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Happy Birthday to the Ever-Young Stephen Crane

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At the tender age of 28, author Stephen Crane succumbed to tuberculosis and passed away at a German health spa. Despite his young age, Crane had accomplished what many take several decades of adulthood to achieve – fame, success, scandal, sickness and health. He lived a full life and was not afraid of standing up for himself and for others. Let’s learn a bit more about this famed American author, shall we?

crane5Crane was born on November 1st, 1871 in Newark, New Jersey, the 14th child (of only 8 surviving children) to a clergyman and daughter of a clergyman. Crane began writing at an early age, and when he was eight years old he wrote his first surviving poem – “I’d Rather Have A-” – a poem about wanting a dog for Christmas! One year later he began formal schooling and completed two grades within a six week period. Throughout Crane’s education he was a slightly erratic student, if intelligent and somewhat popular. This could be put down to the fact that by the time Crane was a teen, quite a few members of his family (his father and siblings) were dead – leading to a very different childhood than his classmates.

Crane was interested in baseball, the military, and writing. After enrolling in college under an engineering degree, he eventually left at the age of 20, declaring college a waste of time! He moved in with his older brother Edmund in New Jersey, but made frequent trips into The Bowery slums of New York City where he found human nature to be open and unaffected. He entered into a brief relationship with a married woman and wrote some controversial free-lance work on local events – beginning to make a name for himself solely out of scandal. In the next two years, after moving to New York, Crane worked on what would become his first novel, A Girl of the Streets (the Maggie would be added later). The novel about the girl who becomes a prostitute out of pitiable circumstances unfortunately needed to be self-published privately by Crane himself. He printed 1,100 copies and spent $869 to do so. Despite Maggie receiving praise for its truthful account of life in the slums, it did not garner the enthusiasm or scandal that Crane hoped for and he ended up giving away the last hundred copies for free. 

stephen crane 3In 1893 Crane became frustrated with stories written about the Civil War, stating “I wonder that some of those fellows don’t tell how they felt in those scraps. They spout enough of what they did, but they’re as emotionless as rocks.” Crane decided to write an account of a soldier in the war, and began work on what would become The Red Badge of Courage, Crane’s most beloved work to date. His story would be different from his contemporaries – for he wanted desperately to present a “psychological portrayal of fear” by describing a young man disillusioned by the harsh truths of war. He succeeded and a year later his novel began to be published in serial form by the Bacheller-Johnson Newspaper Syndicate. It was heavily edited for publication in the serial, though it did begin to cause a stir in its readers. Crane then worked on a book of poetry, which was published to large amounts of criticism due to his use of free verse, not then a common convention. Crane was not bothered by its unpopular reception – he was instead quite pleased that the book made “some stir” and caused a reaction of any sort. In 1895 Appleton published The Red Badge of Courage, the full chapters, in book form – and Crane became a household name overnight. The book was in the “top six on various bestseller lists around the country” for months after its publication. It even became popular abroad and was widely read in Great Britain as well. Crane was only 23 years old at the start of his fame. 

At 24, Crane was involved in a scandal that shaped his reputation for life. While accompanying two young ladies home in the evening, one of the ladies was arrested by an undercover policeman on charges of attempted prostitution. The woman was charged and Crane remained adamant that the ladies he was with were innocent – leading the world to remark on his Courage at standing by the alleged prostitute. The praise for Crane quickly turned sour, however, when the arrested lady pressed charges against the policeman that solicited her and Crane was called on to be a witness. Police of New York wrecked havoc on Crane’s life when he was targeted by the Defense – they sought to portray him as immoral and a frequent visitor of brothels and drug addicted – Crane’s courageous reputation was stripped quite quickly. Crane escaped to Cuba to work as a war correspondent at the age of 25. While awaiting his trip to Cuba in Jacksonville, Florida, Crane met the slightly older brothel owner Cora Taylor and began a relationship with her. However, after a few months Crane was granted travel to Cuba on the SS Commodore and he left Cora to travel. After only 2 days on the Commodore, the ship struck ground twice and began to sink. Crane and other men on the vessel boarded a 10-foot dinghy and attempted for days to land the boat on Daytona Beach. The waves were large and the boat eventually overturned and the men swam to shore. Cora traveled to Daytona to bring the weary Crane back, and eventually Crane would recount the event in his famous story “The Open Boat”, published in 1897. 

