Title: Post Office
Author: Charles Bukowski
Genre: Classic Fiction/Dark Humor
Number of Pages: 162
This is the first book I’ve read by Charles Bukowski and even though it didn’t make an instant fan out of me I’d like to read more. It’s about Henry Chinaski, a terrible man who cares only about fucking, drinking, and gambling and somehow gets the trashiest women to sleep with him. He decides to get a job to fund his vices and ends up working at the post office from hell. He delivers mail under the most horrific weather conditions and the people he encounters are all completely psychotic.
The way the postal service is run makes absolutely no sense but he seems to be the only one who notices (at times it made me think of a super fucked-up Office Space.) Even though Henry hates his job and it makes him absolutely miserable he’s pulled into the bureaucratic B.S. of it like quicksand and it holds him captive for years. There’s no particular sense of plot to this novel, it just follows the crazy stuff that happens to this guy as he runs around and around (usually inebriated) through the hamster wheel of a life devoid of purpose in working-class America.
Hearing that this book is semi-autobiographical kind of scares me, because the main character has virtually no redeeming qualities. He describes women like they’re pieces of meat, is racist and homophobic, and once even rapes a woman in her home in a totally casual way. But even though I hate Henry Chinaski, I liked this book. Why? Well, partially it’s because I love the way every sentence in the novel crackles with energy, like it’s a crazy hyperbole-fueled train practically careening off the tracks. Even though every single character is completely fucking insane, they have certain elements of reality and I cracked up at times at how eerily their absurd behavior actually rang true.
Charles Bukowski’s worldview was so deranged that I started wondering if Henry had already lived out his miserable life and had gone to a hell determined to leave him rolling around in futility forever. Every time he tried to get something done it was a Sisyphean task that got him nowhere, if he hadn’t been such a S.O.B. I might have actually felt bad for him.
It was funny but funny in a way that brings a bad taste to the back of your throat because of the total feeling of emptiness and amorality. Nobody seems to care about each other, they just seem to rattle around together like marbles in a jar and occasionally collide forcefully in acts of violence and fornication. It appeals to the people who (like me) tend towards a cynical outlook on things. It would never be published today because it’s so politically incorrect, but that said I’m glad it exists and that I took the time to read it.