Thursday, 19 December 2013

'Write what you know' - Book review of The Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Synopsis: a short novel about the mundane realities of working in an American post office.
Set in the 50s and 60s, the story is said to be autobiographical.

I can't quite remember how I happened on this book, but I had heard the author's name before and I tend to be a big fan of this kind of contemporary American literature, mainly because it is so readable and satirical.
It opens 'It began with a mistake.' which very much sets the tone for the rest of the book. The writing style is conversational and you feel you are being invited into the protagonist Henry Chinaski's life. 

Whether you want to go there or not is your decision, but I don't think you should be afraid of a 'depressing' read once in a while, in fact in failure there is often a good story to be told.

In summary, Chinaski spends much of his life working for the post office in various roles, sleeping with women he doesn't seem to have a great deal of respect for and betting at the races.

The story concludes somewhat miserably with Chinaski having quit the postal service, and still being no further forward in his life than where he began, and just about to embark on a meaningless relationship with two individuals he met whilst in a drunken stupor.

Although the protagonist is relatable, part of me wants to say get on with it, move forward, instead of stewing away in the same old chair filing mail and going home to women he obviously has no real regard for (though he claims to be more knowledgeable than they about how their life will go - spoiler: when his long term partner leaves him for another man, he tells her that he will be no good, which turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy.)

He seems to have trouble identifying with other people, and an apathy as to where life will next take him. His disregard for work, yet the ability to remain in his position is a questionable judgement on his workplace and I believe Bukowski was trying to draw a parallel to what he had found to be true throughout his own working life.

“The streets were full of insane and dull people. Most of them lived in nice houses and didn’t seem to work, and you wondered how they did it.”

(Charles Bukowski)

“To not have entirely wasted one’s life seems to be a worthy accomplishment, if only for myself.” - Charles Bukowksi

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