Bukowski, A Life:

The Centennial Edition

The life of Charles Bukowski—laureate of lowlife Los Angeles—a novelist and poet who wrote as he lived. This is the only biography of Bukowski written by a close friend and collaborator and may be the closest readers will come to meeting the man himself—an unforgettable encounter no one should miss.

The author of Ham on Rye, Post Office, and other perennial bestselling novels, short stories, and poetry collections only ever wanted to be a writer. Maybe that’s why Bukowski’s voice is so real and immediate that readers felt included in a conversation. “In his written work, he’s a hero, a fall guy, a comic character, a womanizing lush, a wise old dog,” biographer Neeli Cherkovski writes. “His readers do more than glimpse his many-sidedness. For some, it’s a deep experience. They feel as if his writing opens places inside of themselves they might never have seen otherwise. Often a reader comes away feeling heroic, because the poet has shown them that their ordinary lives are imbued with drama.”

Neeli Cherkovski began a deep friendship with Bukowski in the 1960s while guzzling beer at wrestling matches or during quieter evenings discussing life and literature in Bukowski’s East Hollywood apartment. Over the decades, those hundreds of conversations took shape as this biography—now with a new preface, “This Thing Upon Me Is Not Death: Reflections on the Centennial of Charles Bukowski.”

Full of anecdotes, wisdom, humor, and insight, this is an essential companion to the work of a great American writer. Long-time Bukowski fans will come away with fresh insights while readers new to his work will find this an exhilarating introduction. “In his death, I hear him clearly,” Cherkovski writes. “His voice comes to me resonant, full of unforced authority, a message of endurance, self-reliance, and honesty of expression. At the same time, he is also saying, ‘Poetry is a dirty dishrag. Keep laughing at yourself on the way out the door.’ ”

Limited Edition

In addition to the softcover edition, Bukowski, A Life: The Centennial Edition will also be offered in a limited edition cloth-spined hardcover that is signed and numbered by the author. This edition will be available exclusively from the publisher very soon. To reserve a copy, email order@godine.com

Critical Praise

“Poet and novelist Charles Bukowski was notorious for his drinking and womanizing . . . but his work could also be tender and reveal truths about the human condition.”  —NPR

“Cherkovski does justice to [Bukowski’s] commitment to rebellion … he brings an insider’s familiarity, having been Bukowski’s friend for many years. Some of the most insightful and moving parts of the narrative are Cherkovski’s personal recounting of his on-again off again relationship with the writer, which has the poignancy of personal memoir.”
—The Arts Fuse (Full Review)

“One of those rare biographies that is both academically satisfying and full of life.”
—The Washington Post

“A serious appraisal . . . a treasure trove for Bukowski fans.”
—The Los Angeles Times

“Bukowski remains a symbol for artistic perseverance in the face of constant rejection, lifelong critical disdain and suggestions that he compromise his unique, if unsavory, vision.”
—The Chicago Tribune

“This profile partially de-romanticizes the Bukowski myth, allowing the integrity of the poet’s works to prove him an admirable, if contradictory character.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Cherkovski’s compassion and respect for his subject are almost heartwarmingly ever-present. He gives fans and non-fans alike another, if not totally different, picture of the great Bukowski.”
—Library Journal

“Cherkovski’s substantial book has got to be a must for anyone at all curious about how this ‘underground’ figure got to be the writer he became.”
—Beat Scene (U.K.)

Godine, Publisher | Black Sparrow Press is distributed to the trade by Two Rivers Distribution, an Ingram brand. For more info, click here.

Neeli Cherkovski is a poet, as well as an editor, memoirist, and biographer. In his early 20s, he and Charles Bukowski launched a short-lived mimeographed literary magazine, Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns. Mr. Cherkovski is the author of numerous books of poetry, most recently Elegy For My Beat Generation, and Ferlinghetti: A Biography–the first published biography of the internationally revered poet and founder of City Lights Books. In 2019, Mr. Cherkovski co-edited Collected Poems of Bob Kaufman and he is currently the subject of a forthcoming independent documentary feature It’s Nice To Be With You Always. Mr. Cherkovski lives in San Francisco.