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Ham on Rye

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  75,912 ratings  ·  3,079 reviews
In what is widely hailed as the best of his many novels, Charles Bukowski details the long, lonely years of his own hardscrabble youth in the raw voice of alter ego Henry Chinaski. From a harrowingly cheerless childhood in Germany through acne-riddled high school years and his adolescent discoveries of alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of D. H ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by Ecco (first published September 1982)
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Average rating 4.14  · 
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 ·  75,912 ratings  ·  3,079 reviews


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Ruth
Aug 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
So what is a middle-class old woman who seldom drinks and never fights doing reading this book?

Enjoying the hell out of it.
Glenn Russell
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing


I was sixteen, tan, blonde and good looking, catching waves on my yellow surfboard along with all the other surfers, handsome guys and beautiful gals, each and every day that summer. Little did I know this mini-heaven would quickly end and hell would begin in September. Why? My smooth-skinned tan face turned into an acne-filled mess. I suffered pimple by pimple for three years straight; many fat red pimples popping up every day. Oh, yeah, on my forehead, temples, cheeks, jaw, chin and nose. Unli
...more
Jenn(ifer)
Dec 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the outsiders

Up until recently, all I knew about Charles Bukowski was what I learned in one of my all time favorite films, ‘Barfly,’ staring the incomparable Mickey Rourke as our antihero Henry Chinaski. If you haven’t seen it, you should remedy that immediately: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SrpTDa...

This is a world where everybodys gotta do something, gotta be something... sometimes I just get tired of thinking of all the things that I don't wanna do.. that I don't wanna be

***

Henry Chinaski is a bit of a dick. He doesn’t c/>This
...more
Elyse (retired from reviewing/semi hiatus) Walters
Update: $1.99 Kindle special today --- Its not for everyone -- but I thought it was fantastic! -- I own it -- and couldn't pull away from it the first time I read it. I'd suggest reading high and low reviews. Then trust your gut! Its 'based' on a true story --but written as a novel.


"I had begun to dislike my father. He was always angry about something.
Wherever we went he got into arguments with people. But he didn't appear to frighten most people; they just stared at him, calmly, and he became
...more
Matthew
Aug 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: truth seekers
It is true that Ham on Rye lacks a serious plot. It is also true that Mr. Bukowski writes in a crude, whiskey soaked style. However, the novel makes up for its deficiencies with a well-honed theme on the bullshit realities of middle-class existence and the ugly truth of how our society deals with those who reject that path. Such a novel should necessarily cause the reader to taste a tinge of bile in his or her throat. If you don't finish the book weary and angry, then you missed the point. As to ...more
Seemita
Ham on Rye is flanked by sauces of happenstance and its delectability depends on the preferences of one’s reading tongue. Mine, for one, could not bear its sour, unsavoury ingredients.

In this bildungsroman, which is semi-autobiographical too, the protagonist, Henry Chinaski loads his bag of dilemma and expletives, and throws its weight around with nonchalance and non-disruptive disdain. The backdrop of the Great Depression, fuels the negative sentiments and Chinaski finds its shackles,
...more
Arthur Graham
Mar 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The first thing I remember is being under something."

So begins this chronicle of the dirty old man's humble beginnings, his formative years, and the myriad oppressions he endured throughout his childhood, adolescence, and early adult life. In the most literal sense, this opening line represents baby Hank's first concrete memory, but it also sets the tone for the entire memoir to come. Dedicated to "all the fathers," Ham on Rye is both an indictment of and a tribute to every boss, bully, teacher, preacher, and
...more
David Schaafsma
Aug 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me”—Hunter Thompson

“And my own affairs were as bad, as dismal, as the day I had been born. The only difference was that now I could drink now and then, though never often enough. Drink was the only thing that kept a man from feeling forever stunned and useless. Everything else just kept picking and picking, hacking away. And nothing was interesting, nothing. The people were restrictive
...more
Tristan
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“At the age of 25 most people were finished. A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.”

