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The short stories that changed my life at 14 and at 54
I produced an audiobook imprint for Audible for 12 years: The Bright List.
One of my great pleasures in the early days, when digital audio was green, was to seek out classic authors I wanted to listen to.
After all, I’d been reading their words aloud in my bedroom, and memorizing their verses in my shower, all my life!
One of them was Charles Bukowski.
Charles Bukowski : A Primer
I first read Tales of Ordinary Madness at 14, one of those classic “raid-your-parents’-bookshelves” maneuvers. I’m glad to say I’m the better writer for it.
Bukowski was an Angeleno, and so was I, at the time. He published a weekly column in the LA Free Press. He was the author who inspired Jon and Barbara Martin’s Black Sparrow Press. He was a habitué of Hollywood, downtown LA, Venice.
You could easily run into “Hank" (as Bukowski was known) at Papa Bach’s, the classic beat bookshop on Pico, or down in Venice, drinking Colt 45’s with the rest of the Wednesday night poets who read their latest typewritten drafts on West Washington Blvd.
We’d meet in a room that looked like a cinder block — it was the clubhouse for AA meetings, those familiar metal chairs and linoleum floors.
On Wednesday nights, the room transformed into a poetry grind— writers tried out your new shit and no one said a fucking thing. Pop another tab. I first heard Bukowski and the very young Exene Cervenka in that same room.
You can know everything about 14-year-old me, from one that fact.
Anyway, when I got the chance, decades later, to work with City Lights Press and Bukowski’s estate to license audio editions, the choice of actor was hanging over us all. Hank was long gone.
And then, a lightbulb went off: Will Patton. I think it was my colleague Kat Jackson’s idea. She said that Will didn’t say yes to anything he didn’t love 1000%, and if he did this, we would have the performance of a lifetime.
And we did. Bukowski’s spirit, I’m sure, was gobsmacked in the existential mist.
I still get goosebumps re-listening to these stories. Patton was recording Bukowski’s lifetime of work non-stop for a couple months, and never flagged. Each story and poem, a little jewel.
Producers don’t usually get the rights to separate stories in an anthology, to produce short stories on their own. I was very lucky to create a few Bukowski short stories on their own.
I had such a ball picking the “diamonds” to show off.
Here’s my stand-along short story productions; they’re just a few minutes to listen to and then your whole day is shot out of a cannon!
No one can write about a shit-eating job like Bukowski. Welcome to my slaughterhouse. If you loved his novel “Post Office,” this is a must.
And she was.
To die in LA County charity hospital, if charity is your idea of certain sadistic demise. Brutally accurate.
The best satire of Malibu EVER.
This is an unusual story in Buk’s catalog. The protagonist is not his alter ego, but another desperate character altogether, who loves his daughter dearly. Just as Hank loved Linda.
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