Los Angeles is the second largest city in America, and the largest in California, with a population just shy of 13 million. Economically, it is the 8th most powerful city in the world. It lies on the west coast of the United States and is internationally famous for its entertainment industry.
This fault line city was the setting for almost all of Bukowski’s work. The City of Angels force-fed him material; he spat it out and fed it back to the city, venting his words through underground newspapers and raucous poetry readings, with 40 volumes of poetry, 6 novels, several short story collections and a screen play.
Away from Hollywood and the tourism industry depicting LA as a sun-blessed paradise, there is a meaner side to the city. Bukowski wrote about the real people of the city: in a society that is getting more unequal every day he spoke up for the poor, the forgotten and the lost. LA for him was home, a transient population, drinking dens, cockroach-ridden boarding houses, violence and vice. Bukowski often focused on skid row.
It would be bleak reading, but he repeatedly managed to ebb the tide of depression with dry and sarcastic humour.
“I’d like to fly on to Moscow to check out their mass transit system so I’d have something faintly lewd to whisper into the ear of the Mayor of Los Angeles on my return to this fucking place” [extract from poem titled on the continent]
LA is best known for Hollywood, the epicentre of the global film industry, a rose-tinted vision of a honey-glazed society, the antithesis to Bukowski’s words. He spoke out against Hollywood with his cutting realism and blood-and-guts style, even though later in his career he became involved in the industry, writing a screenplay for the movie Barfly.