New Charles Bukowski anthology to reveal his love of practical cats

Three new books of unpublished work will show another side to the late writer, including a surprising love of cats, which he described as 'my teachers'

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The Independent Culture

For many he was the “laureate of American low life” known for his writing on poverty, alcohol, terrible jobs and even worse relationships.

Yet three new books of unpublished work by Charles Bukowski will show another side to the late writer, including a surprising love of cats, which he described as “my teachers”.

The author of novels such as Factotum and Women wrote about his love of all things feline in various poems, including “My Cats” and “The History of One Tough Motherfucker”. Later this year, previously unseen material will be collected in a volume called On Cats.

“If you’re feeling bad, you just look at the cats; you’ll feel better, because they know everything is, just as it is,” he once said, adding: “The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have a hundred cats, you’ll live 10 times longer than if you have 10. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever.”

Howard Sounes, author of Charles Bukowski: Locked in the Arms of a Crazy Life, explained: “He became sentimental about cats in his old age. When he made a bit of money, he lived the suburban life with his wife Linda Lee and they had a lot of cats. He got a bit soppy about them.” In “The History of One Tough Motherfucker”, Bukowski describes showing journalists a cat who defied veterinary predictions and recovered after being run over; he cited the creature’s defiance as his inspiration.

Journalists “want to hear about life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed, shot, runover, de-tailed cat and I say: ‘Look, look at this!’ ” he wrote. Bukowski is in good literary company in his feline devotion. William Burroughs, the author of Junky and Naked Lunch, wrote The Cat Inside in 1986, in which he reminisced about the cats in his life. Jack Kerouac wrote tenderly of the death of his pet Tyke in Big Sur.

Publishers Canongate will first release a collection of previously unpublished letters by Bukowski, on the art of writing, in July. On Cats will follow three months later, and On Love will be released in February 2016.

When he died, Bukowski left a vast amount of unpublished material with his editor John Martin, in California. “John had a filing cabinet full of poems, a few stories and he was a prolific letter writer,” Mr Sounes said. “There are thousands and thousands of letters.”

Bukowski published his first story in 1944 at the age of 24 and began writing poetry a decade later. He gave up his job in a post office to write full time, focusing on the lives of working-class Americans, producing thousands of poems and hundreds of short stories as well as six novels, before his death in 1994.

“He was very prolific and left a lot of stuff behind,” Mr Sounes said. “He’s still popular – he’s funny and easy to read. He also writes about things we can all empathise with: jobs we hate and love-life problems.”

When news of the collections emerged in the US, it was met with delight. On one forum a fan wrote: “I’m sure some cat-lovers will be buying the cat book.

“It’s also the perfect gift for a cat-lover who can then be turned into a Bukowksi-lover too.”