- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Ecco; Reprint edition (July 29, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061177571
- ISBN-13: 978-0061177576
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 467 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #12,339 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Post Office: A Novel Paperback – February 27, 2007
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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.
Abel Debritto, a former Fulbright scholar and current Marie Curie fellow, works in the digital humanities. He is the author of Charles Bukowski, King of the Underground, and the editor of the Bukowski collections On Writing, On Cats, and On Love.
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The most provocative elements of this book was certainly the portions where we see the shuffling, confusing, scary catch-22 Brazil-esque burlesque of his work in the Post Office itself. Cycling in and out, over and over, unable to even quit his job, Bukowski created a labyrinthine grand guinol of paper and sorting boxes all standing in his way of his net drink, his next lay, and his ability to even write a halfway decent line of poetry. In many ways, this reflects how I personally see my own art in the world, and it is in this manner that I really connected with his character in this book. In real life, the genesis of this book and Bukowski’s career came from being offered a hundred bucks a month to quit the post office to promise to write full time by John Martin and Black Sparrow Press…and so we all wish for this little black sparrow angel to fly into our window someday.
The most beautiful element of the book was easily the portrayal of his relationship with Betty (Jane Cooney Baker). They were perfect for each other, but in the piece the sentimentality with which he approached their relationship in both tone, diction, syntax, and other practical elements isn’t mirrored by any other writing in the book or in his approach to any other woman in any of his books. It is simply this beautiful, pure, self-destructive relationship that serves as a wholly gorgeous and holy relic that he certainly held on to for the rest of his life…and it seems that the story arc with her is one of the most beautiful things that he had ever written – the only thing that he had ever cared for snatched from him just as he realized that it was the most important thing in the world to him. What destroyed her is exactly what he tried to destroy himself with, and in her death he found the death of love, the death of a healthy sexual identity, and the death of himself.
Of course, the narrative pacing and overall diction of Bukowski's narrative voice are certainly the most compelling elements of this book. There is a certain blue-collarness to his writing that offers a remarkably simple approach to what is often a much more serious and Complicated piece – but his genius lies in this very thing. Bukowski can create a story that is appropriate for all intellectual audiences and still write something that is completely different in terms of overall beauty and meaning in the English Language. This is likely why legions of writers thought they could follow in his footsteps and write when nothing could be further from the truth (and Bukowski had no problem telling them that).
An excellent, excellent, excellent book that should be required reading for all American men.
As depicted, work at the Post Office (and on at least one other job) is every bit as depersonalizing as most of us imagine. The long hours, tedium, disrespect and abuse are peppered with Chinaski’s slovenly disdain for the bureaucracy and the plodding supervisors he works for. Chinaski does not seem to want to work when he doesn’t have to, but for much of the book, seems to go along with it anyway, in part perhaps because it seems like the path of least resistance given his circumstances. On the surface, none of his work quite seems to totally shackle him, but in less obvious ways, he finally discovers that it has gradually wrung him out anyway, in spite of himself.
I read this immediately after “Ham on Rye” (by the same author, Bukowski). Although "Ham on Rye" was written later, it is about Chinaski’s early life from his time as a young boy through adolescence, and is even blunter than this one. I therefore started this book with the character from “Ham on Rye” fresh in my mind. Although Chinaski is still recognizable, one has to wonder what beat him down in between, since at the end of "Ham on Rye" I would not have said that he would be pursuing work in the way he does in this book.
Although I liked “Ham on Rye” better, this is both an excellent and an easy read. Bukowski’s style is simple, direct, blunt, and straightforward.
Have just completed reading "Post Office" for the second time. As usual, one gets a bigger and better picture the second time around, but Bukowski, as Chinaski, paints the grim picture of life and specifically life inside the Postal System. It may be worse today depending on the Station and the particular employees and bureaucrats and "high teck" technology. I know that Route Drivers or Carriers are on some kind of monitored timer. They only have so much time to "stick" mail in say, a gang mail box for an apartment house, and then they must be off to the next address down the block. They have no extra time to talk to you or pass some time of day with the public, etc. They are automatomic slaves to a system of bureaucratic slavery. It would drive anyone to drink, etc. as Chinaski displays. We have all heard and read about employees "going postal."
But the author, though! Bukowski writes simple, insightful, unsparing, unsentimental prose. And he makes it look easy.
Adding to the confusion, this novel has a first person viewpoint and a hefty dose of autobiographical inspiration. I feel contempt for Chinaski and admiration for Bukowski. And sometimes it is hard to tell where one leaves off and the other begins.
I'll just have to read some more books by Bukowski to see.