Absence of the Hero

Absence of the Hero
Uncollected Stories and Essays, Vol. 2: 1946-1992
Introduction by David Stephen Calonne
Edited by David Stephen Calonne

Press Reviews


"Like a brass-rail Existentialist or a skid-row Transcendentalist, [Bukowski] is candid, unblinking, leaving it to his readers to cast their own judgment about his mishaps, his drinking, his sexual appetite or his own pessimism. He is Ralph Waldo Emerson as a Dirty Old Man, not lounging in the grape-arbor of Concord, Massachusetts, but bent-over a table in an L.A. flophouse scribbling in pencil to the strains of Sibelius."
—Paul Maher Jr.

Resources for American Literary Study

"[Bukowski] could be generous and mean-spirited, heroic and defensive, spot-on and slanted, but he became the world-class writer he had set out to be; he has joined the permanent anti-canon or shadow-canon whose denizens had shown him the way. Today the frequent allusions to him in both popular and mainstream culture tend more to respect than mockery. If scholarship has lagged, this book would indicate that this situation is changing."
— Gerald Locklin


"The pieces range over nearly half a century, and include a story about a baseball player seized by a sudden bout of existential paralysis, along with early, graphically sexual (and masterfully comic) stories published in such smut mags as Candid Press."

San Francisco Chronicle

"Charles Bukowski, the late poet best known for his odes to sex, booze and general skid-row squalor, turns reflective in much of "Absence of the Hero: Uncollected Stories and Essays, Vol. 2: 1946-1992". In one piece, titled "He Beats His Women," Bukowski touches on a visit to these parts: 'The only time I read in San Francisco, 800 people arrived and 100 of those arrived with buckets of garbage to throw at me. At 2 bucks a head, that garbage didn't smell too bad.'"

Midwest Book Review

"An absolute must for fans of Charles Bukowski's work, Absence of a Hero is also a welcome addition to public and college library literary studies shelves."

The Montreal Mirror

"When Bukowski sat down at his trusted Underwood typewriter to 'play the piano,' it was the only time in his life he felt immortal, with every word painstakingly chosen and direct from the gut. If you haven't had the pleasure of digging into one of his already published works, these easily digestible stories are a perfect starting point."

-Johnson Cummins

The Toronto Globe and Mail

"Even after he published more than 50 books, Bukowski (1920-1994) left behind dozens of unpublished stories and essays. U.S. American literature scholar Calonne, who also edited Vol. 1 of Bukowski's unpublished works, provides an informative and informed introduction and a useful set of notes."

Boulder Weekly

"But unlike 'Exit to Brooklyn' and other erotically charged American tales of urban horror and desperation, many of Bukowski's short stories actually leave one with a warm glow, whether from reluctant but real love, brilliant delineation of sociological phenomena in America or, once in a while, juicy science fiction."

—Adam Perry

Chico News and Review

"Charles Bukowski, prophet of the lost, deacon of the mean and insane. . . . In Absence of the Hero, City Lights' second posthumous volume of uncollected stories and essays, we’re given samples spanning almost his entire career. There are moments of brilliance and flickers of light. . . . "

Bold Monkey

"City Lights take their Bukowski uncollected stories and essays seriously and David Calonne has meticulously assembled and documented the two volumes of this series. . . . this is essential reading for every Bukophile."

—Bold Monkey

Fifth Wednesday Journal

"[Bukowski] seems to be one of those rare writers who learns not by emulating a given model but by reading his own stuff as he writes and rediscovering for himself the dignity of form. . . . A low-life raconteur and a dimestore perv, Bukowski was the life of the party night after night. When you open any of his books, that party goes on."

—Said Shirazi, Fifth Wednesday Journal