Sunday, May 5, 2013

Post Office by Charles Bukowski

A drunk bucks the system for as long as he can stand

This book was hilarious. Henry Chinaski is a heroic parasite, a real man who won't take any bullshit and lives life the way he wants. Chinaski’s ethics are entirely self serving but honest and the book is a giant fuck you to middle class values, as well as to the entire capitalist system. On the other hand, a steady paycheck comes in handy, especially because Chinaski likes drinking so much.  Therefore he takes the postal service test, and is not at all surprised when he is the one of one hundred who survives the difficult address memorization portion. Chinaski gets the steady paycheck, but the tougher challenge is submitting to the massive soul crushing bureaucracy.  The rebel manages to outfox them for several years before finally surrendering. Was this is the first literary example of “going postal”?  

Our hero Chinaski rejects every value that made America great and has zero intention of bettering himself. What he does when he’s not sorting mail is to drink to a stupor and gamble on horseraces. There are two moments of tenderness in the entire (short) novel; the first when he attends the deathbed and funeral of a former lover who dies of alcoholism, and the other when he gaze on his very unlikely daughter.  But there's something admirable in his uncompromising path, however degrading it is.

Like other LA novels, torrential downpours play a part, as delivering rain in the mail is a lot harder than in the sunshine. The book is also a romance to getting drunk – although how much of a derelict can one be while holding a civil service job?  Eventually, his misbehaviors and disrespectful attitude catches up with him and he is hounded into quitting. In order to write a novel. But is Post Office even a novel? After only a little research it sounds like it was practically a memoir.

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