Review: On Writing – Charles Bukowski

There’s been a bit of a struggle in reading of late, hence why the two (pretty big books) I started reading last month are both sitting at maybe 10% read, if that. Then, I decided to try On Writing, plod away on letter at a time.

The thing about Charles Bukowski when you pinpoint it is that writing was simply his life, not even the journey of being a writer, but writing one line after the other down on page. That’s startling clear as you read through his letters over the span of decades, that even when he’s getting older (and reminding the letter receiver of his age on frequent occasion) and still hasn’t ‘made it’, he says he’ll just give it another ten years.

He’s funny, sharp, honest, simple. He cuts to the chase, calls everything exactly as he sees it, regardless of how brutal and scathing that may be (I’m looking particularly at poets-cum-creative-writing-teachers). I guess, the one thing I really took from it was his dedication to the writing when he was ‘lucky’ enough to be struck by it, and his unmoving approach to that.

Is it an insight more than a collection of snippets? I’m not sure. I do feel like I got an overview of him, reinforcing much of the perception I had of him (tough, dedicated, working furiously into old age) rather than anything new, but it’s definitely great to see his correspondences laid out as is, taking you through decades of life and writing in the space of 200 pages.

Canongate Books

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