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The Pleasures Of The Damned: Poems, 1951-1993 [Paperback]

Charles Bukowski
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Nov. 22 2008

To his legions of fans, Charles Bukowski was—and remains—the quintessential counterculture icon. A hard-drinking wild man of literature and a stubborn outsider to the poetry world, he wrote unflinchingly about booze, work, and women, in raw, street-tough poems whose truth has struck a chord with generations of readers.

Edited by John Martin, the legendary publisher of Black Sparrow Press and a close friend of Bukowski's, The Pleasures of the Damned is a selection of the best works from Bukowski's long poetic career, including the last of his never-before-collected poems. Celebrating the full range of the poet's extra-ordinary and surprising sensibility, and his uncompromising linguistic brilliance, these poems cover a rich lifetime of experiences and speak to Bukowski's "immense intelligence, the caring heart that saw through the sham of our pretenses and had pity on our human condition" (The New York Quarterly). The Pleasures of the Damned is an astonishing poetic treasure trove, essential reading for both longtime fans and those just discovering this unique and legendary American voice.


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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Bukowski's chatty free verse (and fiction) about disappointment, drunkenness, racetracks, flophouses, lust, sexual failure, poverty and late-life success amassed an enormous following by the time of his death at age 73 in 1994. Billed as the last book with new Bukowski poems in it, this hefty collection also culls from his prior books, and it is all of a piece: the warnings about lost potency, the ironic takes on ailments of mind and body, the comradeship with everyone down at the heels, down on his luck, or down to his last shot of booze. Bukowski's best poems have an exaggerated, B-movie black-and-white aura about them. One new poem warns that/ nothing is wasted:/ either that/ or/ it all is. In another, hell is only what we/ create,/ smoking these cigarettes,/ waiting here,/ wondering here. Near the front of the volume comes a page-and-a-half-long verse manifesto, a poem is a city, that might describe what Bukowski could do: a poem is a city filled with streets and sewers, it begins, filled with saints, heroes, beggars, madmen... banality and booze, and yet a poem is the world. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Review

“This long and well-edited collection is likely to stand as the definitive volume of Bukowski’s poems.” (New York Times Book Review)

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars new new new May 15 2013
By Charlie
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
excellent condition, + excellent evening read. Maybe an afternoon read also. Maybe a public reading. I suggest Hot Water Music as an intro; short stories have more punch then poems. HWM is The S****!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful selection. March 6 2009
Format:Paperback
This is a "must buy" to anyone who likes Bukowski's works.
It will captivate anyone, from one who has a vague interest in the man to the die-hard admirator.
Thourought the 548 pages of this marvellous collection are a few poems that have never been published before, so even if you have all of his novels and many of his poems (like i do), it is worth buying and you will find something new.
I strongly recommend this to anyone who likes poems that have an edge.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
67 of 71 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Sept. 21 2008
By Zachary T. Ciulla - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
For a guy who's published as many books of poetry as Bukowski has, a large book of selected poems sounds like an excellent idea: a "greatest hits" type collection for casual fans to buy; a single place to get all his best poems. And this book could have been that, save the editing. First of all, over half of the poems selected were published after Bukowski died. They obviously were not what he considered to be his strongest works, they were leftovers. I understand that he had a lot of good leftover poems, but this book really overdoes it. The worst of these poems are the leftover leftovers, poems making their debut in this book (published in 2007). What the hell are poems like that doing in a collection that's supposed to represent his most accomplished and proven work? Secondly, there's absolutely no discernible pattern to the way these poems are arranged. No dates are given, and no attempt at chronology has been made, as if to imply that Bukowski's writing never had any kind of evolution over time. If you research the poems, you can actually spot places where this book jumps multiple decades just from one poem to the next, which makes it awkward to try to read it in order. And even if you don't care about author's intent or dates or sequence, and you just want a good book of poems, I think this book still fails. There are a lot of weak poems in this book, and I think the editor took advantage of the fact that he had complete free range of probably almost every poem Bukowski ever wrote and used it to try to redefine Bukowski as a different type of poet than he was reputed as during his life. And for what purpose, just because he could? This is the same guy who's been reading Bukowski's poems for years, he was probably sick of the old ones and more excited about the posthumous poems he discovered and published in recent years. New readers of Bukowski, tempted by the "selected poems" label, will be unfairly subjected to his personal bias. That isn't to say that there aren't good poems in this book, it just could have been a lot better.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I Have Been Alone But Seldom Lonely" Dec 20 2007
By H. F. Corbin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
THE PLEASURES OF THE DAMNED is a collection of Charles Bukowski's poems, 548 pages of them, many of them from earlier volumes of poetry, some of them never before published. For anyone familiar with Bukowski, there are few if any surprises here, rather a healthy sampling of this iconoclast's poetry. So very autobiographical, many of these poems are about the things Bukowski loved: the races, cats (you can learn from them), booze, poetry (he calls himself a poetry junkie), Wagner, sex (like Mahler, you do not rush it), some women. He can write a paean to a lover in "The Shower" but then say in another poem that American women, as opposed to Japanese women, "will kill you like they tear a lampshade." He is not reticent in writing about people and things he hates as well: some writers, especially Hemingway, whom he describes as "just a drunk"-- the irony is that in "a clean, well-lighted place," his description of Hemingway's use of his literary reputation to reel women in "one at a time" sounds like Bukowski himself-- critics, mindless work. (He pictures workers trapped in jobs that go nowhere as having "goldfish security.)