stephen crane 1Crane became a war correspondent alongside Taylor in the Greek-Turkish War of 1897, and then the Spanish-American War in 1898. Unfortunately for Crane this year was the beginning of the end, as his health worsened and none of his work ever sold as well as The Red Badge of Courage. He was a few thousand dollars in debt and worked writing feverishly to try to support both him and Taylor, who was living in England. He moved to England in January of 1899, writing for literary magazines there, but his health rapidly declined and by June of 1900 he was in a health spa in Germany, dictating his work to Taylor. He passed away from tuberculosis the same month, and left all of his work and livelihood to Taylor. Despite dying at such a young age, Crane, whose work was re-birthed in the 1980s after suffering a spell of unpopularity, is now taught in high schools across the country, as his most famous work is recognized as a highly naturalistic and realistic view of war through the eyes of a young American. Happy Birthday to Stephen Crane! 

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(SPOILER ALERT) Antiquarian Nursing Material Isn’t Just for Nurses

We recently wrote a short and sweet blog post on “Why You Should Be Collecting Antiquarian Cookery.” Now, we do enjoy getting Cookery items in and we do have quite a bit of knowledge around them, but technically speaking, cookery is not one of our ‘specialties’. However… Nursing is. We often have customers exclaim surprise at our little-known specialty, followed by a slightly confused look as to why we might carry such things. You yourself might be wondering how many nurses are also antiquarian book collectors. We must confess that we do not know those numbers. (However, if you know those numbers, please feel free to share.) So for this week’s blog post we thought we would share why you don’t have to be a nurse to collect antiquarian nursing material!

Before you remind us, yes, Vic began collecting nursing material because his wife, Ellen, was a head nurse! So yes, occasionally there are nurses involved. Just thought we would get that over with before we get any “Wait up, we know that Ellen was involved in that field…” emails. However, Vic knowingly went into the field, as he realized that there weren’t many out there specializing particularly in nursing material over a more generalized medical genre.

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Although the U.S. Army Medical Department was one of the slowest to integrate women, when over 5,000 of its combat-ready men — including many trained technicians and orderlies — were forced to transfer to the Infantry in early 1944, the department began a major push to recruit women to fill the positions. The Female Medical Technician campaign, as pictured here, was hugely successful. See this Fine condition WWII poster here.

Nursing material tells us about just as much of history as other items in the medical field. Nurses were often called upon to step in and help in times of war and devastation, and, in some instances, were in even higher demand than doctors. Antiquarian nursing material often teaches the reader (albeit briefly) the best ways to care for wounds, different illness, and even mental “defects”. They are particularly interesting as, despite what western medicine looks like today, many antiquarian nursing items were published before the heavy use of medication. Nursing materials can teach how to care to the sick without Advil – which many would argue is more important than knowing how to hand over a pill!

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Check out this 1804 1st US edition of FRIENDLY CAUTIONS To The HEADS Of FAMILIES And OTHERS, Very Necessary to be Observed in Order to PERSERVE HEALTH And LONG LIFE: with Ample Directions to NURSES WHO ATTEND The SICK” – a manual for nurses from over two centuries ago! See it here.

Antiquarian nursing items are therefore of interest to any of those looking to see cultural and scientific differences in levels and quality of medical care over the past two hundred years. It is also interesting to use the materials to see how nurses were trained, what they were trained in, and what they were called on to do. Now if you don’t find that interesting, then we don’t know what else to tell you!

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Check out this 1868 1st edition of “On Nurses and Nursing by Dr. Horatio Storer – a leading physician in the 19th century who, in 1857, started the “physicians’ crusade against abortion” both in Massachusetts and nationally, and persuaded the American Medical Association to form a Committee on Criminal Abortion. The Committee Report was presented at the AMA meeting in Louisville, Kentucky in 1859 and accepted by the Association. Woah! Check it out here.

