Monday, 5 May 2014

Post Office by Charles Bukowski (3.5/5)

First published: 1971
Page count: 160

The back says: Henry Chinaski is a low life 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.

I say: For some reason I don’t really have that much to say about this, and I find that rather odd. Perhaps it is because I didn’t so much enjoy the novel itself as its message – if one should even call it a message.

Its stark reality.

Henry starts working at the post office as a temp, showing up each morning not knowing which route he is going to be given – or if he’s going to be given a route at all. His boss hates him and therefore only gives him a route if he has to, and then it’s the toughest one. Henry chugs along, and encounters all sorts of people while trying to deliver their mail. He has affairs, fights, gets stranded in the rain, and also rapes a woman. I didn’t really comprehend what happened there, because thus far he seemed like a decent enough man; granted he was drinking all night, gambling at the racetrack and cursing, but that doesn’t necessarily make a person bad in my book.

The rape, however, threw me off...

[Spoiler, highlight to read]

After a while he is offered a permanent position which he later turns down. His girlfriend leaves him, he finds a new one and moves towards a new life with her. Eventually, he is back at the post office again – this times sorting the mail – and with a boss and supervisors that hate him.

In a couple of ways I felt sorry for Henry, but mostly I don’t think he warranted much sympathy because he was living a life of his choosing. He didn’t so much hate his job as he did his superiors, and that is something I believe a lot of people can relate to; not being able to get the job done properly because someone is constantly harassing you.

The prose was candid, intense and full of profanity – as one would expect of Bukowski. This is the first novel I’ve read by him, only having read his poetry before, and I will give him another go.

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