Book review: Charles Bukowski’s ‘Post Office’

Charles Bukowski’s Post Office Book review

The first thing I would say to anyone who isn’t familiar with Charles Bukowski’s work is not meant for those who get offended easily. First published in 1971, the Post Office deconstructs the struggles of being a voiceless cog in the massive enterprise that was the U.S postal office during the 1950s and late 60s; many of the work assignments undertaken by protagonist Henry Chinaski have now been replaced by industrial-grade machinery. The quality of his storytelling describing the loathed hung-over work shifts makes up for some hilarious reading during his early days as a substitute postie. Here the narrator’s reliability is questioned mostly due to the ghastly nature of some of his own actions, combined with a total lack of care in displaying them to the reader. Bukowski’s scandalous writing will have you read some parts twice as to figure out if he really wrote that. It’s this complete freedom of thought (for better and for his very dark worst) that makes this book so hard to put down. And while some parts may come across like a drunken rant from a troubled narrator, there is a lot of truth in Bukowski’s moral dissection of America’s notion of the capitalist dream back in those days.

But be warned: his brutal honesty throughout the book may take a while to get used to. And while many of his narrator’s bold statements are outdatedly offensive due to their slightly racist and extremely sexist views, Bukowski’s relentless use of carefully crafted ironic remarks, combined with some great dialogue, make up for some very entertaining reading. The protagonist’s several years of painstaking, meaningless employment slowly drives him into a downward spiral of drunkenness and self-loathing. As you witness this demise through the writer’s selectively humble description, you question yourself whether Bukowski himself has lost his mind throughout the writing of his first novel, touching on issues of love, sex, mourning, work, gambling, and of course, alcohol.

The result is an entertaining read from an author whose intelligent rationality of the world surrounding him provide a glimpse into what life was like for the average working-class American.

Post office – Three to five hour read – an entertaining afternoon.

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