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Welcome to Tavistock Books, Cassie Leone!

Tavistock Books is proud to announce a new member of the team – Cassie Leone! Cassie will be working part-time at Tavistock Books and we are glad to welcome her to the fold.

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Welcome to Tavistock Books, Cassie! How long have you been involved in the antiquarian book world for now?

Thank you! I began working for antiquarian booksellers last September, a few months after completing my undergraduate degree in English at Smith College. I’ve worked for Brick Row Books, and John Windle Antiquarian Bookseller. I’m currently also working part-time with Swan’s Books. 

What is your favorite aspect of working in the book trade? Does this coincide with what you will be doing at Tavistock?

I really enjoy cataloging books. I find it to be similar to academia in that you are researching and writing about literature, except that what you are writing is more geared toward sales. I especially love illustrated books, and books with provenance. When a book has an inscription I think its fun to do some detective work on its past owners.

What made you first become interested in the book trade?

When I was at Smith I concentrated in book studies. I loved learning about the history of books and the technology of reading and writing. One of my professors told us stories about his experiences working for antiquarian book sellers in Chicago, and I thought that sounded like intriguing work. 

Could you give us a slight background on you, yourself? Where did you grow up, what activities or hobbies do you enjoy, etc. 

I grew up in the Bay Area, and I’m originally from Walnut Creek. I moved to Oakland in 2003, which is where I currently reside. I’m a writer, and I’m currently applying to graduate schools for an MFA in Creative Writing, specifically poetry. I’m an amateur book collector; I also collect comics, records, Victorian greeting cards, antique oil lamps, and antique coffee pots. I enjoy baking and I ferment my own kombucha. Over the summer I got married in Berkeley, and I have a dog named Winston.

Last, but certainly not least… how do you feel about Charles Dickens and the San Francisco Giants? :)

While I was working for John Windle I catalogued a collection of Charles Dickens, and I became pretty familiar with his work and Dickensiana in general, but I have to admit I’ve never read any of his books! I plan to change that status in the near future. I did enjoy A Muppet Christmas Carol though. As a Bay Area native I of course love the Giants, I even have a few Barry Bonds baseball cards from when I was a kid.

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“Monsters are real, and ghosts are real too. They live inside us, and sometimes, they win.”

We don’t often report on modern literature here at Tavistock Books, as that is not our speciality! However, you may have noticed that we occasionally like to branch out and discuss authors – specialty or not – in honor of their birth or death anniversary. We are happy to report to you good, book-fearing folk, that todays is a birth anniversary! Yay! We are not so pleased to report that book-fearing folk you really should be… since his work has been terrifying people since 1967. Be afraid… be very afraid.

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Stephen Edwin King was born on September 21st, 1947 in Portland, Maine. His father, stepping out for a pack of cigarettes when King was only two years old, never returned and King’s mother raised him and his brother on her own for the rest of his youth. King showed an early interest in the genre of horror, writing while still in school – winning himself a Scholastic Art and Writing Award and being published in different fanzines, such as “Stories of Suspense”, before the age of 20. King’s daughter was born the year he graduated from the University of Maine in 1970. Though he initially wished to teach high school, he was unable to find an immediate job and instead supplemented his income by selling stories to men’s magazines. Throughout this time, King nursed an alcohol dependency that would torment him for many years. 

In 1973, just three years out of University, King’s first novel, Carrie, was published. Fun fact: it is rumored that King initially found it so difficult to write about a teenage girl with psychic abilities that he threw out his original drafts! His wife, Tabitha (whom he is married to to this day), brought it back to him and almost forced him to finish it! His first advance on the novel got him $2,500. Imagine that, with how popular Carrie has remained over the years? Unfathomable!

