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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.
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Top customer reviews
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."
The tussle between individual autonomy and economic security is one of the more obvious themes in both Post Office and Bukowski's other "working man" novel, Factotum. We become dependent on our jobs, psychologically as well as materially, and the dependency is hard to break. Post Office is the story of a guy who starts out free and loose (Part I), but who finds himself drifting toward spirit-deadening "respectability" and job security (Parts II-IV), only to finally break away and face the great unknown of unemployment--and artistic creativity (Parts V & VI). Along the way, Bukowski writes a few genuinely brilliant sketches of bureaucratic stupidity, and (uncharacteristically) a few moving ones in which Chinaski plays with the child, Marina, he's sired off of Fay. There are also some moments of quite good psychological insight, as when Chinaski, disoriented by the sudden loss of routine (even though it's a routine he despised) falls to pieces right after walking away from his job.
Thankfully, there's less of the relentless-to-the-point-of-tedium drinking in Post Office than one finds in most of Bukowski's other novels (although there's still a lot). Moreover, the novel is less impressionistic and better constructed than any other Bukowski tale except Ham on Rye. Even though it's difficult to understand the cult status granted Bukowski by his admirers, Post Office is a good novel--not great, mind you, but pretty darn good.
I've heard some call Bukowski's depiction of working for the Post Office in southern California from the post World War II years up to the late sixties "surreal." Others, "absurdist." I have several friends who at different parts of their lives, some still active, have worked for the Post Office, who can match most of the stories of abusive supervisors, body-ripping physical work, overtime with no notice, Catch-22 rules and regulations, demented co-workers and, on route, a variety of characters, some for whom the mail is probably the last thread to reality. Bukowski's protagonist, Henry Chinaski lays it all out in a punchy, gravelly, often laugh out loud narrative that weaves with the equally bumpy account of his personal life, a succession of women and race tracks simmered in lots of alcohol, a constant leveling act that requires going back to the drudge for a paycheck.
This was Bukowski's first work of fiction, published in 1971, drawn from his own experiences. Though his legacy in later writers' work is obvious, particularly in poetry, his voice remains distinctly original, with flecks of Whitman, Chandler and his beat contemporaries, especially Jack Kerouac. He takes language to a more casual level, especially in the passages about women, but a respect for rhythm and structure underlie the narrative, and as does the respect for the humanity he occasionally manages to find in his gritty universe. The result is a book that endures.
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I love his writing style and his level of honesty!
It's amazing how someone can accept himself that much..