Charles Bukowski is one of those authors who I've been wanting to check out for as long as I can remember (probably since the mid-90s) but hadn't done so until last month. I'm not sure why it's taken so long. I've read most of his contemporaries, and -- thanks to Amazon and other resellers -- his works are now more accessible than ever before. Perhaps I've hesitated to dive in because I'd heard that Bukowski engenders very strong positive and negative reactions, and I was wary of my own expectations influencing my reading.
As it turned out, I needn't have worried and should have got started reading sooner. Post Office is a first-person account of Henry Chinaski, a man who loves racetrack betting, drinking and women above all else, and who works for the U.S. Postal Service in Los Angeles.
What follows is an authentic and funny narrative, in which Chinaski relates his (mostly frustrating and maddening) experiences working for a dull, bureacratic institution and how he attempts to chase his machine workday life with romantic affairs, drinking, and gambling.
As I was reading, I couldn't help but compare the book to some of the other popular Beat novels, particularly Kerouac's On the Road. I think what struck me the most was the flat, even crude, authenticity of Bukowski's prose. Compared to Kerouac, who romanticized the road and crafted a hipster spirituality, Post Office felt more raw, more real, and more enduring.
Bravo. On to more Bukowski.