Screen Shot 2017-09-19 at 9.39.39 PMKing then had his novel The Shining published in 1977, and The Stand in 1978. In the late 1970s King began a series, eventually known as The Dark Tower, a series which would span the next four decades of King’s life finally ending in 2004. In 1980 King’s novel Firestarter was published, and in 1983 his novel Christine was published – both by the large and well-known publisher Viking. He tried his hand at working on comic books, writing a bit for the X-men series Heroes for Hope in 1985. King published under several pseudonyms for various reasons (now keep a lookout for these names, you hear?) including Richard Bachman (after Bachman-Turner Overdrive), John Swithen (a character out of Carrie) and Beryl Evans (which King used to publish the book Charlie the Choo-Choo: From the World of the Dark Tower). Though he has written many, many works over the years (54 novels, 6 non-fiction books and 200 short stories, to put it bluntly), some of the more popular stories whose names you might recognize (due to their being transferred to the big screen or otherwise) are Children of the Corn (1977), Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redepmtion (1982), Misery (1987), The Man in the Black Suit (1994), The Green Mile (1996), Bag of Bones (1998), and his memoir On Writing (2000). And this doesn’t even scratch the surface of the volume of work King has produced over the past many decades.

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He has been heralded as both the most beloved horror and supernatural fiction author in the genre and also mocked for his writing as “pop” and not “serious” literature. Despite how you may view the genre, you must admit – the man has done more for those genres than many of his contemporaries! Give him some respect! (Especially on his birthday. And especially because if you don’t IT may come after you… Best play it safe, no?) 

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The Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair from an Outside Perspective

This September, Tavistock Books took a step back from exhibiting at the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair, and our Master & Commander Vic Zoschak attended from a buyers standpoint alone. We pick his brain and see how it went! Photo by ZH Books.

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So, Vic – attending the Sacramento Antiquarian Book Fair as an Outside Observer. For the first time in how many years?

Gosh, the last time I remember just shopping the Sacramento Book Fair was the late 80s, before I took the plunge into the bookselling world.  I have no doubt that Sacramento was one of the first book fairs at which I ever exhibited [perhaps eclipsed by the now long-time defunct Berkeley Book Fair, a one-day event that started set-up at 6:30 in the am, with an opening of 10 am!].

These days, the Sacramento event is ably run by Jim Kay, who has done so a number of years now, and he has even turned it into a semi-annual fair, every March & September.  Jim tells me there’s been some recent turnover in the bookseller ranks, i.e., other long-time exhibitors besides myself have stepped aside [e.g., Carpe Diem & no Ken Sanders this time], but all the booths looked taken, so there were, no doubt, others waiting in the wings for us to move aside & to take our places.

I noted that the Book Lair & ZH Books had moved over into my old spot, which I had shared with Book Hunter’s Holiday.  They both seemed to like that corner.  :)


What were your overall impressions of the fair, from a strictly buyers standpoint? Well put-together, as usual? Crowded?

Jim’s hallmark is indeed a well-run event.  The crowd seemed the same, which is to say, by noon there was a buzz in the hall, and lots of folks in the aisles.  Saw plenty of tickets being written.  And the snack bar back in the corner continued to put out quality fare…  I had the chili this time around-  quite tasty.



Was there anything you haven’t noticed before that was called to your attention as a non-exhibitor? 

No, I can’t say that anything comes to mind in this context.



How was the buying? In recent years you have had great luck at Sacramento. Was it the same, after not being able to take first pick at everyone’s goodies during setup?! (One of the best parts of exhibiting, in our not so humble opinion… seeing what is available before anyone else!)

While I did buy some things that I thought interesting, in terms of potential profit, I see the end results as being modest, at best.  In other words, nothing great that would command an exclamatory “Whoohoo, look what I found!”

It’s hard to say whether or not not being on the floor during set-up occasioned a missed opportunity.  I personally didn’t hear of any great finds, but that’s not to say it didn’t happen.  Certainly such has happened in the past at this fair [even once or twice for yours truly], so who can say?


What do you think for the future? Will you continue to attend Sacramento as a buyer only or are you considering exhibiting at any upcoming Sacramento fairs? 

