Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Review of Bukowski in Pictures, by Howard Sounes

Bukowski in Pictures, by Howard Sounes is a beautiful book.  It was the first book of Charles Bukowski non-fiction that I bought and I have never regretted my decision.  On the contrary, I am surprised that I made such a good choice, given that I knew so little about the range of Bukowski non-fiction books at the time (it was some time ago!)

The book has many photographs of the people and places from Charles Bukowski’s life, as well as quite a few of the man himself.  In amongst the photos is a biography of Bukowski, which though not possessing the depth of Howard Souness’s Bukowski biography, “Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life”, still makes for a fascinating and entertaining read (by the way, I would also recommend “Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life”, if you’ve not read it!, as it gives an authoritive account of Bukowski’s life and work.  Howard Sounes really is a great biographer in my opinion.  He doesn’t hero-worship Charles Bukowski, but rather tries to present a more rounded picture of the man, which means that he no punches with regard to tackling Bukowski’s darker side.  “Bukowski in Pictures”, on the other hand, is just a great book just to browse and enjoy and I use it as a book to peruse for 15 minute periods rather than reading it intensively.  With “Bukowski in Pictures” Sounes does with photographs, what he does with words in “Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life”, and gives a full sense of Bukowski the man, as well as covering much of his work.

I read the Charles Bukowski novels first and it was actually “Bukowski in Pictures” that introduced me to some of the great Bukowski poems, such as “Bluebird”.

Howard Sounes himself says at the start how important photographs are in Charles Bukowski’s biography, you can learn a lot just by seeing how bad the acne damage was that scarred his face in his teenage years, for example.  This is an exceptionally strong book in my opinion and well worth the price.  In fact I would go as far as to say it is a must for Bukowski fans.