Charles Bukowski's writing style was both his greatest strength and weakness.

Written by Cole Schafer


By now, you’ve probably gathered I have a bizarre fascination with the indie poet and underground writer, Charles Bukowski.

I’ve written about his advice to aspiring writers, I’ve curated some of his more stunning lines in literature and I’ve also shared his candid stance on going all the way.

Now, I want to kick some dirt on him. Kind of.

Grab a broom.

Charles Bukowski did an interview years ago where he was asked about his writing, and also, about death.

I’ll share the latter towards the end of this article because it’s not necessarily the focus of this piece.

But, here’s what Bukowski had to say about writing…

Bukowski was asked if he had ever read Malcolm Lowry’s Under the Volcano. To which he said he did and that he ‘yawned himself to shit’.

“Like any other writer there is not pace and there is no quickness in his lines. There is no life. There is no sunlight.”

He continued…

“When you write… each line must be full of a delicious little juice. Flavor. They must be full of power. They must make you want to turn a page… Each line must be an entity onto itself.”

Bukowski goes on to explain that most writers are too leisurely, that they take too much time to set the scene and he cautions them against being boring.

“Writing must never be boring.”

Bukowski’s juicy flavorful approach to writing made him good but perhaps hindered him from being great.

When you read one of his books –– particularly one of his big three (Post Office, Ham on Rye, Women) –– you will find that it’s not really a story as much as a collection of stories.

Snapshots, almost.

While this certainly keeps the reader turning the page, it at the same time prevents you from truly getting lost in his writing, falling in love with his characters, etc.

You never finish Bukowski’s books feeling the same way as when you finish, say, Pressfield’s or King’s or Hemingway’s –– like waving goodbye to a dear friend after a splendid adventure you won’t ever experience in quite the same way again.

Bukowski said what he wanted to say about something. But, never more. To reach for a metaphor here, he was more obsessed with telling of the lightning rather than the storm.

His work was one giant highlight reel.

Bukowski’s writing style (or, perhaps, life philosophy) seemed to remain consistent even when he spoke of life and death.

When the interviewer asked the indie poet if he feared the latter, the poet had the following to say…

“As you live many years things take on a repeat, you understand? You keep seeing the same thing over and over again. The same substance. The same action. The same reaction. So you get a little bit tired of life. So, as death comes you almost say… okay baby, it’s time, it’s good. So no, I have very little fear of death. I almost welcome it.”

If you can give the man any credit, it’s that he didn’t just write this truth, he lived it. When the party became repetitive, it was almost like Bukowski no longer felt he needed to be there to write about it.

One line he shared that stuck out to me and a line I think is worth closing with was…

“If you write dull shit it doesn’t matter what you die from… ”

Maybe he was right.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Charles Bukowski).