Thursday, February 28, 2013

Thursday Review: Post Office

I should probably read more of Bukowski's work at some point, because in some ways I think we're kindred spirits:  often rejected, angry loner types.  Though obviously he achieved some success eventually.  Incidentally if you get a chance the movie version of "Factotum" was good and contains a lot of the same themes as this book.  It was on Netflix at one point, though perhaps not anymore.

Post Office
by Charles Bukowski
(4/5 stars)

If you really hate your job, "Post Office" beats a whole stack of Dilbert cartoons or watching an endless loop of "Office Space," "Clerks," and other workplace comedies. From the way Bukowski describes the post office, it's no wonder "going postal" entered our lexicon. It's probably also why my uncle who worked for the post office for a number of years was always so cranky.

The story concerns Bukowski's alterego Henry Chinaski. When he's a younger man, Henry does his first stint at the post office as a substitute mail carrier. As the motto says, he winds up trudging through rain (and mud) and dark of night, occasionally being attacked by the odd dog or two. This finances Henry's life of drinking and cavorting with Betty.

Eventually Henry moves on to other jobs and other women, including a wealthy heiress with a thing for animals and geraniums. He drinks and cavorts a lot with all of these and even fathers a child with one. To support this lifestyle Henry is drawn back to the post office, this time working as a clerk. It's a maddening, routine job that his supervisors only make more maddening. One of the funniest parts is early on when Henry's supervisor keeps writing him up for ignoring his write ups, which Henry keeps throwing in the trash.

Despite that his style is like a seventh grade student's, Bukowski's writing has a drunken swagger that makes it enjoyable. I have to wonder how much of what happens was based on real events and how much was just bravado. While it never rises to the level of "Catch-22" or "1984" it still demonstrates the crushing effect of a soulless bureaucracy on the common people.

Of course a lot of people will not want to read this because of the bad language, the sex, the violence to women, and so forth. But if you're a fan of writers like Hemingway, Chuck Palahniuk, or Bret Easton Ellis or you just have a really crummy job, then you'll get a kick of this.

(4/5 stars)

Tomorrow Box Office Blitz Continues...

7 comments:

  1. You've got to lead with "the bad language, the sex...". I had to read all the way to the end of the interview to get to why I might buy the book!

    I heard of Bukowski through a Modest Mouse song ("Bukowski"); it made me want to find out who he was, so I looked him up and found some of his poems, which are interesting, to say the least. I didn't know he wrote prose.

    But I agree: you and he would seem to have a lot in common, except you do not seem to be on the verge of drinking yourself to death. Didn't he do that? Didn't ALL poets do that?

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  2. Enjoyable review Pat. Bukowski sounds like an interesting writer, but the "violence to women" and language would probably put me off.

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  3. I'd never heard of this. I do like some Bret Easton Ellis.

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  4. Hey Pat,

    A thorough review by your esteemed self. I want to check out anything with bad language and sex.

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  5. I'm impressed that you have time to write your fabulous novels, read books and watch so many movies. You must be a highly organized person.

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  6. Sounds like a pretty good book. I don't think I'll read it though. But still, sounds good.

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