Ten year drunk/on the bum - fact or fiction? (1 Viewer)


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You know, the more I work on the timeline the more I think Bukowski's "lost years" were more like a year and a half, maybe two. Between the FBI files and things he's said and written about, you can pretty much place him in specific places for all but a very short time.

He left Los Angeles City College in June of '41, and talked about being in a downtown Los Angeles bar when Pearl Harbor was attacked, which was in December of 1941. so I think we can place him on Longwood with his parents until at least 1942.

In '42 and '43 he obviously spent time in Philadelphia, but the FBI files say he worked a job there, so he wasn't just on the barstool every day at 6am, and he didn't sit on that Philadelphia barstool for ten years, or even three years (as I believe he claimed).

He talked about picking up a copy of Story magazine (Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip) in New York City, and that was published in the first couple months of 1944. In July of '44 the FBI arrested him on the draft charge, so we can assume he went back to Philadelphia after New York, since that's where he was arrested.

Then after the 17 days in prison he came back to Los Angeles and stayed (and worked) for 10 years, until the trip to Texas with Barbara Frye. After that, it's all Los Angeles, with the brief trips to see the Webbs, and later traveling to do readings.

When he came back to Los Angeles in 1944 (to his parents house), he may have spent more time in bars, but the "ten year drunk," and the idea that he traveled the country extensively "on the bum" are two more myths that I think can be put to rest.

He wrote specifically and often about Philadelphia, New Orleans, New Mexico and Texas. But we know he was in Texas with Barbara Frye only briefly, and New Orleans and New Mexico to visit the Webbs. That leaves Philadelphia and New York as the only places he really went on his own with no real destination or plan (that we know of).

He wrote and talked about the "tar paper shack" in Atlanta, but why nothing else specific in that area? How did he get from Atlanta to Philadelphia without any experiences to write about? Atlanta just seems too disconnected from the places that we know for sure he spent time in. He never wrote about any experiences in the states that surround Georgia; Alabama, the Carolinas, Tennessee...am I the only one who finds that odd?

One other thing - consider his work ethic. He put in 12 straight years at the post office, and wrote with a discipline that is undeniable. We also know that he was always worried about money...these things do not jive with a person who spends years laying around doing nothing.

So, yeah, I know, I've done too much typing here. And probably connected too many dots that can't really be proved with any certainty. But that timeline sort of puts things into a perspective that I haven't have before, and it's kind of interesting to look at his life laid out like that.
you might be certainly right in your conjectures... but, of all the people, you don't need me to dispell B's myths, do you? :D
I think that the Souns bio did a lot to dispel the myth of the 10-year drinking binge. Personally I don't care one way or the other. I enjoy his writing and that's where it ends for me. Is there a writer out there who has not stretched the truth or created a myth for himself? This is a common tool of the trade and I have no objections. It's the finished product that counts. For me.
I don't have any objections either. He could have made it all up, it wouldn't change anything for me. My experience reading it would still be the same.

His life is a big, interesting puzzle to me, and I have a character flaw that makes me need to fill in the blanks and make all the pieces fit. ;)
And I, for one, commend you for your efforts along these lines. You're doing the heavy lifting, and that makes it easier for the rest of us who are just as curious but don't have the resources available that you have garnered. Keep on keepin? on (as they say). By the by, I?m booked to go to the Huntington for the Buk reception on Sept. 20. I was the first to get on the list. I?ll try to pick up extra programs if there are those who would want copies of such.

Oh, do you have to RSVP to that thing? Gah.

I may go, depends on whether it's still 105 degrees every day in Pasadena in September. ;) I'm working out here and it's ridiculous, the heat. I don't know how people live here.
You can RSVP by email if you're in the area and want to go to the Huntington on September 20th.

Email Lisa Blackburn at: lblackburn (at) huntington.org

Send your name and address and let her know how many spots you need.
nymark said:
Is there a writer out there who has not stretched the truth or created a myth for himself? This is a common tool of the trade and I have no objections. It's the finished product that counts. For me.
Not just writers either. Haven't you ever told someone a story or anecdote and noticed that "what I just said was a bit more colorfully described than it actually happened?" I can even remember times when I've mixed two different stories into one, without thinking, especially after a couple of drinks. This is part of the art of oral storytelling. My mother has a load of standard stories from her life that she loves telling, and I've noticed that they have evolved over the years. While the main point remains. The same goes for Buk. You can study his main themes and see variations on them. But the man point remains. That also goes for the "10 year" drunk.

I personally am more impressed by the 10-year bout at the Post Office. Now that seems unbelievable to me! I would like to see his sick-leave record, if its stored anywhere...
I think overall his claims of a "ten year drunk" was a decade's worth of living in flophouses and spending alot of time alone with the shades pulled down. He was in a cocoon of introspection; probably spent more time drinking and sleeping and feeling sorry for himself than writing & barhopping. Heavy duty time of living through the proverbial dark night of the soul that most geniuses & amazing artists go through, and then come out of like weird-fantastic butterflies and begin to create their classics & legacy.

