that is angry about your prices. I suspect that you are referring to private meassages that some people may have sent? I do believe that your prices are high, but that is not a bad thing. If you are selling them, then they are priced correctly. The term that I use "HIGH", refers to my ability to buy these. A copy of Genius of the crowd would be "HIGH" for many folks, even at $1000, which would be a STEAL. The fact is that if you are selling a book, which is by far the nicest copy out there, then high is relative.

Personally, I am not angry about prices. I wish that I could afford them. If people are angry about the fact that rare books are not cheap, then that seems like an issue with them, as that anger is completely misplaced.

I suspect that some people that read Bukowski (especially if they only read bukowkski novels (and the "Notes" columns), which don't touch much on his life AFTER he had real financial success) think that he lived his entire life dirt poor, sleeping in gutters, etc. All the stuff that the person with only a basic knowledge of the subject would know. To those people, booksellers selling the "poet of skid row's" books for thousands of dollars seems at odds with him. In fact, as you pointed out, they are wrong. Bukowski, as with most authors, would certainly prefer that their books were highly coveted and PRICED. I would suspect that Bukowski would probably be a bit put off if there was no collector interest in his books and they were selling for dollars and not thousands of dollars. he knew and was not opposed to his value of his books.

And you are right about availability. Almost every poem that is in every early chapbook that sells for thousands of dollars is easily available in trade editions currently published by Ecco. The words are there for everyone to read.
 

cirerita

Founding member
angry? why? I see no reason at all. You can price your books as high as you want. It's a BUSINESS, isn't it?

for anyone wanting to READ the words, the paperback editions are pretty cheap or they can imitate Bukowski and read them in the libraries.
 
Hi Andrew,
I'm not sure who it is that is angry about your prices. I suspect that you are referring to private meassages that some people may have sent? I do believe that your prices are high, but that is not a bad thing. If you are selling them, then they are priced correctly. The term that I use "HIGH", refers to my ability to buy these. A copy of Genius of the crowd would be "HIGH" for many folks, even at $1000, which would be a STEAL. The fact is that if you are selling a book, which is by far the nicest copy out there, then high is relative.

Bill,

I thank you for your thoughtful reply.

I really didn't mean to focus on my pricing, but rather where people believe Bukowski belongs in a "historical" perspective. Can I implore you to weigh in again?
 

mjp

Founding member
I think comparing Bukowski to the likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner is pointless. Not because he's not on their level where writing skill is concerned, but because in America no one who wrote like Bukowski will ever be considered a serious addition to the list of "Great American Writers."

A populist writer of the 20's or the 40's is a much different animal than a populist writer of the 60's or 70's. A lot changed in society, and the popular culture changed dramatically. If you got into your time machine and put Post Office or Ham On Rye onto a library shelf during Faulkner's heyday and some 15 year old stumbled across it, the town would probably lose it's collective mind and burn a witch or something. So comparing Bukowski to Faulkner is kind of like comparing Faulkner to Plato. Bukowski and the "big three" are great in completely different realms. That's my take, anyway.

The types who care about such things as Great American Writers seem to draw a thick line between Bukowski and likes of Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner. Unless a scholar somewhere unearths some lost Fitzgerald works that describe beer shits or accidentally butt fucking his male friend, that sort of subject matter remains the realm of Bukowski, and that's what will forever relegate him to the literary ghetto (a.k.a. writers whose work people actually read).

Yes, I know Bukowski wrote about more than whores and beer and shit. He wrote as beautifully and insightfully as any American writer ever has. But he included the coarse right next to the transcendent, and that's something that a lot of people will never be able to reconcile.

If you think I'm mistaken about America, don't forget that the fleeting sight of a woman's breast during a Super Bowl halftime show threw this country into a tizzy and a year long discussion of morality. We, as a country, are not that far removed from the Plymouth Rock puritans who decided this would be a good place to live 400 years ago. In other words, huge portions of society (and virtually all of it's politicians) continue to live by an illusionary moral code that has been held in place for centuries by fear, hypocrisy and self-delusion.

Look ma, I'm rambling again!

Anyway, the monetary value of something is rarely related to it's actual worth. Hemingway's Three Stories and Ten Poems is $50,000 partly because Hemingway is a bigger star than Bukowski. Plain and simple. He has better name recognition. And that's what's important, here and most everywhere else. That level of "fame" typically means that general book collectors, outside of those who specifically collect Hemingway, want to own his books.

The fact that Black Sparrow manufactured "rarities" just muddies the waters. Bukowski has more "rare" titles than Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Faulkner combined. If you remove the Black Sparrow limited editions from the picture I think you get a more realistic picture of the market for rare Bukowski books.

The early chapbooks were very small runs, and they are scarce, so they are expensive. But something like It Catches - and remember that there are only about 700 of those - is relatively cheap and very easy to find. To me, that suggests that there is a pretty small pool of Bukowski collectors out there, which would tend to keep prices lower than those of the more well known, or socially acceptable, authors.

But what do I know, everything I just typed could be wrong. ;)
 
To me, that suggests that there is a pretty small pool of Bukowski collectors out there, which would tend to keep prices lower than those of the more well known, or socially acceptable, authors.

This is the most salient point of your ramble. It's going to be a very long time until the population seeking Bukowski rarities approaches that of a Hem or FitzG. There is a concentrated, passionate group of individuals who are willing (and able) to pull the trigger on the big ticket Bukowski rarities. The pool for the other wags is worldwide. Literary merit has little or nothing to do with it.
 
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nymark and mjp, thanks for your thoughts. I honestly haven't made up my mind where Hank fits in (other than, of course, he doesn't really "fit in" anywhere).

