cover image Septuagenerian Stew

Septuagenerian Stew

Charles Bukowski. Ecco, $17 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-87685-794-6

In his latest collection, prolific Bukowski ( Hollywood ) confronts the reader with many of the same down-and-out themes he has been writing about for years. His work for the most part is populated here with society's losers--alcoholic bums, mad housewives, compulsive gamblers--their decaying selves slipping inexorably into oblivion. Life's supposed winners fare no better. The movie star in the story ``Fame'' is murdered by a fanatic fan. The writer in ``Action,'' who once smugly refused the Pulitzer Prize, squanders all his money at the racetrack and wastes his creative abilities in the process. Even the author's fictionalized self, Henry Chinaski, rescued from being ``a pile of human rubble'' by an editor interested in his work, can never transcend the junk heap of human existence. He continues to rely, paradoxically, on booze to help him survive. Bukowski's rejection of the redemptive power of love and his refusal to probe the psychological origins of his and his characters' behavior limits the validity of his message. Aside from several arresting images and some entertaining dialogue, the writing is flat and uninspired. (June)