The Genius of the Crowd: (1 Viewer)

I rarely weigh in on this debate as I'm more interested in the pretty covers of the books and the latest Danny Valdez, Schenker gossip....but one point seems inarguable to me: beginning with Bone Palace Ballet, they're not worth reading anymore, and the answer why is obviously John Martin. I'm not an insider or scholar but merely a humble cigar salesman and even I know that.
It's also interesting that there's no thread I could find called The Tragic Rape of Charles Bukowski's Ghost by Marvin Malone, Jon Webb, E.V. Griffith, William Packard, etc. By the way Abel, Storm For The Living is an amazing book, the best Bukowski collection since, '97 or so...
 
...do you want to summarize your findings thus far?
I've compared 92 of those 139 Roominghouse poems with the original sources. Only 1 out of 4 is identical with its original version, so we might assume that about 75% of those 139 poems differ from the original sources. The nature of most of the changes is very similar to those in the posthumous collections. You get the impression that The Madrigals were a kind of warm-up for what happened after Bukowski died.

In case you want to know which poems are untouched, here's a list of them:

1. Layover
2. Love is a Piece of Paper torn to Bits
3. I Wait in the White Rain
4. The Gift
5. A Conversation on Morality, Eternity and Copulation
6. Nothing Subtle
7. I write this upon the last Drink's Hammer
8. Wrong Number
9. It's Not Who Lived Here
10. Poem for My 43rd Birthday
11. Sleep
12. Suicide
13. The Beast
14. With Vengeance Like a Tiger Crawls
15. Rose,Rose
16. Experience
17. As I lay dying
18. 35 Seconds
19. I don't need a bedsheet with slits with eyes to kill you in
20. Poem to a most affectionate Lady
21. Reunion
22. Eat
23. The Man with the Hot Nose
 

cirerita

Founding member
You get the impression...

Your impression, certainly not mine. Not by a longshot.

For instance, I see that "the genius of the crowd" is not in the list above. If changing "Anything That Differs From Their Concepts" to "Anything That Differs From Their Own" is, according to you, enough to say that this change is similar to the posthumous edits, then we definitely have different views on this matter. That's what I call a minor change, unlike most posthumous edits.

On top of that, you have no way to prove that minor change was not made by Bukowski himself. Or by anyone else, for that matter.

If your gut tells your that change was made by Martin, and you want to dump your copy of The Roominghouse, be my guest. Bukowski was very happy with his own copy. It's still in San Pedro. He read the galleys, wrote a foreword for this book, and never dumped his copy. Each to his own.
 
If changing "Anything That Differs From Their Concepts" to "Anything That Differs From Their Own" is, according to you, enough to say that this change is similar to the posthumous edits
You pick and choose. I said 'most of the changes', not all of them.
The Genius of the Crowd was originally on the list above. But just as you are, I am a non-native speaker and after the discussion came up here I was no longer sure how to assess that specific change. But okay, let's put it on the list again, so we are at 24 out of 92. If it makes you feel better.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Just for the sake of clarity: the (mostly minor) changes in The Roominghouse Madrigals --and in any other Bukowski book published by BSP during his lifetime-- are not similar to the awful posthumous edits. To me, anyway. If you feel those early changes are similar to the posthumous edits, that's your call, but in my opinion that's like comparing apples and oranges.
 

mjp

Founding member
changes in The Roominghouse Madrigals --and in any other Bukowski book published by BSP during his lifetime-- are not similar to the awful posthumous edits.
I think this is an important point to keep in mind, and lumping Roominghouse or any other collection published during his lifetime in with the posthumous mess just muddies the waters. It's why I don't talk about (or really care about) the editing that was done to the prose. Apples and oranges, yes.

If we start to question everything we take the focus off the real destruction, and that begins with, as skiroomalum pointed out, Bone Palace Ballet.

