Absence of the Hero

Charles Bukowski

Charles Bukowski, prophet of the lost, deacon of the mean and insane. I grew up reading the intoxicated antichrist in my early to mid-20s. It wasn’t a good time in my life, and I can’t say he was a good influence, but he sure can write. In Absence of the Hero, City Lights’ second posthumous volume of uncollected stories and essays, we’re given samples spanning almost his entire career. There are moments of brilliance and flickers of light. In the last piece, “Playing and Being the Poet,” he writes, “The act of writing the Word down is the act of miracle, the saving grace, the luck, the music, the going-on. It clears the space, it defines the crap, it saves your ass and some other people’s asses along with it. If fame somehow comes through all this, you must ignore it, you must continue to write as if the next line were your first line.” He’s the best at what he does, but there’s a limit to what he can do; he’s like a strong muscle of pure selfishness. I’ve learned a lot from Bukowski, of what to be and what not to be.