Matthew's Reviews > Ham on Rye

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
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Mar 26, 2011

it was amazing
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There's real wisdom in this novel, like when Hank sarcastically adopts Nazism in college just to have allegiance to something, but what's most striking about it is that it's a Beckettian study of a personal failure.

It's not a typical bildungsroman; Bukowski portrays the young man's life to show how the old man became the way he was. Young Chinaski/Bukowski comes from an impoverished childhood with no father figure, loads of sexual frustration, an unsupportive group of friends and an early reliance on alcohol. The novel's function is to show how failings in childhood can create a failure of an adult. Bukowski did not think of himself as a physically strong person, and his surrogate in Ham on Rye is constantly walking away from battles and lying to himself to conceal weaknesses.

At its core, this book is pessimistic as hell, but it's conceived with such a seedy grace that it's hard to not strike a macho pose and read it with an eager participation.
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