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The Captain is Out to Lunch Paperback – May 31, 2002

4.4 out of 5 stars 26 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Something new from Bukowski is always a treat. This posthumous collaboration with comix artist R. Crumb is sublime. Crumb perfectly captures Bukowski's world, which did change over the years. The wall-to-wall drinking and fighting of younger days gave way to the horse track, writing, and mortality. The writing became less compact, but then these writings are late-night journal entries. Bukowski at 71 was using a word processor, keeping his manual typewriter next to the computer (it leered at him when its digital descendant was on the blink). If fans can abide such bourgeois developments as that and the old Bukowski's swimming pool, they will be thoroughly gratified by this book that gives us the same cranky, sardonic, insightful master of gritty expression whose roaring public appearances of the '60s triggered the rebirth of poetry as performance. And oh, yes, this satisfying glimpse of the writer near the end of his career is also a must for Crumb enthusiasts. Mike Tribby --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"I am not in a contest. I never wanted fame or money. I wanted to get the word down the way I wanted it, that's all. And I had to get the words down or be overcome by something worse than death." So writes the late Charles Bukowski in his entry for 6/23/92 (12:34 AM). The Captain Is Out To Lunch And The Sailors Have Taken Over The Ship, a delightful, posthumous gathering of excerpts from Bukowski notebooks, is loaded with such direct ruminations about writing, death, money, humanity, and how the author located meaning and value in his daily life and work. Richly illustrated with gritty drawings by Robert Crumb, Bukowski's legions of readers will want to add this prose volume to their collections. Autograph seekers, race track habitués and the dull thud of the nags ("I go to the track almost reluctantly. I am too idiotic to figure out any other place to go...I guess getting my ass out of here forces me to look at Humanity and when you look at Humanity you've GOT to react." p.66), Hollywood types, classical music and classy authors, poets and poseurs, all subjects frequently addressed by Bukowski over the course of his long, productive career, shape the book's contents. One observes Bukowski at home, going to the mall with wife Linda, driving the LA freeways, at his computer mulling over what does and doesn't add up. Charles Bukowski scrapped and fought for his rewards and, as "The Captain Is Out To Lunch" makes indelibly clear, it was honest writing and its publication, not money or fame, that empowered him. Ultimately he achieved acclaim and a fair measure of financial success, after establishing a beneficial relationship with John Martin of Black Sparrow Press, a committed independent publisher who enabled him to reach a world-wide audience of readers. They valued his work during his lifetime and continue to anticipate the thinning stream of books still coming out several years after his death. -- From Independent Publisher
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (May 31, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1574230581
  • ISBN-13: 978-1574230581
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.4 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #423,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Charles Bukowski, The Captain Is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship (Black Sparrow, 1998)

A year in the life of Charles Bukowski, 1991-92, as he neared death. He knew he was nearing death; he writes about it as often as he wrote about the deaths of other things in his poetry. Of course, his is not the only death to mention in these pages; car accidents, a falling neighbor, etc.

Other than death, Buk's diary talks a lot about horseplaying. Great for me. Perhaps not so great for others.

Bukowski was always a better poet than he was a prose stylist, but The Captain Is Out to Lunch... is likely the most readable piece of Buk's prose I have ever come across. Probably because there was nothing to writing it; instead of coming up with characters, plot, theme, etc., they're sitting there at the track or in the neighborhood waiting for you.

Worthwhile. One of the better posthumously published works. *** ½
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Format: Paperback
I say that facetiously, of course, because I am a long time Bukhead. This journal is a great opportunity to get a glimpse inside Bukowskis mind in his later years. He may have mellowed but it is still vintage Buk. The wine continued to flow and the typewriter continued to produce. It does not equal his poetry or novels but it is still beneficial reading for any fan of Buk. And the illustrations by R. Crumb are almost worth the price of admission on their own. R. Crumb is still as demented and crazed as ever. A worthwhile addition to any personal library.
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Format: Hardcover
I had an indirect contact with Bukowski in the 1970s when I was working at a Long Beach college newspaper and our Arts editor had just gotten back from seeing him at one of his poetry readings. I was asked to write the headline for the rave review on it we were publishing, and as a young poet I was more than happy to do so.

In the headline I called him "Buk the bard" and they gave it the go ahead for printing. But the editor had met his friends and they'd mentioned that Buk no longer lived in Hollywood and had moved to the notorious San Pedro area.

We all got very concerned for him and told Buk's friends that he shouldn't live there, and that L.A., Belmont Shore, Long Beach - almost anywhere else, in fact - would be preferable. As I recall, at that time there was a stabbing in Pedro almost every weekend.

Soonafter we got word in the newsroom of what Buk thought of the suggestion by us little upscale college smartasses - he said it was a rather dumb one, and that he actually regarded it as an insult, as if we'd just ridiculed his new jacket.

Since his writing didn't float much on the waters of pretense, he enjoyed being where the action was, even if it was now within a very dangerous environment for a guy getting on in years. He planned to stay put anyway and he indeed did exactly that.

I was surprised to hear years later that he'd lasted until 1994, because I'd always bet that, even escaping any physical injury, and with his seeming million gallon booze capacity, he still wouldn't last past 1980.

But don't worry, the old warhorse will still be running new words at the literary track for quite some time.
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Format: Paperback
I await new Bukowski books--and there seems to be no end of material from the John Martin vaults--with a special fervor, probably because he's just about ruined all other writers for me (only a few by Celine stand up). This one did not disappoint my high expectations, and is a special treat for its format: the only diary-style work Buk wrote. Humorous moments abound, but it does lack some of the edge of his best writing. At its worst, it almost goes into a kind of cranky Andy Rooney thing, but he rights the ship every time. Like his treatment of his later material success & international fame, Buk toys with the irony that he's doing something so precious & self-important as writing diary entries & is quick with the "they made me do it" excuse. Clearly, though, he has fun with the style &, really, it's quite suited to his work, which focuses on the mundane so much anyway (Buk never fails to mention whenever he takes a doo or pukes throughout his writing). The Crumb illustrations are perfect. What a match between writer & illustrator. Overall, it's not my first recommendation for a Bukowski neophyte (I'd choose "Factotum," "Ham on Rye," or "Play the Piano Drunk..."), but then again I recommend his entire output much more so than any one book.
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Format: Paperback
This collection of journal entries could appear to be getting at the heart of this author's eminently true-to-life writing, seeing as how his works are so autobiographical. But as he says in the book, "Pain doesn't make writing, a writer does." That is, Bukowski's arduous work as a writer created the dozens of titles under his name, not some unfiltered suffering and inspiration we may hope to find by digging through his sock drawer to find his diary. Judging from the tendancies of 20th century fame, I suppose the issuing of his journals should come as no surprise; it's only a matter of time until we want to know everything about our heroes. But when fame's momentum starts flying off the handle, when the surname of the artist can weigh enough to publish just about anything he or she has done, it is high time to assess where on the shelf Bukowski's books are placed. Are they alongside volumes of criticism/laudation and reprints with academic forewords and afterwords? Or will we grant his wish stated in his journal entry: "I'm just a block unto myself. I want to stay within that block, unmolested." It seems our inclination is to include him in the literary canon, but it is evident that Bukowski wishes otherwise, ironically so in these posthumously published journals. Consider: "When [the writer] is swayed by the critics, the editors, the publishers, the readers, then he's finished. And, of course, when he's swayed with his fame and his fortune, you can float him down the river with the turds." Where in this turd metaphor is us, his audience, who appears to be swayed by all of the above?
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