Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Post Office

            Bukowksi is a smooth talker, if you’re willing to listen. He just wants to tell you his uncensored tales of drinking and sex! He just wants to tell you about how he worked for the Man—in and out of postal service jobs for over a decade. He just wants to impress you with his ability to overcome hangovers. He’s just a guy who did whatever he felt like at the time to make ends meet, until he hit a wall and succumbed to drunken oblivion. He woke up and noted, “It was morning and I was still alive. Maybe I’ll write a novel…And then I did” (Bukowski, 196). And then he did, so here we are.

            Almost two years ago, I read and reviewed my first Bukowski novel, Ham on Rye. Chronologically, Post Office* preceded Ham on Rye, and I’ll admit that I personally prefer the former. To give you, dear readers, some context, let me say that Charles Bukowski is to Henry Chinaski as Beyoncé is to Sasha Fierce. Chinaski is Bukowski’s literary alter ego, and the bulk of Bukowski’s fiction is a thinly veiled depiction of his own life, with Chinaski at the helm. Ham on Rye reeks of justifiable bitterness; Chinaski is treated terribly by his dad as a child, and as a result he grows up cynical and at odds with life. Post Office retains that cynicism, but this time around, Chinaski doesn’t express as many existential woes. He works at the post office when it suits him, and places bets at the racetrack when it doesn’t. We truly see Chinaski grow up from Ham on Rye; his pessimism becomes less disorienting, and he’s able to hold down a job and a lover for a reasonable amount of time. That being said, Chinaski does what he wants. He’s animalistic in his pursuits, and he’ll quit something immediately if he feels so inclined. But there is less fallout than in Ham on Rye. He confidently steers his life in a specific direction, even if it’s conventionally discouraged.

            There’s something to be said for warming up to an author. I enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov better than Crime and Punishment, partially because I knew what to expect. I understood Dostoevsky’s style a bit more, and I appreciated it more as a result. I knew what bothered me about him, and I dodged those bullets; likewise, I knew what I enjoyed, and I embraced those aspects. Bukowski’s crudeness did not come as a surprise, and his piggishness towards women was less shocking. When he sees a random woman on the street and says, “That big ass beckoned me. I was hypnotized”, I didn’t instantaneously roll my eyes—I waited at least three seconds (Bukowski, 150). Bukowski is unapologetically boorish, and that’s part of his appeal. He’s the ultimate bachelor, with no regard for others if he’s not feeling it. If you can’t get behind that at all, then this novel is not for you.

When a book’s opening line is “It began as a mistake”, I know that I’m in for a treat (Bukowski, 13). I enjoy reading about other people’s mistakes, because it makes me feel less miserable about my own.  This novel further cemented Bukowski as *one of the greats* in my own literary archive, but it also wasn’t “one of the funniest books ever written”, as touted on the back of the book. It was definitely funny, but chill out with that. I relish in Bukowski’s raw vulnerability and his characteristic self-confidence; thus, I give Post Office 4 out of 5 camel humps.

*Bukowski, Charles. Post Office. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1971. Print.

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