On the phone to me, Debritto notes that he knows collectors who will shell out $1,000 or more for a Bukowski-related item. Whatever his king-of-the-underground reputation, Bukowski means big business now. Linda Bukowski, who donated his literary archive to the Huntington Library in 2006, estimates that the body of work could have fetched more than $1 million.
When I mention Mallory to her, Linda hasn't heard of him. It's not surprising. She met her husband in the mid-1970s, after Mallory had left for the barracks, and she notes that Bukowski — "Hank" to her — chose his inner-circle carefully. Mallory, most likely, was an acquaintance and colleague more than a close friend.
"You could count what he actually described as friends on one hand," she says. "I guess in those days, in the early '70s, he had contact with a lot of people because he was getting his name out there."
Still, she expresses interest when I mention the documents in Mallory's collection. When Linda visits book fairs, she sometimes checks for new artifacts. She once paid $3,000 to replace a rare Bukowski volume that was stolen from her home.
"It's always exciting to hear about new things," she says.
With Mallory's blessing, I mail her a stack of documents: the photo, two letters, a copy of "Now and Then," and excerpts from the New Year's Eve memoir. Two decades after death officially parted them, Mallory and Bukowski have reunited, if only through one degree of separation.
The last few minutes found Bukowski and I alone in the kitchen. I muttered something to the effect that he could stay at our place if he came up to Santa Barbara to read. "But you can't dry off on the sheets," I tell him. I say too that I'm going to do everything I can to get that reading for him. And then the conversation turns to men and poetry. He knows that I look up to him and for some reason he says, "Lookit, you're just a man and so am I. You're a poet and I'm a poet, but you haven't been around as long as I have.
"Remember too," he says, "until we sit down in front of that typewriter, that machine, we're just the same. Just tryin' to get by in this crappy world, just the two of us and all the rest. So just stay at the machine. It's the only thing that's gonna last."