I never read Charles Bukowski’s work because I was weary of the winos and pretentious writers at Sam & Andy’s who talked incessantly about Agee, McCarthy, Derrida, and Charles de Gaulle. Drunks who mistake a communal bowl of bar snacks for an ashtray were on my shit list.
Thirty years have passed since those wasted evenings spent on Cumberland Avenue, but Bukowski crept up on me again. From “must read” lists to advice about crafting cadence, I couldn’t shake him. I finally surrendered and read Post Office.
It was brilliant. Many readers get distracted by the main character’s outrageous behavior, but Post Office is a realistic and biting commentary about labor in the United States. Spanning 12 years during late 1950s-1960s, Bukowski’s alter ego, Hank Chinaski, works hard but struggles mightily to not become “one of the neurotic tribe of the lost.”
The raunchy humor balances the harsh truths. Chinaski’s crude behavior keeps this tome from becoming another hopeless Death of a Salesman. Willy Loman chose suicide as his way to beat the system. When Chinaski can longer fight the system, he offers calm resignation and an alcohol fueled bender.
I’m older and wiser now and not so quick to judge. Getting through a work day is hard. Just keep your ash out of my bottle and don’t tamp your cigarette out in my pretzels.
© Knoxzine, 2014.