- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Amereon Ltd (9 January 1971)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0848833198
- ISBN-13: 978-0848833190
- Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.8 x 21.1 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 227 g
- Average Customer Review: 2 customer reviews
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About the Author
Charles Bukowski is one of America's best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose, and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in Andernach, Germany, and raised in Los Angeles, where he lived for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944, when he was twenty-four, and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.
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I had always heard of Bukowski and knew that he was someone so would enjoy but had never picked up a book. Post Office showed me why I should. There is a world here, something awful and beautiful and whimsical and entirely possible. There but for the grace of God go I...
If you’ve ever lived a life where you both know that you are responsible for your life and simultaneously wondered if the universe was conspiring against you, you’ll love this. If you haven’t, you’ll still appreciate Bukowski’s character driven prose and reflections on life...not well-lived, but lived all the same.
As depicted, work at the Post Office (and on at least one other job) is every bit as depersonalizing as most of us imagine. The long hours, tedium, disrespect and abuse are peppered with Chinaski’s slovenly disdain for the bureaucracy and the plodding supervisors he works for. Chinaski does not seem to want to work when he doesn’t have to, but for much of the book, seems to go along with it anyway, in part perhaps because it seems like the path of least resistance given his circumstances. On the surface, none of his work quite seems to totally shackle him, but in less obvious ways, he finally discovers that it has gradually wrung him out anyway, in spite of himself.
I read this immediately after “Ham on Rye” (by the same author, Bukowski). Although "Ham on Rye" was written later, it is about Chinaski’s early life from his time as a young boy through adolescence, and is even blunter than this one. I therefore started this book with the character from “Ham on Rye” fresh in my mind. Although Chinaski is still recognizable, one has to wonder what beat him down in between, since at the end of "Ham on Rye" I would not have said that he would be pursuing work in the way he does in this book.
Although I liked “Ham on Rye” better, this is both an excellent and an easy read. Bukowski’s style is simple, direct, blunt, and straightforward.
Bukowski's sparse, first person style makes the telling of this dark comedy seem easy while it obviously is not. Chinaski is Bukowski's alter-ego and as another reviewer said, it is sometimes hard to know where one begins and the other leaves off. I will read other books by this author who was a very prolific writer, but certainly not back-to-back. I need a little time to recover from the profound emotions evoked by this book before reading another "heavy" story.
The most provocative elements of this book was certainly the portions where we see the shuffling, confusing, scary catch-22 Brazil-esque burlesque of his work in the Post Office itself. Cycling in and out, over and over, unable to even quit his job, Bukowski created a labyrinthine grand guinol of paper and sorting boxes all standing in his way of his net drink, his next lay, and his ability to even write a halfway decent line of poetry. In many ways, this reflects how I personally see my own art in the world, and it is in this manner that I really connected with his character in this book. In real life, the genesis of this book and Bukowski’s career came from being offered a hundred bucks a month to quit the post office to promise to write full time by John Martin and Black Sparrow Press…and so we all wish for this little black sparrow angel to fly into our window someday.
The most beautiful element of the book was easily the portrayal of his relationship with Betty (Jane Cooney Baker). They were perfect for each other, but in the piece the sentimentality with which he approached their relationship in both tone, diction, syntax, and other practical elements isn’t mirrored by any other writing in the book or in his approach to any other woman in any of his books. It is simply this beautiful, pure, self-destructive relationship that serves as a wholly gorgeous and holy relic that he certainly held on to for the rest of his life…and it seems that the story arc with her is one of the most beautiful things that he had ever written – the only thing that he had ever cared for snatched from him just as he realized that it was the most important thing in the world to him. What destroyed her is exactly what he tried to destroy himself with, and in her death he found the death of love, the death of a healthy sexual identity, and the death of himself.
Of course, the narrative pacing and overall diction of Bukowski's narrative voice are certainly the most compelling elements of this book. There is a certain blue-collarness to his writing that offers a remarkably simple approach to what is often a much more serious and Complicated piece – but his genius lies in this very thing. Bukowski can create a story that is appropriate for all intellectual audiences and still write something that is completely different in terms of overall beauty and meaning in the English Language. This is likely why legions of writers thought they could follow in his footsteps and write when nothing could be further from the truth (and Bukowski had no problem telling them that).
An excellent, excellent, excellent book that should be required reading for all American men.