Charles Bukowski's career as both a poet and a writer was concerned mainly with one central topic: Charles Bukowski. He appeared in various guises in his own poems and stories, and there have been a number of screen versions, too -- he was famously played by Mickey Rourke in 1987's "Barfly," and this Friday, Matt Dillon will portray him in the new "Factotum," a film based on Bukowski's novel of the same name. Salon's audio archive has four of Bukowski's readings available for exclusive free download, all from "Run With the Hunted" and recorded in 1993, the year before he died of leukemia. "The Soldier, His Wife and the Bum" and "Fan Letter" are solid if typical Bukowski fare, but "The Last Days of the Suicide Kid" deals with the perils of old age, and "The Poetry Reading" is a funny, sly take on his own fame.
Also available for download, this interview clip -- with less than stellar sound quality, so turn up that volume -- is the rare chance to hear Bukowski as himself, rather than one of his fictional personas, and despite the telltale sound of clinking glasses and the sloshing of a bottle, he comes off as less a boozing womanizer than a soft-spoken old hand. He tells the story of the first time he realized he was a writer, making up a story for a school assignment about President Hoover visiting Southern California: "That was the first inkling that there was a seed in there somewhere -- I told this bullshit story about the president."
-- Scott Lamb