― Charles Bukowski, Ham on Rye


description


Reading Charles Bukowski in public is a rather curious thing. Every once in a while, you come across some line or paragraph that is suffused with such a potent strand of open misanthropy it makes you chuckle. You think to yourselthemselves.”
...more
Lori
Sep 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I feel like this kid is someone that I've known well, not just read a book about him.
Tony
Apr 25, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: u-s-lit
My life did not resemble Henry Chinaski's. No abusive father here. No ritualized beatings. No helpless mother. No culture of fighting. One lost fight was enough to teach me the purposelessness of all that. I liked school. Not that I go to the reunions. Sure there was the pimply phase, but nothing like the scourge of boils that rendered Henry a monster.

And yet...and yet...

Something rang so true reading this book. The sense of alienation. The understanding of the absurdity
...more
Ben
It all started in 7th grade with these stupid clubs they made us join. Some kind of “get involved” self esteem horseshit. Every other Friday was club day. An hour before school let out everyone had to pick a club to go to. They gave us a list. I left mine blank, so they put me in the Sports Cards Collecting Club. Better than the Baking Club, I guess. My friend Joe, whose dad was president of the Charles County fire department, didn’t leave his blank. He actually chose the Sports Card Collecting Club. ...more
Helle
Jul 14, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: american
Holy shit!

This is the story of Henry Chenaski, Charles Bukowski’s alter ego, who had a helluva depressing childhood in large part due to a father who was a real son of a bitch and whom I blame for Henry’s later love of the bottle, to a lesser extent due to the Depression that hit the States, and Los Angeles, when Henry grew up.

My heart bled for young Henry; like when his father forced him to mow the lawn when all the other kids on the street were out playing. When Henry was done, his father
...more
Edward Lorn
Dec 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: men, and women who want to understand why men act the way they do
Masculinity is hilarious. Men are expected to kick ass and fuck anything that moves, as long as your peers approve of those whose asses are to be kicked, or that the housing for the orifice you seek to penetrate meets their requirements. In other words, dudes are fucking stupid. We covet the approval of other dudes when other dudes do little to nothing for us.

"GET ALL THE PUSSY!" is their battle song. But make sure the girl is sexy enough so that your buddies don't rag you over fucking some tro
...more
Greg Watson
Apr 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ham on Rye is the rough-and-tumble tale of Henry Chinaski, Bukowski's alter ego. In telling his story, Bukowski is alternately sad, funny, earthy, raunchy, and angry.

Bukowski's character sees no higher purpose to life. It's all about minimizing effort and maximizing the pleasures of the moment. Those who find fulfillment in marriage or careers are living a lie.

There are perhaps similarities to Bukowski's philosophy of life and that of Sartre's. However, instead of a cafe philosopher, Bukowski's H
...more
Don
Jan 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A Portrait of the Bastard as a Young Man...

My second Bukowski book. Just as I did the first time, I assumed this novel would be profane, profane for the sake of being profane. And yet here I am, again surprised.

This is a compassionate, humane story. The obscenity exists, not because Bukowski wants to shock us, but because it's simply a part of his world.

There's just so much heart here, and the storytelling is raw and masterful.
Glenn Sumi
Jan 21, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemp-classics
Review to come, after I pick my jaw up from off the floor. Bukowski’s rude, crude alter ego, Henry Chinaski, drunkenly but oh so convincingly knocked me out with his story of growing up poor in LA during the depression, his sadistic Dad and ineffectual mom, and lots more. I didn’t know I was getting into a fight, but I will gladly step into the ring with him again.
Jonathan Ashleigh
Oct 07, 2014 rated it liked it
Charles Bukowski has led me to some amazing books, but this was not one of them. It was well told, but I personally prefer fiction. The problem with non-fiction is that, whenever you get to a part you enjoy - it doesn't last long. There were incredible parts, but then the main character grew older and all of the supporting characters changed.
Vit Babenco
Oct 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
There is this eminent poem by Philip Larkin: “They fuck you up, your mum and dad. They may not mean to, but they do. They fill you with the faults they had and add some extra, just for you. But they were fucked up in their turn by fools in old-style hats and coats, who half the time were soppy-stern and half at one another's throats.”
And everything in Ham on Rye develops under this scenario…
“So, that’s what they wanted: lies. Beautiful lies. That’s what they needed. People were fools. It was g
...more
Steven Godin
"I would rather be a dishwasher, return alone to a tiny room and drink myself to sleep"

