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Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life: A Biography of Charles Bukowski

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4.17 of 5 stars 4.17  ·  rating details  ·  2,138 ratings  ·  40 reviews
Charles Bukowski - onetime bum, long-term alcoholic, and author of now-classic novels such as Post Office, Factotum, and Women - rose from obscurity to become world famous. His semiautobiographical books about low-life America made him a cult figure and culminated in the making of Barfly, a Hollywood film based on Bukowski's life. In this, the first major biography of Buko ...more
Hardcover, 500 pages
Published November 1st 1998 by Canongate Books Ltd (first published 1998)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bryan Clark
If you are a fan examining Bukowski's life is a little difficult. He was not what you could call a ‘good guy’; there was a lot about him that is less than admirable. It’s easy for his critics to take a reductive view of him and his works, the temptation for his admirers is to perhaps give him a bit of a whitewash. However, what this book does is present an unsentimental account of Bukowski’s life – certainly it does not shy away from the many less flattering episodes – yet in a way which shows t ...more
Holly Goes
- Fascinated by the monster and child in this man.
- Poetry and life mostly inspired by his painful experiences and the bottom of American society
- Painfully shy, awkward, and self-destructive man (and drunkard); these I think made him more capable of producing raw and sex-grounded poetry
- One true love, Linda, writes to him "Your women are all weak and floppy and untrue. My heart is a wild sensuous bird and it's always wanting to fly. Fly Bukowski, you're afraid to fly."
- Favorite part: from M
...more
Michael Naughton
Writers and Poets, in particular, evince quite a bit about themselves through their words. Great Biographers like Howard Sounes distinguish the writer's personal life behind their words; they help us round out their complex life puzzle and personal history. Howard Sounes achieves this through credible sources and interviews with the women who knew Bukowski and his personal correspondence with: John Martin, Ferlinghetti, etc. IRS and FBI records.

Sounes clarifies and confirms the Bukowski we thoug
...more
Carissa Knox
Sounes does a fantastic job of bringing to life Bukowski honestly. He's not afraid of showing you his many negative traits which include everything from women beating to being a nasty drunk to voicing outrageous opinions for the attention (a false Nazi sympathizer is probably the most tasteless). Bukowski's writing often tells more about himself than it does the subject matter and the book really sheds light on the truth behind the myths Bukowski tried to create about himself.

But despite it all
...more
Russell
Entertaining, sometimes funny, gritty, raunchy. My first swim through the "river Bukowski" and it was pretty good for me.

The part about the buffalo chasing him so he had to run and dive over a fence, was hysterical!!
Brent Legault
This biography seemed to me to be more unnecessary than most, considering how much of his own life Bukowski used in his fiction, but I found it not entirely unentertaining.
Connie  Kuntz
Feb 10, 2009 Connie Kuntz rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: bukowski wannabees
I enjoyed this biography, but I guess I would rather experience Bukowski from Bukowski's work.
David Ward
Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life by Howard Sounes (Grove Press 1998)(Biography). This is the first biography of Bukowski that I've tried. He was an incorrigible alcoholic and misogynist, and he died of leukemia! He never achieved financial success until late in life. The first chapter concerns a party for Bukowski as visiting writer; it's the highlight of the book. the man was a hellion (not that there's anything wrong with that...). My rating: 7/10, finished 5/19/14.
Push Nevahda
The book started out rather dull, much of the earlier chapters seemed like much had been sifted from Ham On Rye. But the book was good, I would've liked to have seen more on his parents. At one point near the end the Bukowski returns to Germany for a book event and visits with his fathers brother. This was an intresting moment for Bukowski whose childhood was marred in verbal and physicla abuse at the hand of his father. The book didnt go as indepth as I would expect of a biography (like Maher's ...more
Tim Boroughs

Charles Bukowski was a writer who lived in down and out apartments and rooming houses in Los Angeles for for most of his life and endured a succession of menial and demoralising jobs whilst struggling to make a living as a writer. These experiences formed the basis for his literary work which was in large part autobiographical and whilst primarily a poet, Bukowski’s output included short stories, novels and a screenplay. The result is a brilliant record of his shambolic life of relationships gon
...more
Cari
Solid and informative, Howard Sounes' biography of Bukowski gets the job done. You'll learn about the man, his experiences, his women, and his writing, but when the title utilizes the word "crazy," there's an expectation the book will live up to its name. This one did not.

With such a dynamic man as the focus, this biography should've been intriguing. The fault is not with the subject but with his biographer: Bukowski's life and controversial writing give plenty of material, but the author wastes
...more
Lauren
Howard Sounes might have only used secondary resources to tell Bukowski's story, but it sure doesn't seem like it. This biography is a structured, well written account of the writer's professional and personal life. You really got a sense of who Bukowski was and why he wrote/spoke the way he did. I give Sounes a lot of credit for letting the resources speak for themselves. That was probably very difficult given the subject of this book.

