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Ham on Rye Hardcover – July, 1982

392 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

'Very funny, very sad, and despite its self-congratulatory tone, honest in most of the right places. In many ways, Bukowski may have been the perfect writer to describe post-war southern California - a land of wide, flat spaces with nothing worth seeing, so you might as well vanish into yourself. In an age of conformity, Bukowski wrote about the people nobody wanted to be: the ugly, the selfish, the lonely, the mad.' - The Observer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Charles Bukowski, who died in 1994, was the legendary Californian writer who became famous for his semi-autobiographical books about low-life America. Novels such as Factotum and Post Office made this one-time bum, and lifelong alcoholic, rich and famous, and culminated in the making of Barfly, a major Hollywood movie based on his life starring Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Black Sparrow Books; New edition edition (July 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0876855583
  • ISBN-13: 978-0876855584
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (392 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,229,413 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Charles Bukowski is one of America's best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose, and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in Andernach, Germany, and raised in Los Angeles, where he lived for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944, when he was twenty-four, and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp (1994).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

103 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Eric Petersen on November 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Most fans of the late, great Charles Bukowski, myself included, list Ham On Rye as their favorite Bukowski novel - and rightfully so. This novel is actually a thinly-veiled autobiography of the man we knew and loved as "The Bard of Booze and Broads." We see through the eyes of young Henry Chinaski as he comes of age in Depression-era America, the product of a dysfunctional and physically abusive household. From his early childhood as a desperately lonely, yet antisocial little boy to his adolescence (where he struggles with crippling acne and develops a love of literature), we see the genesis of a great writer. Bukowski pulls no punches (no pun intended) in his descriptions of abuse suffered at the hands of his father, a coldhearted, arrogant, sadistic SOB. The reader is drawn in to Bukowski's passionate determination to be the exact opposite of what proper society tries to mold its youth into. A powerful and heartbreaking read. Great work, Buk! R.I.P - you will be missed!
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80 of 90 people found the following review helpful By Robin Friedman HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
I have been returning to the work of Charles Bukowski (1920 -- 1994) after reading his novel "Factotum" and watching the movie based upon it. Bukowski's novel "Ham on Rye" (1982) is a coming-of age novel in that it tells the story of Bukowski's protagonist, Henry Chinaski, from his birth to his young manhood, ending with the attack on Pearl Harbor. ("Factotum", written in 1978 covers the next period of Chinaski's life, after he has been rejected for the draft and wanders from city to city in search of work.) Chinaski is based loosely on Bukowski's own life; but "Ham on Rye" and Bukowski's other novels are, after all, works of fiction and should be read as such.

The scene of "Ham on Rye" is Los Angeles during the Great Depression, particularly the lower middle-class homes in which Chinaski grows up, as families struggle to survive and to escape from poverty. Bukowski is at his best in describing dingy homes, streets, schools, and desperate people.

But "Ham on Rye" is a coming-of-age book told with irony and twists. It seemingly mocks the story of self-discovery and self-awakening common to these distinctively American books, but in the end I think it follows the pattern of a coming-of-age story in spite of itself. Most American coming-of-age books recount the life of a young person and end when that person comes to some crisis which he meets and, thus, attains a degree of understanding of himself which he carries through life. Bukowski's book tells the story of an unhappy childhood, as Chinaski is subjected to an overbearing father and frequent beatings. In addition, as an early adolescent, Chinaski develops a terrible case of acne which exacerbates his tendency to aloneness as well as his anger and rebeliousness.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mark White on October 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
For years I sold Bukowski's poetry to sad-looking men and the occasional punk-looking (very young) woman. This was in the 1980s and early 1990s. I never took the stuff seriously. Poetry about hangovers and turds? Give me a break.

But when I was introduced to Russell David Harper's manuscript of BALD -- his own ficitional memoir -- and Miha Mazzini's CARTIER PROJECT, I was forced to dig deeper into this phenomenon. (CARTIER is an eastern European Bukowski, and BALD is an intelligent memoir of hangovers.)

HAM ON RYE was my first real Bukowski venture, and I devoured it. It's a sad and moving work. There's not a single metaphor in it; it's to-the-gut writing straight from the heart. I bought my copy dog-eared and coffee-stained in a sidewalk sale in San Francisco, and I'm not letting it go. However, I'm now afraid of digging deeper into Bukowski out of fear of being disappointed. HAM ON RYE has set my expectations unreasonably high.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Ian Watts on September 21, 2004
Format: Paperback
Depending upon your taste in literature, Charles Bukowski was either a brilliant writer who has yet to receive to respect he truly deserves or nothing more than a drunk with a typewriter. Most of those who love Bukowski seem to have discovered him through his poetry, but Ham on Rye was my introduction to the author, and it remains my favorite work of his. In fact, I think Ham on Rye is probably the best coming-of-age story in American literature, far superior to Catcher in the Rye. Although Salinger's novel captures your attention when you're thirteen, it tends to suffer terribly when you reflect back on it as a more mature individual and recognize the narcissicism and insincerity at the heart of Holden Caulfield's attitude towards the world. Ham on Rye does not romanticize the innocence of children and depict adults as "phonies." It is Bukowski's own thinly veiled account of his childhood and adolescence in Los Angeles between the two world wars, as told through the eyes of his alter ego, Henry Chinaski. Ham on Rye shares the same brutal humor and breezy prose style as Post Office and Women, but it is much more tightly focused than any of Bukowski's prior novels, which tended to be more episodic than anything else. For that reason I think it ultimately achieves a sort of lasting resonance with the reader that is lacking in much of Bukowski's other prose work, for all of the energy and spontaneity his writing always possessed. Ham on Rye is alternatively hilarious and horrifying, but it always remains truthful in a way that few coming-of-age novels are. Anyone new to Charles Bukowski should start with this.
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