Just one of many brilliant lines from the dead beat king Henry Chinaski, in what is probably Bukowski's best work. From his early roots as a troubled kid who was treated appallingly by his father through to his angst teenage years of feeling miserable and looking at everything in a downtrodden and pointless way Bukowski simply doesn't hold back on anything . Chinaski's wallowing about the world get
...more
Raegan Butcher
Apr 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Charles Bukowski is one of my favorite writers. This is one of his best books. Heartbreaking and hilarious, this was written at the perfect time by the man himself--if he had been younger it wouldn't have had the wisdom that it contains---this is probably Bukowski at his finest; all of the foundations for his later life and work are laid here: his father's brutality, his mother's complacency, the cruelty of his classmates and his rejection by just about everyone once his acne erupted;these exper ...more
Wayne Barrett

I've read bits of Bukowski's poetry throughout the years but this is the first of his books that I have read... and it won't be the last. Hilarious, gritty, raunchy stuff. This book literally had me laughing out loud.
Henry Martin
Nov 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a reread for me, so I knew what I was getting myself into. Nevertheless, Bukowski never bores, no matter how many times I read his stories.

Ham on Rye is a quintessential tale of an angry young man. What sets this one apart is the fact that he has a plenty to be angry about. Bukowski's writing is always a breath of fresh air amid pretentious novels dealing with a similar subject. What sets him apart is hard to classify. His language is plain, his grammar sparse but perfect, and there is
...more
Jeremy
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edgy
A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate that reminded them most of themselves.


So I finish with Camus’ ‘The Rebel’ and read this. I loved ‘The Rebel’. I’ve read it twice. I took copious notes. It took me something like three months to read ... again. Then I start reading this on Boxing Day. My sister gave it to me.

I finish it the day after.

A whole god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate that reminded them most of themselves.


So I finish with Camus’ ‘The Rebel’ and read this. I loved ‘The Rebel’. I’ve read it twice. I took copious notes. It took me something like three months to read ... again. Then I start reading this on Boxing Day. My sister gave it to me.

I finish it the day after.



This was a great read. I’ve experienced similar things to Chinaski, though, fortunately not on quite the same despairing depth, but there is, I imagine, something for every man here. I fought. I read. I was a stranger to most. I went to a rich kids school and wasn't rich myself. We get to see him growing up, what shaped him, and the world around him. How is he 'gonna make it', he is asked several times throughout the story. Be a man. Be a man. He is both accuser and accused.

I don’t get any thrill trying to be a man.


He’s bitter. He’s violent. He’s abusive. He’s demanding. He’s anti-social.

But he also has this vein of respect tempered with love which is intoxicating, like rough whisky followed by cheap wine. It’s bullies he most despises, stronger men taking advantage of the weak; the rich exploiting the poor; or anyone taking advantage of an animal, pitting a stronger animal against a weaker. When he is incensed by a loud radio and bursts in on a couple fucking in their humble one room flat he realises the limits of his aggression.



I felt terrible. The poor had a right to fuck their way through their bad dreams. Sex and drink, and maybe love, was all they had.


Bukowski, through Chinaski, is a voice for the lost and the desperate, which we actually all are, even if we haven’t been beaten up recently ... or maybe ever. Maybe we’ve avoided taking the actual shot to the guts. But we took it anyway. Most of us, that is. And I love him for his love of D. H.

You needed love, but not the kind of love most people used and were used up by. Old D. H. had understood something.


Sure, he says fuck a lot, and cunt, and talks about ‘come’ and ‘whacking off’ and these things are not done in public places. But they’re there, aren’t they? That’s what D. H. knew, and Bukowski knows. That love knows these things too, even if a whole lotta people are gonna say these things are not part of that. They’re dirty. Abject. Not to be talked about. They’re there. Even for women, too, I imagine, but maybe a little differently.

