Book #25

Post Office by Charls Bukowski

Henry Chinaski is a lowlife loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial post office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks.

Reading of someone’s mundane and dispiriting lifestyle usually can feel oppressive and often heartbreaking. Their daily struggles and lack of options always go straight to my heart, and I fall into thinking of everyone in the world with these experiences. Here, Bukowski takes a life of working for the post office, its difficulties and small triumphs, and creates an engaging tour through the tribulations of Chinaski. It’s almost a frolic. Almost.

As someone who loves booze, women and horses (and booze, women, and horses only), Chinaski’s character is used skillfully by Bukowski to tell us his own story in a semi-autobiographical style. He comments on humanity, how life can take odd turns for no reason, how we cope with this, what we do to ameliorate the effects of dull working life, and, after all of this, we see how he’s deeply and inescapably attached to the post office. Or, perhaps, how  the post office is attached to him.

Many people have reported this novel as being hilarious, and although I did laugh, I disagree - when you dig deeper, it’s sad. It spans years of destitution, rejection, alcoholism, and a seemingly doomed fate which feels endless. That Bukowski has chosen to write this in a light style, which suggests the best thing to do in these types of situations is simply to laugh, is the saddest thing of all.

Here’s to the lost souls.