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Ham on Rye: A Novel Paperback – February 27, 2007
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100 Young Adult Books to Read in a Lifetime
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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 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of two. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for over fifty years. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
I disliked Henry Chinaski because, in my mind, he felt real like a lot of the characters I had loved in my favorite books, but instead of having a glowing outlook on life despite setbacks he just let it fester inside him and make him bitter, and I ended up resenting Chinaski for most of his personality (he comes off as a chauvanistic, alcoholic, bitter prick to be completely frank). That coupled with the fact that it seemed as though he was parading around how bad his childhood was because he was poor, had bad acne, etc it started to feel like a pissing contest with no one in particular in mind. But the more I thought about it and dissected him, there were portions of that personality I loved that would peek out from under the foil of a disenchanted youth, angry at the world. There's an odd sort of humanity in Chinaski, and it's very unique to this novel.
This book is also very funny, if you don't take it (or yourself) too seriously. I don't know that Bukowski meant it to be humorous in a satirical or ironic sense, but if you don't internalize the things Chinaski thinks, says, or does, and just take them at face value in context of the rest of his personality, it actually is quite funny. But be forewarned, if you are offended easily you should turn back now. I have yet to check out Bukowski's poetry, but I think I will now that I reflect on this novel.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I love his poetry and didn't know how I'd react to an entire novel by him but this book put a bad taste in my mouth and 3/4 of the way through I threw it away. Read morePublished 5 days ago by toby
Although I chose "Dark" as the mood, it's impossible to describe the mood with one work. Complex, touching, I laughed, I cried.Published 6 days ago by S.Gondran
When I tried to post this review Amazon forced me to choose between "predictable" "some twists" and "full of surprises" ,... Read more
If you like Bukowski, then you can't go wrong with this one. It gives you a fascinating glimpse into Los Angeles back in the 30s and 40s. Read morePublished 14 days ago by David Ingraham
Beautiful adult story about a young adult but definitely not for young adultsPublished 1 month ago by Marian