Friday, August 23, 2013

Post Office by Charles Bukowski
Released: 1971

Despite my negative feelings about Post Office, I have an amazing story associated with this novel that could be better than the review.

I ended up with Post Office by accident and on purpose all at the same time.

So. There's a man at the grocery store I really enjoy talking to, and on a recent visit, we began talking about books.

For those of you who are well-read, talking about books with someone new can EASILY make or break your overall impression of that person. When someone tells me they like to read, I automatically tense up and go on the defense, ready to throw punches if they ask me if I've ever read the Twilight series, or Harry Potter, or Dean Koontz, or books by that Mary Higgins Clark person who "really writes good mystery stories."

Anyway, when I asked grocery-store man about the types of books he liked to read, he said, verbatim, "I enjoy reading contemporary classics." I immediately thought, Of COURSE you do. Nine times out of ten, that's what everyone who isn't bookish likes to say because it makes them look smart even though they don't even know what they're talking about. It's a never-ending cliche.

Although I initially felt skeptical about his answer, it turns out he wasn't actually a jackass, but that the actual jackass was ME.

At my new "bookish" friend's request, I made a list of authors I thought he might enjoy, given he "only reads literature published between 1930 and 1980." Having a hunch that grocery-store man would love the beat genre (though still a bit skeptical), I put Charles Bukowski on the list. The next day, I went to the bookstore and purchased Post Office, then returned to the grocery store to share my finding with grocery-store man.

At what I considered was a very proud moment for me, I presented Post Office to grocery-store man - who barely glanced at it, but didn't skip a beat when he casually responded saying he already owned Post Office. It took me only a split-second to realize that he was being serious. I knew my jaw had probably dropped involuntarily, and I could feel the blood rushing to my face. I felt like I was on the geek version of Ashton Kutcher's Punk'd. My entire world was basically thrown off-kilter and I was immediately thrown off-balance. I didn't know how to respond, and in an instant, I felt my bookish confidence go down the drain. I seriously felt like the biggest asshole and most judgmental person on the planet.

I realized that for the first time ever, I was actually talking to a normal, everyday person who in REAL LIFE knew his books and knew what he was talking about. My mind was blown.

So it turns out that grocery-store man legitimately and sincerely enjoys reading contemporary classics, most of which fall into the "beat" genre. I don't even know why he even bothered having me make a list for him. Honestly didn't see that curveball coming.

Post Office goes like this.

A gambling, alcoholic loser named Henry "Hank" Chinaski lands a job at the local post office. On the post office's dime, Hank spends most of his shifts getting plastered and sleeping with skanky women who have big tits and bigger asses. There is no apex in this novel. The entire book is about sleazy Hank and how he spends his life getting by on achieving just the bare minimum.

I really thought, and hoped that Post Office would read like a timeless classic, given the U.S. postal system probably hasn't changed much since this novel's publication (right?). Additionally, the front-cover blurb has London-based magazine Uncut quoting that Post Office is "one of the funniest books ever written." Obviously a blatant lie. Seriously. There was nothing funny about this book.

Even the back-cover synopsis describes Post Office as being "the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of Dirty Old Man (in caps!) Charles Bukowski." Dirty Old Man, indeed. Maybe dirty because he managed to pass off his mindless bullshit as a classic and succeeded.

The only highlight of my time spent with Post Office occurred in chapter 20, in which Hank reads a galley written by one of his coworkers named Janko. Hank describes at length how poor and crappy the dialogue becomes midway through Janko's book. This had me in hysterics. I bet most book reviewers could relate to Hank's thoughts and comments about the novel. The same thoughts run through my head often when reading certain review assignments.

Novels in the beat genre drive me fucking crazy. I totally get that the beat movement largely represents the 1960s cultural era and a series of unique and groundbreaking life perspectives, but I'm pretty much over it. I'm still dealing with people in my life who came to maturity during the beat era, such as my father, whose perspectives and opinions still drive me crazy. Maybe most of my generation is way too familiar with the beat era to fully appreciate it. Perhaps future generations down the line will love to appreciate beat even more.

Many reviewers have described Post Office and Bukowski's writing as "raw." Oh, please. If you like raw, there are far better works out there, such as those by Jess Walter or Georges Simenon, and just about a billion other authors.

What I usually do to cope with getting through beat novels such as Post Office is imagine that the main character is someone goofy, like Jason Biggs, and that they're playing a role in some crazy-stupid movie. At least it makes getting through the novels a more bearable experience.

I'm sure my review of Post Office will upset many readers. I'm sure grocery-store man has some insightful and witty quips to describe his experience with Post Office, and Charles Bukowski in general. Good for him, although it makes me a little sad that he's also missing out on some amazing pieces of modern literature that I feel are 1,000 times more enjoyable.

Do you like Charles Bukowski? Other popular and infamous novels by Bukowski include Women, Ham on Rye, Hollywood, and Pulp.

Click on any of the images of the books below to review them in more detail on

Do you enjoy the beat genre, and if so, who are your favorite authors? What are your favorite beat novels? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

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