I think the Sacramento fair’s immediate future is assured.  As I said, Jim does a great job, and the fair is apparently well supported by both the local exhibitors and the local book buyers.  As to myself, I confess, a half-day devoted to the fair, vs 4 days…  well, let’s just say I loved being home by 2 pm Saturday, and being able to catch the last few innings of the Giants game.  :)

Well… we can all hope that Vic might exhibit at Sacramento again (perhaps when there is no Giants game to be watched)! It’s just not the same without him!

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Why You Ought to Collect Antiquarian Cookery Items (and it’s not JUST because we have them in stock)

We’re sure everyone is tired from their long holiday weekend (holidays are SO tiring, aren’t they?) so we thought we’d start you back into the groove with a short and sweet blog on why you ought to be looking at antiquarian cookery material, if you aren’t already. Ready? Sit back with a scone or some leftover pizza and enjoy these five reasons as to why you should look twice at cook books!

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1. Antiquarian cookery – which can include anything from books of recipes (known back-in-the-day as “receipts”), menus with price lists, types of foods, cultures or food gathering processes, and even advertisements for household products used in the kitchen (which would often include recipes in their booklets, for good measure) – provide an important “historical and sociological background that goes far beyond the realm of cookbooks” (American Antiquarian Society). Cook books can provide vital information for historians and people studying changes in society throughout the decades. It is hard, for example, to compare the price of a car in 1950 to the price of a car in 2017. They are so different – safety features are more in place, CD/MP3 players… the ability to park itself? How could someone compare one to the other? However, you look at a recipe book or a menu and you can see the direct change ordering two eggs in 1930 versus ordering them in 2017! Or you can see the differences of society’s views on health and well-being by seeing how they ate and what they ate. Interesting, no?

2. Cookbooks can provide quite a bit more of history than you imagine. The American Cookery genre truly began in the 1700s, with the publication of The Compleat Housewife by William Parksin 1742. In America alone, there is almost 300 years worth of cook books to study! In the rest of the world? Well, let’s just say that the first cookery book and collection of recipes known to man is a work (falsely) attributed to Marcus Gavius Apicius (falsely, as the surviving copy dates from the 4th or 5th century AD, and Apicius lived in the 1st), a Roman gourmet and lover of food in the time of the Emperor Tiberius. Now how’s THAT for a genre to explore?

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3. Often people are drawn to genres of antiquarian items that show an item or an endeavor that might otherwise be forgotten, as it’s practice is no longer in use. Take building an irrigation system, for example. People pore over texts of how early man developed irrigation without electricity or train tracks without bulldozers. Why should it be any different with cookery? There are plenty of recipes and routes of cooking that might otherwise be forgotten if it wasn’t for us taking interest in the history of cooking.

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4. Antiquarian Cookery items are affordable! While of course you get your four or even five+ figure items (think The Compleat Housewife and earlier international works), for the most part cookery books are an available genre to most collectors. As AbeBooks.com tells you, “anyone interested in starting a [cookbook] collection can easily target the 1950s and 1960s – when America’s cooking culture exploded – without breaking the bank. By targeting these decades, collectible cookbooks can be snapped up for $50 or less.” Don’t believe me? Check out our own website – our cook books and menus can easily be nabbed for under $50. Which brings me to point #5…

5. We have them in stock!!! What? I said that it is “not JUST because we have them in stock”… Search our website for some kitchen-y keywords or browse our Potpourri section for some interesting finds and wonderful gift ideas. Enjoy!

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Don’t miss our blog post from 2014 Gourmets, Drunks & a (Short) History of Cookery Books for a full and funny run of the history in this delicious field!