Nothing was immune from Bukowski's pen. Apparently he could write about any subject. There are poems here on the killing of elephants in Vietnam, a grammar school bully remembered, the ignorance of youth, a trip to the doctor, picturing himself in a nursing home, a conversation with death, an old car ("a poor man's miracle"), the abuse that both he and his mother suffered at the hands of his father (his mother had "the saddest smile I ever knew"), the homeless, the old, poor, sick and dying, throwing a radio out a window, etc., etc.

No one would say that Bukowski wrote "pretty" poems. On the other hand, we cannot deny that many of them go straight to the bone. In "eating my senior citizen's dinner at the Sizzler" (what a horrendous image) markers in modern cemeteries are "flat on the ground, it's much more pleasant for passing traffic." His world is inhabited by a sixty-five-year-old man with cancer who kills his sixty-six-year-old wife who has Alzheimer's and then kills himself and a house that is sad because it is inhabited with people who have mindless, dead-end jobs. For many of the people Bukowski writes about, "it's a lonely world/of frightened people,/just as it has always/been." On the other hand, in the poem entitled "mind and heart" (p. 523), he acknowledges that we are all alone, "forever alone" but goes on to say that "I have been alone but seldom lonely."

Reading Bukowski reminds you of Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg--although he certainly is not derivative of any other writer-- but a case can be made that he is a lot closer in his mood and world view to some of the darker poems of both Robert Frost and Emily Dickinson than he probably would have acknowledged. There is a place in the parade of poets for anyone who speaks the truth: the Robert Frosts, the Emily Dickinsons, the Donald Halls, the Edwin Arlington Robinsons along with the Charles Bukowskis.
34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Worth a Read Nov. 14 2007
By kevin griffith - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Although I own almost every book Buk has written, I thoroughly enjoyed this collection, expertly edited by John Martin. Martin has selected some of Buk's most provocative and surreal work and arranged it so that it still sounds fresh and vital, even to the most devoted fan. My appreciation for Bukowski's work had dwindled somewhat after the incessant posthumous collections, but Martin gives this prolific writer what he really needed lately: a good editing. Thanks.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but definitely not definitve Oct. 11 2010
By Mark Weisinger - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Let me start off by saying that this is a mostly satisfying collection of Bukowski's poetry. There are a few slow spots here and there, but I strongly disagree with the reviewer who said that he could go for a hundred pages without finding a worthwhile poem; that's gross hyperbole. Overall the quality is pretty strong, certainly stronger than the average Bukowski book (excepting The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills; Love Is a Dog From Hell; Burning In Water, Drowning In Flame; War All the Time; and What Matters Most Is How Well You Walk Through Fire).

Most of Bukowski's books, especially the majority of the posthumous collections, are like garage sales - you dig through a dozen dusty stacks of crap to find one or two jewels worth keeping. But this one has a pretty good hit to miss ratio, although it is worth noting that most of the duds are posthumously published (or previously uncollected) poems. That said, another reviewer mentioned that the book was missing the poems "Love Poem to a Stripper", "To the Whore that took my Poems", and "The Beats." I would add to that "The Blackbirds Are Rough Today," "Consummation of Grief," and especially "I Met a Genius." Now, if you're new to Bukowski and you think that I'm just angry because some of my personal favorites are missing, go to Google and look up "Bukowski poetry," find a random website, and look for these poems. They're always there at any site you visit. That's because they're canon. How John Martin, the editor of this book, could miss these poems is beyond me. He obviously didn't check fanzines or conduct surveys, otherwise he wouldn't have overlooked such classics.

Now, if you've never read Bukowski before, and you're looking for a good collection, this is still probably the best place to start, but just be warned that it's somewhat uneven and incomplete. If you're a music fan, here's another analogy for you: You know that greatest hits collection by your favorite band that substitutes a couple of odd demos, live versions and b-sides for a few of your favorite songs? It's kind of like that - frustrating, but it's still better than most of the group's albums. So, if you're looking for one collection to replace the 10-20 Bukowski books sitting on your shelf, you may have to keep waiting for awhile. But if you're looking for a book that has the majority of Bukowski's greatest hits with a few stray b-sides thrown in, you could do a lot worse.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is Not The Best of the Best of Bukowski July 2 2010
By George Anderson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
You have to admire Bukowski for his tenacity to prove himself as an original artist and for his enormous body of work. I'm not too sure what Buk would make of his revamped, posthumous career, but he is becoming increasingly famous and this is the 14th major publication of his creative work since his death in 1994. The large blurb on the back cover of this new UK release claims: THE BEST OF THE BEST OF BUKOWSKI. As pointed out by Zachary T. Ciulla, about half of the poems collected in this volume were not published until after Bukowski's death. It is difficult to imagine Bukowski allowing a lot of this material to be published, but I suppose it is of sufficient interest to appeal to a Bukowski fanatic or scholar.

There are some astounding poems in this collection, such as `The Genius of the Crowd', `Dinosauria, we' and `the bluebird' but there is also a lot of second or third-rate filler. You can sometimes read 100 poems in a stretch and not find one worthy of detailed future consideration. I get the impression that Bukowski's long term venerable editor John Martin slapped this one together, tossing in the mix, dozens of uncollected or newly published poems to give the volume a fresh, previously unread feel, even amongst Buk's most ardent followers. The book is certainly worth reading, but overall, a vast majority of the poems did not challenge me or extend my understanding of the Bukowski canon.

If you are a novice reader of Bukowski, rather than waste your hard earned bucks on 'Pleasures of the Damned' check out some of his finer earlier work- he actually agreed to have published during his lifetime. You can't go wrong with LOVE IS A DOG FROM HELL (1977), BURNING IN WATER DROWNING IN FLAME (1978) or WAR ALL THE TIME (1984).
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