Good on you Buk.



’You’re just hiding from reality,’ Becker said.

’Why not?’

’You’ll never be a writer if you hide from reality.’

’What are you talking about? That’s what writers do!’







...more
Sentimental Surrealist
Bukowski is impossible to separate from his fans, at least for me: those driver-cap wearing kids you see in every undergraduate creative writing seminar who still think it's not just funny but somehow or other beneficial to society to be "edgy" and "politically incorrect," who wish they had mental illness so they could "tap into genius," and who feel that living the "real writer's life" involves being homeless and alcoholic. They're pretty much the "manly men" of the creative writing sphere. It' ...more
Michael Jandrok
Mar 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Every now and again, I need to go and find some Charles Bukowski. I have said in a previous review that I love him for the simple reason that he never fails to disturb me, and that is as true a statement as I will ever put down on paper. Other writers have parsed the same space that Bukowski operates in, but none have that sheer force of authenticity, that audaciousness of character that the man writes with. And yes, I know, Bukowski is very much a love/hate proposition for a large number of rea ...more
Adam Floridia
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I don’t know if this book is supposed to be funny, but I found it freakin’ hilarious. I mean if you stop to think about it, everything in it is really, really depressing. Henry Chinaski’s life is miserable from the moment he’s born—or at least from his first conscious recollection of hiding under a table and listening to angry adults yelling. His father is almost cartoonishly mean throughout, not only to Henry, who receives weekly beatings, but to everyone he encounters—like the old man in the h ...more
Elise
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The person who said "Notes of a Dirty Old Man" was a good place to start when beginning to read Bukowski's works couldn't have been more wrong. "Ham on Rye" is Bukowski at his best, and this memoir allowed me to understand Charles Bukowski and how he later became that "dirty old man." "Ham on Rye," like the later work, is filled with the unflinching honesty so characteristic of Bukowski, but here that honesty is less postured, uses less shock value, and shows the vulnerability underneath the tou ...more
André
Henry Chinaski, our fellow laureate of American lowlife, is back and "younger" than ever!
Sharp, honest, and crude that's how Bukowski delights his readers, in his special and humorous way. In this novel, Bukowski narrates his youngest years. Like the previous novels, Ham on Rye narrates his childhood, between the years of 1920 and 1941. It begins with Chinaski's early years in Germany, with his own grandmother ranting at him and his family "I will bury all of you" until young adulthood, jo
...more
Mariel
Apr 02, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: you're from hell
Recommended to Mariel by: when someone else's truth
Not only did the grownups get mean, the kids got mean, and even the animals got mean. It was like they took their cue from the people.

What did they see in him? The others follow his starving artist dog home from poker on some wall somewhere, hustling nothing. Keep finding him he brown bags his leave me alone lunchtime rituals. There isn't a dirty room to hide in his parent's home or out in the world. Under their roof rules. Henry Chinaski talks a lot about the long hair blowing in the wind in
...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Please add page count 4 37 May 31, 2019 03:27AM  
ladies--your thoughts? 3 110 Feb 06, 2017 05:52AM  
Becker = Alter-Ego of Henry Chinaski? 5 172 Mar 05, 2016 05:27PM  
Books with direct speech for a non-native English speaker 3 57 Feb 16, 2014 12:00PM  
The Bookhouse Boys: Ham on Rye discussion 18 84 Dec 31, 2013 02:03PM  

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Henry Charles Bukowski (born as Heinrich Karl Bukowski) was a German-born American poet, novelist and short story writer. His writing was influenced by the social, cultural and economic ambience of his home city of Los Angeles.It is marked by an emphasis on the ordinary lives of poor Americans, the act of writing, alcohol, relationships with women and the drudgery of work. Bukowski wrote thousands of poems, hundre ...more
“What a weary time those years were -- to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.” 1355 likes
“I had noticed that both in the very poor and very rich extremes of society the mad were often allowed to mingle freely.” 503 likes
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