“It began as a mistake.” That’s the opening line in Charles Bukowski’s first novel “Post Office”, published in 1971, and it pretty much summarized the whole book and hooked me into it. The story takes place in Los Angeles and revolves around Bukowski’s alter ego, Henry Chinaski. Chinaski is an everyday, drunk, and underdog working man living job to job, paycheck to paycheck. He lives a most of his days drinking and sleeping with women.
Chinaski really is an extremely unlikable character. This isn’t a story where the main character goes through and incredible story arc that changes him by the end of the book finally reaching redemption. Henry is a degenerate in the beginning of the book and remains so at the end. His character just attracts the worse kind of luck to himself. It was ridiculous to see all the shit he goes through in his daily life working at the post office from dogs chasing him to residents disrespecting him. And I say ridiculous in a good, entertaining way. He comes across some crazy people on his delivery routes and you can’t blame him for reacting the way he does. He constantly disregards the job’s rules and regulations and has a knack for rebelling against authority. This of course leads him into getting in trouble, him getting pissed and then leads to him drinking. He always shows up to work with a bad hangover and he trudges along in physical torment. In a way, this is one of the very few traits I do like about him: he is very persistent and always pushes on through the worse kind of day. There are also some instances where we can see that maybe Chinaski has some decency and a heart but it all gets lost in his desire to drink and lay with women.
One of the saddest aspects about this book is how long he stays with the post office. He spends a total of I think 14 years working for the post office and during all those years, he witnesses some of his coworkers deteriorate under the weight of the job from one coworker having a nervous breakdown to another losing his job on account of being falsely accused of being a pedophile. He notices these really bad aspects and characteristics about people and society in general and he hates them for it, although it’s ironic because he is just as bad, if not, worse. One hilarious moment is when Chinaski single handedly revolutionizes the post office by an outrageous incident involving a cigar and a stack of mail.
From this book alone, you can easily see why Charles came to be known as “dirty, old man” Bukowski. Some people might find him offensive in his writing but I think that Bukowski writes about life, looking at it through the poor, underclassman’s point of view. The way I see it, he writes about the dark reflections of society; the nasty, dirty thoughts and impulses and frustrations that we might all have deep down. Overall, I loved this book. I thought it was entertaining as hell and I can’t wait to read more of Bukowski’s work. This is easily a new favorite book and author.