As for my rating, it is the way it is because there were som
...more
Jim
He drank but “had little time for drugs”; he could be misogynistic but as soon as he got a woman pregnant the first thing he did was propose; to put things in perspective he was really more of a misanthrope than a misogynist; “when he was sober, Bukowski was quiet and polite, even deferential [but:] when he got drunk – especially in sophisticated company, which made him uneasy – he became Bukowski the bad: mischievous, argumentative, even violent;” he gambled – he once totted up that he’d fritte ...more
Isscandar
Quando faceva freddo indossava una giacca sportiva stazzonata.
In genere girava con un sacchetto di carta marrone con dentro due confezioni da sei birre.

Il fatto che tutti fumassero spinelli o prendessero LSD non lo turbava in alcun modo.
``A lui suonava tutto un po' falso'' dice Richmond. ``Timothy Leary e gli hippy. E per certi versi aveva anche ragione''.
In una lettera a Richmond, Bukowski scrisse: ``LSD, sì, la scoperta del secolo: tutti lo prendono, adesso. Se prendi l'LSD sei un poeta, un in
...more
Jim Hale
Superb. While an admirer of Bukowski, Sounes' research comes up with many contradictions in the man that will no doubt disappoint Buk's most adoring fans. But what person's life doesn't have contradictions? Bukowski's life is reported on fairly here and my guess is that he would it have no other way. This is an excellent book, and I think, a real inspiration for aspiring writers.
Leah
Although I enjoy stories of Bukowski's unapologetic lasciviousness and arrogance, I found the writing in this book dull and scattered. It felt like a laundry list of publications and achievements with a few anecdotes tossed in haphazardly. The best bits were snapshots of Bukowski's writing, but that was too infrequent to get excited about. Despite Howard Sounes, I still want to read more Bukowski - his straightforward language makes me smile in a world of frivolity. "I always liked your hair com ...more
Mark
An interesting insight.
Miles
Really enjoyed reading this biography. I got quite fond of the old goat Bukowski but he could have kept Freud tied up for days. He didn't do much more than drink and write so this might have been a bit of a boring read but the humour kept it lively and every now and then Bukowski would do something truly horrendous and the pages would fly by. Whatever one may think of his behaviour on occasions, I guess you have to admire someone who can just keep writing no matter what.
Marmites
Made me realise Bukowski was sort of a dick, and probably severely misrepresenting himself to his own favor. I don't know if that's bad though, probably good. Like he's creating the 'ideal' him, something to motivate. It's cool having so much content to analyse him: Novels, poetry, short stories, autobiographies, audio of poetry readings, interviews; my idea of him is so complex. It helps with my life; comparing it to things etc. You know what I mean?
Tony
An interesting and very well researched add to the Bukowski biographies although not completely honest and objective one; neutral point of view is more important the stronger the subject matter is. If you like this one I can recommend Hank: The Life of Charles Bukowski by Neeli Cherkovski.
Karin
this biography is nicely written, but bukowski himself was an asshole.
Evans
I went into this book knowing almost nothing about Bukowski beyond a song by Modest Mouse. While this man is not someone who really should be idolized (abusive towards women, an alcoholic), he lived a pretty interesting life and what pieces the authored featured in the text really whetted my appetite for the work of Bukowski. A really easy read told as a narrative instead of a history/biography.
Roger Mohr
Well enough written, but not interesting. Bukowski comes across as a drunken idiot, obnoxious and generally a waste of oxygen, which seems an unfortunately accurate impression. No sign of personal depth or development, just a lush typical in every way except his writing compulsion. Oh well, now I know.
Ralf
A quick and a very engaging read. Having read "Women" recently it was remarkably interesting to gain an understanding of which women in his life represented which characters in the book. This was my second Sounes biography and I haven't been disappointed yet.
Eryk
Jul 26, 2011 Eryk marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Arrived in my mailbox, today! It was like Christmas morning when I saw it sitting there, all packaged up like a little gift from the book elves. :-) Eight bucks (including shipping!) from abebooks.com. AND it's a hardcover!
Elise
Went through this in a few days. Bukowski is one of my favorites and a book about his life is very interesting to me.

I never read biographies but with the success of this book, I may start reading bios more often.
William Nist
I love this guy, and I love Black Sparrow Press which published almost all of his work. It's real, it's gritty, and if you like Bukowski's fiction and poetry, this is a must read.
Malvolio
Jan 02, 2009 Malvolio marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I just want a week alone in a dirty apartment with a bottle of whiskey and a couple of tuna sandwiches.....then, this book i will tackle. It lies on the top of my "bio" stack.
Ema
The life of an intriguing personality... written in a fantastic way. I definitely have to read some of Bukowski's work now, it makes me very curious indeed.
Babek
This biography was so thorough, it's must have been exhausting to create. The work kept my attention throughout and I loved every bit of it.
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28398
I am the author of non-fiction books about a range of extraordinary people: the murderers Fred and Rosemary West (Fred & Rose), the writer Charles Bukowski (Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life) and the singer-songwriters Bob Dylan (Down the Highway) and Paul McCartney (Fab).

More about Howard Sounes...
Down the Highway: The Life of Bob Dylan Fred & Rose Fab: An Intimate Life of Paul McCartney 27 Bukowski in Pictures

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