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Run with the Hunted: A Charles Bukowski Reader    Editor John Martin order for
Run with the Hunted
by John Martin
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 1994 (1993)
Hardcover, Paperback, Audio, CD

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

This is a compilation of Charles Bukowski's works of prose and poetry, taken from more than twenty sources over a period of twenty-five years, and covering urban centers from New York to New Orleans and San Francisco. It's a clear-eyed, cynical, insightful, intuitive, dark, passionate, and angry view of life. But then he seems to have had a tough one. The early works speak of growing up in hard times and a hard family - with a physically abusive father and a nonentity (from his perspective anyway) of a mother.

As a teen Bukowski had severe boils which required very painful charity ward treatments, leading to the comment, 'Hospitals and jails and whores: these are the universities of life. I've got several degrees. Call me Mr.' I especially enjoyed his poem, the burning of the dream, about his feelings when he read in the paper that the L.A. Public Library burned down, and the loss that this was to him, 'a bibliophile, albeit a disenchanted one'. Bukowski lists authors that he absorbed and talks of the discovery of early Chinese poets Tu Fu and Li Po, 'who could say more in one / line than most could say in / thirty or / a hundred.'

A short story on the announcement of Pearl Harbor and seeing a Marine friend off to war is touching and compelling, revealing a man more intelligent and sensitive than those around him. In another, he talks of time 'going by like shit down a river' and later tells us that 'Time rang like a blank bell.' Bukowski shows his readers a man who drinks too much and shares some of his father's violence, but also one who can see himself almost too clearly. He looks at things that most avoid, with occasional sympathy as in flophouse, in which he says of its inhabitants - 'the total absence of hope / it shrouds / them / covers them / totally.'

Here are other lines that I found striking: 'I was born to hustle roses down the avenues of the dead'; or 'little men / nibbling fish-head thoughts'. There is a series on Bukowski's hilarious experiences working as a mailman, which sounds like a nonconformist's hell. It's poetry and prose full of urban despair, but that finds glimmerings of hope and magic in odd places, as in nirvana. I also enjoyed 'a 70-year-old virgin' writing my first computer poem. And to end on one of the rare happy notes, here's the bluebird, 'there's a bluebird in my heart that / wants to get out / but I'm too tough for him'.

Though run with the hunted is not an easy read, it is one that I can heartily recommend to you.

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