I didn't bring up the one word change to "Genius" to somehow equate it to the posthumous re-writings. It's just a technical curiosity.
 

cirerita

Founding member
Well, I recently talked to Neeli Cherkovski in San Francisco and he said that Martin gave him $40 to type a bunch of poems off the magazines to later use them in The Days. Neeli said that he made a lot of minor changes while typing things up, and that he even discarded entire lines. He then showed those edited poems to Bukowski, who told him, "good job, kid, they sound much better now" or something along those lines.

Who knows? Maybe it's true. Maybe it's bullshit. But Bukowski was very much alive then and it was his first big collection with BSP. I'm sure he paid attention to whatever changes Dorbin and Cherkovski could have made, and he didn't complain to anyone. Maybe he was happy with the way the book came out, changes and whatnot.

To me, the real destruction begins with What Matters Most... the changes in Bone Palace Ballet and Betting on the Muse pale in comparison with the mass destruction that was unleashed with What Matters Most...
 
Well,...then everything seems to be all right with The Madrigals. Lots of changes, but hey, that's trivial and everyday, you fool! Guess I've got to rebuy my copy right away...
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
As to the mags in San Pedro, well, I saw them with my own eyes, and I arranged them alphabetically before Linda donated them to the Huntington. There were hundreds of them, including some very rare mags from the 80s and early 90s that were not listed in Fogel's. You could ask her or the Huntington Library staff in case I'm not to be believed.

Ok, I'll take your word for it. But I have zero reason to believe Buk decided to edit those old poems. And as far as cross-checking Roominghouse against the originals, it would have been a very laborious task that I believe Buk would never do -- so he wouldn't have known for sure they were edited from that perspective. On the otherhand, if we smell Martin's stinky pinky on those poems, you would think that the poet would have as well. I can't explain that completely.

However, the letter we saw regarding Post Office indicates to me that he was fully aware that his poetry had already been edited back then. Martin hadn't published any short stories at that point, so Buk was not complaing about prose. Something pissed him off about the poems.

Who knows? Maybe it's true. Maybe it's bullshit

I don't think it has to be a mystery. Today we can actually do the comparisons. And I don't want to make a general assumption, but as I recall "Days" is a pretty clean book -- maybe because it had a different editor. (Not Martin).
 
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cirerita

Founding member
However, the letter we saw regarding Post Office indicates to me that he was fully aware that his poetry had already been edited back then.
I don't think so. He's talking about Post Office only. I can't see a single reference in that letter about Martin editing his poetry. Post Office was finished in February 1970, and by July 1970 Bukowski already knew the book had been heavily edited for publication --in On Writing, there's a May 10, 1970, letter where Bukowski says he doesn't like the "dictionary" Martin wanted to have at the end of the book. By then, Martin had already edited Post Office quite a bit.

The Days was mainly edited by Dorbin. Martin contributed by selecting/discarding poems. If we're to believe Cherkovski, he also edited some of the poems, and Bukowski green-lighted those changes. Another dumpster contender?
 
From what I've seen so far, the changes in The Days Run Away... are hardly worth mentioning. In fact, there's only one single poem that comes to my mind - I thought of ships, of armies, hanging on...
Maybe that one was edited by Neeli...:wb:
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
I just wanna say I love this collaboration because it's productive instead of piss wars. I think a certain amount of "drama" and fun sub-normal "stupidity" keeps this an "active" forum, which is really important because a place like this can die out of boredom quickly. But when it comes to the "real" stuff that's important, we consider each other's contributions. This is a great place in a world that doesn't respect facts any longer.
 

Pogue Mahone

Officials say drugs may have played a part
think this is an important point to keep in mind, and lumping Roominghouse or any other collection published during his lifetime in with the posthumous mess just muddies the waters

MJP, maybe it muddies the waters for one of the original thesis here, but don't you think it's OK if what we're looking for is really the truth? Maybe we need to give up on the original assumptions if we are really seeking truth. Truth is evolves as we learn more.

