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As I covered in the review for THE CAPTAIN IS OUT TO LUNCH, I'm just as much a fan of Bukowski's low-key diary writing as the more eye-opening novels. They give a glimpse - shit, more than a glimpse, a profound look - at the man behind the boozy and hell-raising persona.

SHAKESPEARE NEVER DID THIS - essentially a travelogue of Buk's trip to Europe in 1978 - includes effortlessly interesting writing and a sense of a thoughtful, intelligent guy. It's also a great bridging piece between two of Bukowski's novels - just after he'd found big success in Europe (mostly due to WOMEN) and before his adventures in HOLLYWOOD.

SHAKESPEARE NEVER DID THIS is out of print right now, but you can pick up copies for $25 or so. If you can, get a second-hand Black Sparrow Press edition with its nice thick paper. The cost is worth it. Not only do we get superb writing, we also get a bunch of beautiful black and white photographs by Michael Montfont. Just check out the one below... click on the photos for bigger versions.

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The book is A4 sized and it does full justice to the photos, but it's the way that the photos dovetail with Bukowski's diary that makes the book such a damn interesting read. I particularly liked a shot of Bukowski looking wistfully - almost heroically - out from the top of a castle. But here's how he writes about it:
"So then we went up for a scenic shot overlooking the Rhine and Michael kept saying, 'Get closer.' He didn't understand that all the drinking and all the hangovers loosened a man's balance. I teetered there, pretending to look at the river and all the villages. We were 2,000 feet up, no parachutes, and the camera went snap, snap, click, click, and I was glad to get down from there."

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There's is plenty of Bukowski's wry humour throughout the book and the tone is more self-deprecating than his novels. He writes about hangovers, struggling in social situations and his nerves before readings. But for fans of the Buk persona, there are also a few moments of fun hell-raising action. Buk is thrown off a French literary show. Some women protest that he's a sexist. One guy at a reading repeatedly screams that Buk is a "dirty old man." Bukowski's response is this:
"I had another glass of wine and looked at him as he kept screaming at me. I had always said, when you get them to hating you then you know you are doing your job well."

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However - much to his pleasant surprise - the Europeans mostly prove to be a bunch of savvy and dedicated fans. This seems a common theme with great ballsy writers. Bukowski, John Fante, Dan Fante, and MSP's Mark SaFranko have found huge success in Europe but were mainly shunned in the USA. Despite the fact the USA has produced the largest amount of great underground writers. It's all a bit baffling.

I asked Doug Stanhope about the same issue in THE SAVAGE KICK #2. He replied about British audiences: "It's quite obvious that the UK audience is more aware on a worldwide level. But that might just be due to your television sucking ass. If everyone there had 180 channels, they might be as flat-lined as the common American." Maybe Doug has it right. Maybe too much choice is just as limiting as not enough choice. Why search for something different when something convenient is right there?

Try to put in the effort to read SHAKESPEARE NEVER DID THIS. It's a real joy. Just fucking avoid the cheapskate, stupid little Kindle version where all the photos will be depressingly small on that stupid little screen. Get the A4 book in your hands and enjoy Charles Bukowski and Michael Montfont in the way they intended... and in the way their talent deserves.

Review by Steve Hussy