Charles Bukowski died of leukemia in 1994, but you’d hardly know it. In the years since, his longtime editor has overseen the publication of a shelf of books, including three volumes of letters and at least ten of new poems (of which the most recent, published a couple of years ago, was supposed to be the very last). Now comes The Continual Condition, as if there will never be an end.[1] You can’t blame his heirs for shoving into print all the Bukowski they can, but you’d like some sense of the reserves—are they the size of the Genizah at Cairo? The North Sea oil fields? At this rate, in a few more years he’ll have published more books from the grave than he published while alive.

Bukowski was the great littérateur of American lowlife. His father was an American soldier in the Great War, his mother a German war bride. The...