9 pp. handwritten letter on 8 sheets of paper. 20x13 cm (8x5").
This is currently the only known surviving piece of correspondence from the mysterious Jane Cooney Baker, Bukowski's early love and generally considered his most important muse. The missive is a nine page letter written to her family (Jo Craig, Barbara, Pam and Robby) on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 1961, the year before her death. The letter is written from "315 N. Vermont, L.A.. 4 -."
Jane Cooney opens the letter with the fact that she recently cut her hand with a razor blade “(3 fingers and palm),” hence the somewhat crooked writing. She describes some correspondence and meetings with her daughter, “Del,” and mentions getting a job at a restaurant (“they tried to make a waitress out of me”) and moving to a new “third class” hotel.” The restaurant she was employed with was eventually demolished, and she ended up helping out at the hotel - “I am now practically the manager.” She mentions Bukowski on pages 5 and 6, writing, “Hank is talking about getting me a small place to manage, on lease, that is.” She continues, “In regard to Hank – he has proven to be a wonderful friend – he takes me to the races now and then, and stakes me. On Xmas and such I go to his place and cook a dinner and sometimes just on Sundays. He's gotten over that meanness and we get along just fine- but that's all!” In her postscript she mentions her husband, Craig: “You know Craig and I were terribly in love - but neither of us had any sense -.” Towards the end of the letter she sums things up with, “I'm not too happy, I'm not unhappy – so what more can one expect!”
In this letter we get to hear Jane's voice for the first time, and she comes off as witty and intelligent, and it's easy to see how Bukowski was drawn to her. The nine pages are full of small details that lift the veil just a bit on the myth and mystery of Bukowski's most important muse, Jane Cooney Baker, and her relationship with the poet. Provenance: Pam Murchison, granddaughter of Jane Cooney Baker.
In 2016 Maik Diedrich of the German Charles Bukowski Society started a project to find information about Charles Bukowski's muse, Jane Cooney Baker. During his research he was able to locate Jane´s granddaughter Pam. Her family never told her about the Bukowski connection. Her father died in 2007 and left a 9 page handwritten letter from Jane to her family in which she mentioned Bukowski twice and described two situations which where later used in Bukowskis first novel " Post Office."
Bukowski had sometimes referred to Jane as his one true love, and she was certainly his greatest muse. Slightly fictionalized versions of her appear in many of his works; she was featured as Betty in Post Office and later as Laura in Factotum. Fay Dunaway's character Wanda in the film Barfly was largely based on Jane. Many of Bukowski's most poignant and powerful poems were inspired by her. In particular, a number of poems in his collection, The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses over the Hills were inspired by her memory.
Details of Jane's life are currently sparse. She was born in 1910 in Roswell, New Mexico. Only one photograph has thus far surfaced of Jane, her Junior year photo from her Roswell School yearbook. She married her husband Craig Baker in January 1928. According to Howard Soune's Bukowski biography, he died in 1947 in an alcohol related car accident, for which Jane blamed herself and she started drinking heavily soon after. She was 10 years Bukowski's senior and was supposedly living off donations of older men and living in cheap hotels when Bukowski met her in a bar, when she was 38. She was his first serious girlfriend and only the second woman he had slept with. She died in 1962 from a burst stomach ulcer after a long bout with alcoholism.
The Bukowski society will be publishing the letter in their next yearbook at the end of this 2019.