And here are some interesting reads in the world of collecting antiquarian cook books:

https://www.abebooks.com/books/cooking/collecting-cookbooks.shtml

http://www.onfoodandhistory.com/blog/antiquarian_cookery_books/

http://www.americanantiquarian.org/cookbooks.htm

 

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The Cult Following of Charles Bukowski

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Charles Bukowski instills a strong response in many of those who read his poetry, novels, nonfiction and short stories. Readers are either impressed by his openness and honesty or repulsed by his abrupt and vulgar approach to sexuality, drugs and the seedy aspects of low living. Here in California I have heard more references to Bukowski than anywhere else in the world! That is, of course, since he spent much of his life living in California, writing about Los Angeles, and even passed away in San Pedro in 1994. But let’s not focus on his death! This blog honors his birth and his writing, not his passing. 

bukowski2Heinrich Karl Bukowski was born on August 16th, 1920 in Germany. His father, a member of the U.S. Army that remained in Germany after WWI, and his mother brought him to the United States at the tender age of two. Bukowski was a slight child with a poor complexion, often bullied by his peers and beaten by his father who believed in a heavy hand when correcting his child’s faults. 

Despite an uneasy beginning, Bukowski grew and realized from an early age his interest lay in the written word. (And in alcohol – it is reported that he first tasted wine at age 13 in a friend’s father’s wine cellar and thought it was wonderful, stating “It was magic… Why hadn’t someone told me?”) At 19 Bukowski enrolled in Los Angeles City College, but dropped out shortly thereafter at the start of WWII to move to New York and pursue writing full-time. Unfortunately these dreams were not to be realized at this time, as he spent 6 years being rejected from publishers. In 1946 he decided to give up his dreams of writing and spent ten years drinking and doing drugs on a spree of debauchery and depravity across the United States, ending up in Los Angeles in the late 1950s near death. Bukowski began to write once again, focusing on poetry as his means of expression. He began by getting published in underground papers and magazines, and kept up a hard lifestyle – gaining a reputation as a poet with a dark side. Unsurprisingly, “the main character in his poems and short stories, which are largely autobiographical, is usually a down-and-out writer [Henry Chinaski] who spends his time working at marginal jobs (and getting fired from them), getting drunk and making love with a succession of bimbos and floozies” (Ciottii/Poetry Foundation). Bukowski used his own life for inspiration in his work, and in that respect the lifestyle he chose with drugs, drinking, prostitutes and unsavory living was helpful to his writing career! 

bukowski4In 1959 Bukowski (or Hank, as he was to his friends) published his first book of poetry, Flower, Fish and Bestial Wail, truly establishing himself as a poet, and also dealing with such simple themes as abandonment and desolation in a sad world where all are alone. (No big deal.) He showed his writing style that had changed little but perhaps in the more modern times was more easily accepted – he had a “crisp, hard voice; an excellent ear and eye for measuring out the lengths of lines; and an avoidance of metaphor where a lively anecdote will do the same dramatic work” (Ken Tucker). He continued to publish books of poetry in the upcoming decades, producing a staggering number of books of poetry, as well as those of prose and novels. The subjects of his work remained the same – he lived the life of the poor and the down-trodden, associating himself with drinking, drugs, music, violence, prostitution and gambling. According to Adam Kirsch, Bukowski described his own readership as “the defeated, the demented and the damned.” His first book of short stories was published in 1972 and entitled Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions, and General Tales of Ordinary Madness. In general, his works were often offensive, violent and sordid, but did a few amazing things… brought awareness to the lives of the down-and-out and opened up the literary world to an entirely different style of writing. 

Our holding of 'the reading - Vallejo - virgins' by Bukowski - a 1st printing circa 1979.

Our holding of ‘the reading – Vallejo – virgins’ by Bukowski – a 1st printing circa 1979.

Bukowski didn’t just write full-time, however – he was a post office clerk for over a decade in the 1960s in California. He performed readings of his work internationally and published until his dying day. He was known as the “laureate of American lowlife” – perhaps why he drew such a cult following and is still popular today. Bukowski did what many would not even attempt – he described, in detail, the life of those no one wished to live as. He brought attention and interest to the group of people he felt most at ease with. His posthumous work has been almost as prolific as the works published during his lifetime! At least 25 volumes of his poetry, nonfiction and short story collections have been published since his death alone, and one can assume there are more works out there just waiting to be brought to light.

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