Review of “Post Office,” by Charles Bukowski
First, the mundane stuff; this book is written in a crisp style reminiscent of a walk down memory lane years after events, but it isn’t a very pleasant stroll – more like a drunken stagger. Numerous grammatical errors (like missing verbs, etc.) can be distracting but it is easy to read.
This review is short because the book is more like a novella than a novel. In fact, it seems that the author wrote the most memorable part (I can believe that from the story) first, so this is the middle portion of the entire story. I remained curious but I wasn’t turning pages as fast as I could either, nor was I dreading my daily reading. It isn’t humorous but the tongue-in-cheek writing style and the bizarre situations the protagonist finds himself in do elicit a chuckle now and then. I don’t know if it’s autobiographical or not and I don’t care. It is a fictional story.
At any rate, one of my complaints is that the author either assumes that (or doesn’t care if) the reader is familiar with how mail is processed and distributed. These details figure prominently throughout the book but there is no description of what they are; including the places where the character worked, the equipment he used, how he got around. Nothing, until a focus on “schemes” used to sort mail (before machines took over that mundane task), and that was brief.
I did feel that I understood the central character to some degree through the many experiences he had during the eleven or twelve-year period covered in the story. The story line is somewhat episodic, mostly centered on romantic relationships, but succeeds with very few words to convey the sense of desperation and meaninglessness of his career and life. The author managed to take a mundane person with no outstanding personal qualities and show that he was just like the rest of us (albeit with a passion for drinking too much and horse tracks). One key element was missing, however; I really didn’t learn what made Henry Chinaski tick, even after I’d finished the book. He was simply rehashing every day (and every year) over and over. Maybe that’s explained in one of the other two books.
I won’t be reading the rest of the story but, if you find Post Office laying around and don’t have to buy a copy and wait for it to arrive, it’s worth a read.