Monday, October 09, 2006


People have been telling me for years that I should read Charles Bukowski. Sven was telling me way back in year 93 that I needed to read this guy. And yet I didn't. I blame it on my circumstantial reading habits. By that I mean, unless I get it as a gift, stumble on it at the used bookstore, or in the library, I probably won't read it. For someone with a blog named BAMOF, I really should be more proactive about the books I read.

Anyway, Joanna told me that I should start with Ham on Rye, so I picked it up. I'm happy to say that it is excellent. It pokes fun at the coming of age story, while serving as a nihilistic coming of age story of its own. The narrator, Henry Chianski, has horrible parents, lives in a neighborhood where petty violence is common, and is beset by a 99% worst percentile case of all body acne. If the big questions of the coming of age novel is asking who you are and what are you going to do with yourself, Henry finds out he doesn't really like himself or society and he retreats into an alcohol haze. I thought by the end, the character, based on Bukowski himself, starts to feel a little too sorry for himself, but throughout he questions why people do the things they do.

What I liked best was the black humor that Bukowski manages. The bad experience after bad experience that Henry endures could be ridiculous, but the matter of fact presentation makes it work. And until the end, when he begins to retreat into himself, Henry manages to handle the bad situations well, aside from occasionally beating the crap out of people.


Anonymous said...

Sven say the first chapter of Post Office is his favoritest, most beloved Bukowski-writing ever. Sven is at last finishing I Am Charlotte Simmons. Very astute observations from Mr. Wolfe on the angst experienced by small-town whizzes upon venturing out into the world. Debating whether to waste my time reading Emotional Intelligence, which looks to be a rehash of Social Intelligence (or am I getting them reversed?), which I thought was another one of those books that plays to the desire of every schemer to use secret techniques to get your boss to pay you more money and people to like you.

Tripp said...

Post office eh? I guess that is next. The overall Bukowski feel reminds me of Harvey Pekar and the American Splendor comic. I think Bukowski came first.

If you can identify way to get more money, I would be obliged.