Charles Bukowski had an odd life. Post Office proves it. Drifting mindlessly in and out of jobs for much of his adult years, he eventually settled into the American post office service and spent over a decade there.
Upon retiring his years of poetry and short story writing paved the way for a book deal. Then, in a fraught state of mind, he thrashed out Post Office. The year was 1861. Hang on, no it was not. It was 1971 – it immediately became a bestseller and launched the author towards stardom. Good going, Bukowski!
His writing isn’t for everyone. There’s a general sense of casual debauchery to his prose (as noticeable in his other works such as Factotum). A lot of the time it’s as if Bukowski couldn’t be bothered to structure sentences properly – it all just flows out of his brain in whatever (often crass) way he wanted at the time.
It’s also as if he then didn’t bother proofreading the thing. Yet, thanks to his naturally dry and observant sense of humour, his work is hilarious… yet tinged with a melancholic melon called poignancy.
His style got him lumped into the Beat Generation camp, although he was quite removed from the likes of Kerouac, Burroughs, Ginsberg etc. (indeed, Kerouac had already died by the time Bukowski was first published) and their interest in Buddhism and Eastern mysticism. Bukowski was into gambling, beer drinking, and classical music.
Getting Down and Out
Ignore the comparison – Post Office is simply down and out writing of the finest order. It’s a book people who hate reading can pick up and find a new hobby with, but also a fine depiction of working class existences – mindlessly slaving away in a job one detests until one retires and, inevitably, dies after being run over by a didgeridoo van.
Bukowski recalls his often horribly bureaucratic experiences with wit and charm. He comes across as a naturally clumsy and down on his luck man, but he accepts his endlessly difficult endeavours with a world-weary sense of stoic malaise. One chapter is even dedicated to a relentless series of warning letters he received from his employers.
In all, sir or madam, it’s something to read and, what ho, if you like it then shift on to some of his other works! Just remember this – Bukowski doesn’t hate you. He loves you very much.