The Post Office by Charles Bukowski

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Good morning readers, another ‘classic’ book for you today. I wasn’t planning to read this, but due to moving house I’ve had to move libraries. So taking all my beloved books back including F (a novel) which I haven’t yet finished, me and T wandered to the new library in Hanley and we both forgot it was a Sunday. So, I had to borrow one off T. It turns out that this and Factotum are rather similar. However, if you’re yet to read Bukowski then this might persuade you to get hold of a copy.

Henry Chinaski is a lowlife loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial post office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks. Lurid, uncompromising and hilarious, Post Office is a landmark in American literature, and over 1 million copies have been sold worldwide. This book is the story of Henry Chinaski’s world. Its deep and compelling individuality is a refreshing change from conventional literary works.

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I first want to comment on Bukowski’s acknowledgements at the front of the book; ‘this is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.’ This basically sums up the entirety of Bukowski’s work. It’s brutal, honest, raw and unmaterialistic. The book follows Henry Chinaski who works in the Post Office. The character who is Bukowski’s alter ego in many of the book is an alcoholic who strives to stay alive and stay drunk. Following both his personal and ‘professional’ life we see Bukowski treat women as like they are only for sex, work paying Bukowski to do as little as possible and us readers are treated with as much contempt as the characters in the rest of the tale.

What sets this apart and what makes it so much like Factotum is that it tells the tale of a man who is in touch with the most basic of urges. Sex, money, friendship, horse racing, and getting pissed is the crux of the book whilst Chinaski comes across as a man who knows the world and is cleverer than most but his inability to compromise with society as a whole means he will never move forward in his life. He refuses to buy into social morality, and instead is a man who barely survives.

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The prose is easy to read and flows along. It is sarcastic and cynical but there is something loveable there despite Chinaski’s apparent want to alienate the reader at every turn. *Trigger.*

 There was a part  that was a little distressing; Henry rapes a woman and yet Bukowski by the end of the short scene made it sound as if she enjoyed it. It felt a little stressful and unneeded but you get the feeling Bukowski writes whatever he wants whichever want he wants. Chinaski as a character is not a nice man and many of the things he says and does are disgusting and repugnant. But there is something truly fascinating about the life that he leads.

In terms of its seeming similarity to Factotum, it revolves around the same ideology of sex, alcohol, racing, and working as little and as badly as possible. It is both cynical, written in the same style and a number of scenes turn up in both books. Once again this could be Bukowski just playing with being an author but it felt a bit repetitive. T was about to buy Factotum but I’m not sure it’s worth reading both. For me anyway.

There is a lot of beauty in this book, but it is a cynical type of beauty. I enjoyed it as much as I did Factotum but I don’t feel I learnt anything from it. An author definitely worth a read, but maybe not a second.

Linnnnnnks

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