Review: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski the anti-hero. He’s loveable and loathable in equal measures. Flawed, lonely, horny and drunk. He’s Jay Gatsby. He’s Dean Moriarty. Hell, Hank Chinaski is Hank Moody (for any Californication fans out there). It’s transgressive fiction at its best.

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This is the first of Bukowski’s novels that I’ve read, and it’s the first that he wrote. An autobiographical account of Bukowski’s later life, it cleverly explores the underside of American society as we follow Chinaski from his one-night stands to his menial post office day job to the racetrack and back to the day job again.

“I wanted the whole world or nothing” – Henry Chinaski

For some reason, I didn’t expect it to be quite so funny. I often found myself reading on the bus (because I couldn’t put it down) grinning from ear to ear at some of the situations Chinaski gets himself into. One time, Hank walks into ‘his’ apartment with his six-pack of beer, only to find a leggy blonde on his couch. But someone’s moved the furniture around:

“I really like the way this place looks. It’s really going to lift my spirits”
“That’s nice. My husband likes it too.”
“Now why would your husband… What? Your husband? Look, what’s this apartment number?”
“309.”
“309? Great Christ! I’m on the wrong floor. I live in 409. My key opened your door.”

So goes Chinaski’s life. And so despite the fact he can be a real ass most of the time – the reader warms to him. I warmed to him.

The most satisfying thing about this book? The ending. ‘Dedicated to nobody’, Post Office is worth reading even if just to reach that final paragraph. I won’t say too much on that though.

I loved this book. It very quickly wormed its way into my top 20 favourite books of all time. Factotum, the follow-up to Post Office is sitting on my bedside table right now, just waiting to be read.

So if you didn’t know it already – there’s certainly something special about Bukowski.

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