LOS ANGELES — The last muse of Charles "Hank" Bukowski, the alcoholic and womanizing US author who used blunt prose to write about society's downtrodden, still lives in the home she shared with her late husband and hopes to turn it into a museum.
"That's exactly like living with a ghost," Linda Lee Bukowski told AFP. "His room is exactly the same. Clothes hanging around, you know, things like that."
Linda Lee is as shy as her late famous husband, but made an effort to speak to strangers at the Huntington Museum in the town of San Marino, just north of Los Angeles, which is holding an exhibit titled, "Charles Bukowski: Poet on the Edge," through February 2011.
Bukowski (1920-1994) was an important figure in 20th-century US literature. "In his poetry and prose, Bukowski used experience, emotion, and imagination, along with violent and sexual imagery, to capture life at its most raw and elemental," reads a description of his work on the museum website.
Bukowski "spoke for the social outcasts -- the drunks, prostitutes, addicts, lay-abouts, and petty criminals -- as well as those who are simply worn down by life."
The Museum bills the exhibit as the "most comprehensive exhibition on the writer ever undertaken" and includes typed scripts of Bukowski?s poems, periodicals with his poetry, and pictures loaned by his widow.
The 1987 Hollywood movie "Barfly," starring Faye Dunaway and Mickey Rourke, is loosely based on Bukowski?s life. The 2006 film "Factotum," starring Matt Dillon, was another semi-autobiographical work, drawing on one of Bukowski's stories.
"This exhibition is very personal for me and it's the combination of many years," Linda Lee Bukowski told AFP.
"I'm very happy and very nervous because I'm not used to talking this way. I'm just getting used to be a person of public stature.
"Bukowski didn't like it at all," she said.
"He was a shy man, he was an individual who was more reclusive than outgoing and that's why he would tend to drink and overdrink, because it was so much for him to handle the enormous social life. It was wasted time for him.
"He would rather be either at his typewriter or having dinner at Musso and Frank," a landmark eatery billed as the "oldest restaurant in Hollywood."
Bukowski, who grew up and spent most of his life in Los Angeles, rose to fame after a difficult childhood and 14 years working in anonymity at the post office.
He had written poems and short stories all his life, but did not write for a living until age 46, when the editor of Black Sparrow Press offered to pay him 100 dollars a month to focus on writing.
"He never talked with me about his work," his widow said. "He thought it was a bad luck. Once in a while, he would come down at night with a poem, and he would have a drink and he would read it. It was once in a year.
"But in general, he would never show anybody because he thought it would bring bad luck. He would send it immediately to the publisher."
Bukowski had many female muses in his life that inspired his trademark raw, straightforward style. Linda Lee herself was never comfortable about being in his books.
"Certain things are very embarrassing. But you know, you're living with a writer. He writes novels. He always wrote about the people he lived with, that's what he wrote about. People surrounding him in his life, his family, his existence, his friends.
"So I assumed that sooner or later I would be in some of the writings. I didn't practise to be in that position," she said.
It was the writing that brought her together with Bukowski in the first place, she said.
"We were very distinct. He's from here (California), I'm from the east coast, just different backgrounds. But we had a similar sense of humor, similar inner things. So I think that's why we clicked."
Today she still lives in the home they shared in San Pedro, a coastal town south of Los Angeles, a place she hopes to eventually turn into a museum.
The house "is exactly the same -- I have not changed anything," she said. "I live with my cats, in our house, as if I am living in a museum, because everything is there but him.
"I go into his room in the evening... and sometimes I can smell, you know, some sort of a fragrance of Hank in there."
Copyright © 2013 AFP. All rights reserved. More »