He may have used the phrase "ten year drunk" merely as a romantic way of saying he didn't do much writing and was hardly published. Sort of like saying he had been invisible & unproductive as a writer. And he probably DID do a helluva lot of drinking...made his stomach & ass bleed so much that he had to go to the emergency room...and once he got out, what did he do? He got down to business and began writing like a mutherfucker for the next 38 years.
This thread makes me think (unfortunately) of the recently dishonored James Frey and his book, A MILLION LITTLE PIECES. He made up a good story, published it as a "true memoir", and then got found out and shamed when the lie unraveled. The big difference between Frey's whopper about what a bad ass he was, and Buk's self-created myth of the 10 year drunk, etc., is that Buk had the wisdom to put his tall tales in the context of autobiographical fiction. Nobody really cares if "autobiographical fiction" is 99% true or 1% true, as long as it's a good story. Where Frey went astray -- tragically -- is in selling his story as fact when they wouldn't publish it as fiction. I cringed watching Oprah bitch slap him on tv. Of course, I'm not suggesting Frey has anything near Bukowski's genius or work ethic or endurance, just wondering if -- at some level -- it isn't all smoke and mirrors with even the best of artists. The clever ones know how to maintain the illusion is all. (Or, as usual, I could be full of shit on this.)
Frey also marketed his book as a "Self help" book of sorts. He was put on Oprah as an inspirational author. How he rose from addiction, etc. If the claims of addiction were made up, then what did he have? nothing? Just a poorly written piece of fiction by a man CRAVING attention. Why else would an addict go on Oprah? Even if Buk made every poem and story up, he was not being held out as a role model. At least not by his publisher, etc.

And... He would have never gone on Oprah.

Not to draw too much of a comparison but the Kerouac myth ignores his oedipal attachment to his mother.
Sure Jack would ride the trains but always return home to ma mere.
Perhaps there was more of a family tie than Buk wanted to admit.
Can't recall the citation but I do recall readng Buk asking parents to send money.
Can't see a man hating someone so much then ask them for anything.
Parental umbilical cords even those coated with barbed wire a a bitch to cut.
Similiar to as stated above I'd love the writing even if it all was a a lie-now that would be impressive.
James Frey's mistake was passing himself off as a "good" example of an addict overcoming and succeeding. Once that was disproved, he was finished.
(Forget his talent).

Buk never lied.

He spinned stories about drinking and mischief, but had NO MAGIC CURES FOR MADNESS OR ADDICTION OR ANYTHING and never pretended he had. Dr. Phil would have been disappointed....
good thing I didn't waste any time reading it, huh?
I loved it,...
The guy has a helluva talent for telling a story,
And what a story it is.
I don't care how much is fictionalized.

I can't imagine what this (was it the smoking gun? that uncovered the truth) has done to him... (now maybe he really is living up to his book)
And I bet he wish he'd never heard of Oprah,
Nonetheless, the man can write and it's a great story
Twenty percent - really? Where did you read that? Or did you just pull it out of your ass?

That's a rhetorical (look it up) question.
I may have heard it on public radio, or not. Anything having to do with percentages can easily be untrue.
In those days people were movin' around a lot and probably hard to track.
In those days people were movin' around a lot and probably hard to track.
Really? You are full of interesting historical facts. I wasn't aware of the Great Restlessness of the Early 40s, but then again, I don't read much.
I could be more sarcastic, yes. But you're new so I'm trying to be nice. :)

I'm just asking where you get these ideas, is all. There is no sin in making shit up to prove your point, but it's hard to pull that off when you're talking about history. That's all. But by all means, carry on.
You know 40% of the new people who post on here have a hard time with mjp being sarcastic and 10% of them go on hiatus and disappear for what seems like 10 years.
I do not know the statistics of how many live in a tar paper shack during that aforementioned hiatus.
Well, most of them are "movin' around a lot and probably hard to track." Science can prove that. Though religion may deny it.

The rest of them can go pound sand if they don't like me or anything about the forum, site or internet in general.

I don't give a fuck because my own studies have shown that 99% of the new users are utterly worthless, uninteresting and humorless. Like the stupid dipshit who revived this old thread with some facts he pulled out of his subnormal ass.

To the other 1% of you, though; welcome. Sincerely.
In biker gangs doesn't the 1%ers denote deviant scum? They get a badge. I'd be honored to be regarded as deviant scum. I'd like a badge. Wear it proudly wild-ridin' the fixie.
I think you're mostly likely, possibly right about a lot regarding the 10 year drunk with that caveat that I think it unfair to comment during the points in time where there was not enough data to get a sense of what Hank was up to. That's just the good ole argument from silence.

I'm also with everyone on it not mattering. Yeah, he lied about somethings and had bad recollection of somethings but what he wrote about wasn't meant to be a historical account of the exact events of his life. There was some historical Hank in there and there was some somewhat creative Hank in there and there was some just plain ole intentionally full of shit Hank in there. The end result is what moves people, what sparks their interest and what most people will remember Hank by.
Always a mystery, that's for sure, and rife for no end of speculation. I live in metro Atlanta, and cannot imagine what it was like here in the forties. I worked with a guy who moved here in '55 as a kid and was put in special class because they could not understand his Upstate New York accent. The tar paper shack could have been two hellish nights (or two hours) between scraping up enough change for the next thing smoking.

I'm reminded of what Hemingway's (then bitter) wife explained about his writings. Not to infer any thing whatsoever, just saying, when we writin', well...
I have a character flaw that makes me need to fill in the blanks and make all the pieces fit.
I wouldn't say it was a character flaw, MJP, then again I don't find character flaw's in anybody. I wouldn't even say Buk was a liar. Pretty much like everyone is saying - I know when I'm writing I tend to exaggerate my alcoholic experiences (that's a funny way of putting it) unbeknown to me until much later. Or maybe even not known to me ever because that's just how I feel about it. Take James Frey for example... I still enjoy his first book because that's how it was for him. Though that may not be what happen, that's what was in his mind may it be fact or fiction. And, some pain it must take to come up with some fucked up shit like that.

I'm taking elocution lessons from Yoda, by the way. And I've increased my Topamax all by myself (explaining the lack of you understanding my post at all. Many apologies on the not wording things well at all. Topamax sucks.)

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