Madeleine's Reviews > Post Office

Post Office by Charles Bukowski
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's review
Jul 19, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: head-in-the-clouds-nose-in-a-book, peer-pressure, 2009, hank-chinaski, my-kingdom-for-a-desert-island, our-libeary
Read from June 04 to July 11, 2009

** spoiler alert ** After tearing through "The Last Night of the Earth Poems," I wanted to see if Bukowski the Novelist could hold a candle to Bukowski the Poet.

And if "Post Office" is indicative of what Bukowski's idea of prose was, then that answer is a very satisfying, very resounding affirmative.

Bukowski's the disgruntled writer's writer. His understated humor, natural vulgarity and determined self-abuse don't require a fumbling attempt at understanding on the reader's part, which makes relating to the Hank Chinaski depicted in "Post Office" an effortless exercise in empathy.

Yeah he's a womanizer (or he's looking for happiness in the wrong places). Yeah he's a drunk (or he's just trying to numb the pain that comes with an 11-year sentence in the postal field). Yeah he's an inveterate gambler (or he finds some relief and solace in knowing how to play the game). But there's something so jarringly admirable in the way he rolls with the punches, knows how to suss out the bullshit, and doesn't let anything or anyone break his bitter, determined spirit.

The focus of the novel shines on Bukowski's/Chinaski's hellacious experience with life as the post office's whipping boy; the climax -- his decision to resign with the intention of pursuing a career with 50 nipping at his heels -- is relegated to a simple few pages; the last few pages of the book document his extended period of black-out drunkeness and barely-remembered post-post office partying. It's the exact release the poor man needs to wash off the filth that comes with more than a decade of glorified servitude. As the novel ends and he finally crashes back to awareness, he knows exactly what he has to do: Write a book.

The passivity of his departure from the U.S. Postal Service is a thunderclap of contrast from the mail delivery man who swears like it's his second language, gets attacked by irate women on his delivery route, dismisses his boss's repeated attempts at turning him into another drone by managerial dominance, and misses his dog more than he misses the ex-lover who claimed the animal. Bukowski's not a heartless man -- his genuine sympathy for a coworker he watches spiral toward a sobbing breakdown is touching, and watching the man become a father suggests that he is quite capable of humanity and warmth -- but he knows that he should be doing something better than whittling away his years as the postal office's very own pack mule. Only the patience of a saint would stave off the inevitable frustration and anger, and Bukowski makes it quite clear that he knows his place is among the sinners.

His ability to make the most mundane moments soar and sing like crucial turning points is fascinating and a brilliant reinterpretation of Romanticism for the '70s. I never thought I'd want to read about how postal workers are trained and the sheer mindlessness of their duties as they climb a shaky ladder toward supposed success, but Bukowski finds a way to describe everything with an irritated detachment and dry humor that's downright irresistible.

It's raw. It's honest. It's shameless. And it shows that if you want something bad enough, you will willingly subject yourself to various degrees of hell to get there. Even at 50.
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Quotes Madeleine Liked

Charles Bukowski
“I wanted the whole world or nothing.”
Charles Bukowski, Post Office

Reading Progress

06/04/2009 page 80
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Arthur Graham Very nice review. The man in his own words:

message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Vinogradus Haha, even at 55.

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