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Friday, October 1, 2010

Post Office

Post Office
By Charles Bukowski
(4/5 stars)

If you really hate your job, "Post Office" beats a whole stack of Dilbert cartoons or watching an endless loop of "Office Space," "Clerks," and other workplace comedies.  From the way Bukowski describes the post office, it's no wonder "going postal" entered our lexicon.  It's probably also why my uncle who worked for the post office for a number of years was always so cranky.

The story concerns Bukowski's alterego Henry Chinaski.  When he's a younger man, Henry does his first stint at the post office as a substitute mail carrier.  As the motto says, he winds up trudging through rain (and mud) and dark of night, occasionally being attacked by the odd dog or two.  This finances Henry's life of drinking and cavorting with Betty.

Eventually Henry moves on to other jobs and other women, including a wealthy heiress with a thing for animals and geraniums.  He drinks and cavorts a lot with all of these and even fathers a child with one.  To support this lifestyle Henry is drawn back to the post office, this time working as a clerk.  It's a maddening, routine job that his supervisors only make more maddening.  One of the funniest parts is early on when Henry's supervisor keeps writing him up for ignoring his write ups, which Henry keeps throwing in the trash.

Despite that his style is like a seventh grade student's, Bukowski's writing has a drunken swagger that makes it enjoyable.  I have to wonder how much of what happens was based on real events and how much was just bravado.  While it never rises to the level of "Catch-22" or "1984" it still demonstrates the crushing effect of a soulless bureaucracy on the common people.

Of course a lot of people will not want to read this because of the bad language, the sex, the violence to women, and so forth.  But if you're a fan of writers like Hemingway, Chuck Palahniuk, or Bret Easton Ellis or you just have a really crummy job, then you'll get a kick of this.

That is all.

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