Short aside:

When I first read HST's Great Shark Hunt, well before I knew modern books were collected, I used to think that here's a guy who has given a true gift to consumers of journalism. I just figured that America didn't give a shit. By the time he died, it had been almost 20 years since I gave a shit about much of anything he said. But when he died, ALL respectable media gave him the most serious of props. Jim Lehrer News Hour spent 20 minutes on the evil fucker. Just made me think that real contributions to art are often recognized and valued more than expected by those who actively appreciate it contemporaneously.
 

zoom man

Founding member
It's going to be a very long time until the population seeking Bukowski rarities approaches that of a Hem or FitzG.

And once it does
I bet a forum like this would become unmanageable...

There can't possibly be any site
Dedicated to FitzG or Papa Hemingway
Comparable to our 'little' (almost 1,000 members already!) group here,
Is there?
 
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mjp

Founding member
Well that's interesting, because I think the people who are into Bukowski are much more passionate about him than those who is into the "big three" types. Having said that, I'm sure there's a forum for everyone out there somewhere. ;)
 

ROC

It is what it is
An outsiders perspective

I say an outsider's perspective because I feel that the geographical and cultural distance between the US and Australia is substantial.
I should make it clear from the outset that I don't claim to be speaking for anyone else here, Australian, European or otherwise. But perhaps our largely European heritage means we do see things a little differently. I would invite others to weigh in on this point.

These ramblings are just the result of some random neurons firing - too much spare time - and are just in relation to poetry.
The relationship between Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald and Bukowski seems too bleeding obvious to worry about.

I see Bukowski as a very logical station on a long line of writers stretching back well past Whitman.

All through the history of US verse we witness the gradual loosening of the line, the application of the vernacular, observations of the mundane and the growing emphasis on the autobiographical stance.

In the 1600s Anne Bradstreet wrote;
"Thou ill-form'd offspring of my feeble brain,
Who after birth did'st by my side remain"

She is "talking to' her book. Her creative output is treated as a bastard child.

Put her in a time capsule and she is saying;
"These retarded thoughts
from my fucked up mind,
Refuse to leave me in peace".

Sure, this is a reach. But there is then less distance between Thoreau's 1800s declaration that;
"I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
Methinks,
For milder weather"

The theme is pure Americana. Alienation, separation from the masses, somehow displaying strength through the proclamation (recognition?) of weaknesses. The weakness of being all too human in an imperfect world.
His closing stanza speaks directly to my point;

"That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,
More fruits and fairer flowers,
Will bear,
While I droop here."

The "more fruits and fairer flowers' in "freer air' is the poet of tomorrow, the man of tomorrow speaking with greater clarity and wisdom in a more humane world - wishful thinking?
The Whitman connection has been beaten to death and does not need repeating here.

Humor has always been a legitimate tool in verse, profanity too. Bukowski was never afraid to portray himself as silly or to subvert the grandiose tradition of Poetry.

"When he killed the noble Mudjokivis.
Of the skin he made him mittens,
Made them with the fur side inside,
Made them with the skin side outside.
He, to get the warm side inside,
Put the inside skin side outside.
He, to get the cold side outside,
Put the warm side fur side inside.
That's why he put the fur side inside,
Why he put the skin side outside,
Why he turned them inside outside."

Not Buk of course, not even e.e. Cummings but George Strong from over 100 years ago.

By the time we are reading William Carlos Williams we are only one or two stops away from Buk station. There is some beautiful scenery along the way, but we don't change course or cross borders. Pound, Jeffers, Elliot, and Cummings the obvious highlights along the way.
In light of the environmental conditions - the depression, two world wars, civil rights, hippies, the sixties in general, an exploding middle class - a Bukowski seems inevitable.

What I'm really worried about is what comes next?!
 
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Now the guy from Germany *haha*: You're right, mjp, that US-society is lost in prudery. Especially, it is much more so than was in the 60s (when it wasn'T). This goes for Germany as well, btw. So, Western society in general seems to go backwards in terms of personal freedom the last decades.
Anyway, I do think, you can compare Buk with, say, Faulk or Hem, as you CAN compare Plato with Faulk. (In fact you can compare EVERYTHING, b/c doing so doesn't say anything about the result, which may be, they have nothing in common.)

I'd go with Roc, seeing "Bukowski as a very logical station on a long line of writers stretching back well past Whitman".

And although cirerita is right "it's too soon to place B in any historical perspective" (the reason is, that 'historical perspective' is per definition related to a longer past), I'd say, Buk has his place in the history of literature saved already. The Huntington-donation is only one step into the direction and more will follow.

The history of canonic writers always showed, there are sometimes fully accepted ones in the canon who may leave someday forever, as well as some get into it only after a very long time of being ignored, as well as some being in it from the beginning and ever since. So a forecast on this matter is more like a bet on horses than a balancing of weights. But we all know someone who was very good at betting the horses and having learned something from him, I'd do ANY bet for Buks immortal place in literary-history. And he deserves it.

Besides, Plato and Shakespeare (to name only two) write also about homosexual intercourse - and both not in an 'accidental' way. Both also wrote about boozing. And both will stay in the literary canon FOREVER. (any bet against that?)

Last year I held an address at the Schopenhauer-Society in Frankfurt about parallels between Bukowski, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. And everybody of these staid old philosophy admirers were totally One with my argument, that both, Nietzsche and Schopenhauer, in their own times were not less unconventional, even raffish, than Buk was in his time. And they made it into the canon too.

All these are just a few examples that come to mind. I'm way sure, all of you know of many more. So, yeah, I'd say Buk has proofed something already. (What other author can say of himself, that only 10 years after his death there were ca 10 biographies on him around?) Oh, I have to stop now or I'll never end this ...
 

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