“Well, my 71st year has been a hell of a productive year. I have probably written more words this year than in any year of my life.”


literature fiend The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship provides an interesting look  into Charles Bukowski’s personal life.

Most of Bukowski’s novels are written from the perspective of Henry Chinaski – his literary alter ego – which are undoubtedly based on real experiences.

This is a diary – recorded on Bukowski’s computer – which begins in 1991 and ends in 1993 – the year Bukowksi died of leukaemia aged 73.

It’s  great to imagine Bukowski, sitting at his desk night -after-night banging away at his keyboard with dogged determination just to “get the words down.”

Bukowski was always a prolific writer,  but this diary provides a  glimpse into his frustration with the writing process.   On the 20th October 1991, he writes:

“This is one of those nights where there is nothing. Imagine being always like this. Scooped-out. Listless. No light. No dance. Not even any disgust.” (p. 57)

However, In the same entry he writes about his productivity, showing “the block” as a rare occurrence:

“Still, I’ve had a good year. Masses of pages sit in the bookcase behind me. Written since Jan. 18. It’s like a madman was turned loose. No sane man would write that many pages. It’s a sickness.” (p. 57) 

Although most of the entries are filled with the mundane, the diary really highlights the importance of a routine.  For Bukowski is went pretty much like this:

  1. Wake up.
  2. Drive to the Horse Racing.
  3. Write at night while listening to classical music.

BukowskiThe best part of the book  was Bukowski’s  transition from typewriter to computer. The fact that there was to be “No more carbons, no more retyping,” was something Bukowski was excited about. It meant more time to create fresh content.

“This computer that I started using on Jan. 18 has had much to do with [enhanced productivity]. It’s simply easier to get the word down, it transfers more quickly from the brain (or wherever this comes from) to the fingers and from the fingers to the screen where it is immediately visible – crisp and clear” (p. 73)

This passage left me thinking about technology and how easy it is to create a document, edit that document and then print it. Something that is maybe taken for granted by  those of us born in the “computer generation.”

In retrospect, there is also a sad element to this book.  It isn’t clear whether Bukowski knew about his Leukaemia in any of the diary entries, although he is certainly thinking about his own mortality:

“The other day I was thinking about the world without me. There is the world going on doing what it does. And I’m not there. Very odd. Think of the garbage truck coming by and picking up the garbage and I’m not there. Or the newspaper sits in the drive and I’m not there to pick it up. Impossible. ” (P. 107)

The Captain is out to Lunch and the Sailors have taken over the Ship contains pretty much what you’d expect from Charles Bukowski. Lots of talk about drinking and betting and literature and classical music; all of which is delivered in a raw and honest style.


What did you think of the diary? As always Literature Fiend would love to hear any discussions points, or suggestions for further reading. Please contact us, or leave a comment below, it would be great to hear from you.