cover image The Bell Tolls for No One

The Bell Tolls for No One

Charles Bukowski, edited by David Stephen Calonne. City Lights, $14.95 trade paper (302p) ISBN 978-0-87286-682-9

Bukowski is an acquired taste, and this set of fiction stories from three sources—his underground newspaper column “Notes of a Dirty Old Man,” short pornographic pieces written for adult magazines, and miscellaneous short stories, some previously unpublished—will do little to expand his readership. Bukowski’s world is hostile, full of runaway dysfunction, and populated by alcoholics, gamblers, adulterers, and abusers, all with few, if any, redeeming qualities. And to underscore the distance between these lives and the those of his readers, Bukowski’s characters come with no backstories and no elaborate psychologies; rather they are men and women motivated by unseen compulsions, simple boredom, and fatalistic unhappiness. It is Bukowski’s embrace of this world, his insistence on its validity if not its value, that makes him unique. Readers should be warned that many of the stories are difficult to read for their depiction of sadism and sexual violence. Still, Bukowski can be honest and direct, and he is capable of embedding meaningful observations in the most sordid of stories. (Aug.)