Well,...then everything seems to be all right with The Madrigals. Lots of changes, but hey, that's trivial and everyday, you fool! Guess I've got to rebuy my copy right away...

The kid is right. To just ignore it is to ignore the complexity that is part of Buk's history. Sometimes we need to dig through the mud to get to the truth, even if the outcome isn't a convenient truth...
 

mjp

Founding member
MJP, maybe it muddies the waters for one of the original thesis here, but don't you think it's OK if what we're looking for is really the truth?
No I don't. The "original thesis" is the only thing I care about. If you want to know why that is, feel free to keep reading.

What if the end result of a comprehensive search for "the truth" is finding that, oh, let's say, 80% of Bukowski's published works were edited somehow? Then what? What do you propose then? Asking Bukowski's publisher(s) to revert every edit ever made?

If we focus on the posthumous butcher jobs - something that was much more overwhelmingly destructive than what happened before that - it's a (relatively) smaller task (though still not small by any means). With that focus the idea is 100% justifiable, and something that a publisher could perhaps be persuaded to undertake.

On the other hand, if you want to convince HarperCollins/Ecco - and everyone else in the world - that we're just a bunch of obsessive lunatics that can be safely ignored, go ahead and keep expanding a search for the truth until it covers everything that was ever published.

The point being, everything can't be "fixed," it's impossible. So pick your battle. My pick is to repair Martin's flagrant destruction, and we all know where that battlefield is.
 

cirerita

Founding member
1) Focusing on the posthumous collections is the best strategy there is right now.

Some people forget publishers are not charities; they are in it for the money, as simple as that. They need a reason --a pretty good reason-- to justify reissuing, say, 10 collections which are doing fine as they are. To persuade them to reissue those 10 collections, you need facts, not what your gut tells you. If you tell them, "Bukowski would never change 'concepts' to own'", they will ask you, "how do you know that?", and then you say, "dunno, I've read everything he wrote, it just does not sound like Bukowski." Well, you know what will happen next, right?

But even if you come up with facts to back up your claims, they're going to say, "why should we reissue something that is selling fine as is?" So you need both facts and a good plan to persuade them it's both necessary and profitable.

Reissuing 10 collections, then, is way more likely to happen than reissuing 23 collections. Not only that, even a kid can see the posthumous changes were not made by Bukowski. But the edits made while he was alive were minor for the most part, and no publisher in their right mind will even consider reissuing 13 collections because you show them a few minor changes here and there. They're going to say, "we do that kind of editing every day!!!"

Not to mention we have no way to prove those minor changes in those 13 collections were not actually made by Bukowski himself in some cases. That alone would put off any editor.

2) Anyway, say you work your magic and you do persuade an editor to reissue the posthumous collections. Great, isn't it? Well, I wouldn't cry victory so fast...

Let me give you an example: A couple of months ago, I tried to re-do What Matters Most... After a few days of hard work, I could track 185 of the 191 poems that make up that collection. I visited The Huntington Library hoping to find 3 of those 5 poems, but they were nowhere to be found. There's some unprocessed Bukowski stuff at the Huntington Library, so they might be there, but I don't think so. The remaining 2 poems were re-titled by Martin and I haven't been able to find their corresponding originals.

I, for one, would not re-issue What Matters Most... --or any other posthumous collection-- unless I could track down all the poems in that collection. It would be a fraud of sorts to reissue something that is not completely genuine. To me, anyway.

Let's say you give it a try and you re-do Come On In! --or any other posthumous collection-- and you can't track down 10-15 poems. Would you even approach an editor to ask them to reissue that collection?

On top of that, it would be a labor of love. Publishers won't pay you much to reissue something that's selling well now. Most probably, you would put a lot of time for peanuts.

I'm not saying it's impossible, but it is definitely a labor of love. That would be fine by me. But not being able to find all the original poems would be too big an issue for me. Maybe some other editor would say, "it's only 10-15 poems, who cares? No one will notice!" Well, I do care. I do fucking care.
 
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