Charles Bukowski? Kinky Friedman? Van Dyke Parks? Anonymous?
Dear Quote Investigator: The following grimly comical paean to romanticized self-destruction is often attributed to the poet, novelist, and imbiber Charles Bukowski:
Find what you love and let it kill you.
I have been unable to locate a poem or story written by Bukowski containing this line. Another candidate for authorship is the musician and mystery writer Kinky Friedman. Who do you think crafted this eccentric advice?
Quote Investigator: The earliest evidence located by QI appeared in the “Houston Chronicle” newspaper of Houston, Texas in 1986. The humorist, singer, and songwriter Kinky Friedman was profiled by the paper because he had branched out into a new field. Friedman had recently authored his first mystery novel, and while discussing his colorful career he employed the adage. Interestingly, the expression contained the word “like” instead of “love”. Boldface has been added to excerpts: 1
Friedman is a little proud of himself that he got past the self-destruct phase of booze and drugs without going any of the usual mystical routes.
“I did it on my own, without AA or Jesus; but, then, I think we all have to find the Jesus of our choosing. I’ve always said: Find what you like, and let it kill you.”
The saying with the word “love” has been credited to Charles Bukowski in recent years, but QI has located no substantive evidence to support this ascription.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1986 September 18, Houston Chronicle, Section: Houston, “‘Just another side of me’ – Friedman swaps music for mystery” by Michael Spies (Houston Chronicle Staff), Quote Page 1, Houston, Texas. (NewsBank Access World News) ↩