Post Office: A Novel

Posted in Book Reports, GSU photo archive by chamblee54 on September 15, 2018

Post Office, a novel allegedly based on the life of Charles Bukowski, was on sale at a “Friends of the Chamblee Library” book sale. The author would not like this. You cannot complain when you died 24 years ago. PG paid a dollar, and read the story. Hank Chinaski, the stand in for the author, got a lousy job at the post office in Los Angeles. For 196 pages, Hank drinks, works, screws, admires women’s bodies, drinks, bets on horses, fights with supervisors, has hangovers, and drinks more. The story is easy to read, suggesting the helping hand of an editor.

PO stands for both post office and pissed off. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive. When PG was 8 years old, a mail man ran over Pongo, his dog. To hear Hank tell the story, life at the PO was an endless cycle of sadistic bosses, and brain damaged co-workers. Administrative wanks rule over everyone. Somehow Hank made it through 11 years as a clerk. The institution survived. Mr. Bukowski perished in 1994. The headstone reads “Don’t Try.”

‘I Never Saw Him Drunk’: An Interview with Bukowski’s Longtime Publisher is an interview with John Martin, the owner of Black Sparrow press. Mr. Martin thought Hank was the next Whitman, and started Black Sparrow (initials are not always convenient) to distribute Hank’s product. When Hank quit the post office in 1969, Mr. Martin agreed to give him $100 a month. This later became $10,000 every two weeks, with more at the end of the year.

“How did his first novel, Post Office, come about? This is a good story. So we made that deal in December for $100 a month—early December, as I recall—and so he gave notice to the post office, and his last day there was going to be December 31. He said, “OK, I’m going to work for you on January 2, because January 1 is New Year’s Day and I’m going to take that as a holiday. We thought that was really funny. About three or four weeks went by, I think it was still in January, or at worst the first week in February, and he called me—oh, and I had told him earlier, “If you ever think of writing a novel, that’s easier to sell than poetry; it would help if you could write a novel”—so he called me up at the very end of January or the first week of February, out of the blue, and said, “I got it; come and get it.” I said, “What?” And he said, “My novel.” I said, “You’ve written a novel since I saw you last?” And he said, “Yes.” I asked how that was possible, and he said, “Fear can accomplish a lot.” And that novel was Post Office.” The novel includes a near fatal party in that month.

Mr. Martin has a take on Hank which differs from his image. “Hank was not comfortable among people, in a crowd, even at a small gathering; he was a real loner. He wanted to get up in the morning, have a quick breakfast with his wife, read the paper, leave the house about noon, go to the track, come home at 6:00, have dinner about 7:00, go upstairs at 8:00, and write until two in the morning, and he wanted nothing to interfere with that routine. … he was the most polite man I’ve ever known, and the most honest man I’ve ever known. He was so deferential and polite and so concerned for your comfort, and whether you were happy or not, when you were with him.”

“I went to the bathroom and threw some water on my face, combed my hair. If I could only comb that face, I thought, but I can’t.” This may be the best line in PO. There are a lot to choose from. PO is a guilty pleasure. It is sexist and misogynistic to the max. The writing is basic, and easy to consume. It is tough to believe that Hank wrote this in a month by himself, but it is also tough to believe that someone that ugly got laid all the time. If only Hank could have combed that face.

PG has written about Hank one, two, three, four, five, six, seven times, with some reruns thrown in for efficient blogging. PG has written two pomes about Hank. (A B) B is basically A in sonnet form. Never mind that Hank hated rhyming poems, to say nothing of posting the lines over pictures of dogs. Hank was a cat person, as if rhyme scheme blasphemy was not enough.

@bukowski_quote is a twitter facility dedicated to distributing 240 character bits of Buk. These tweets/quotes (twoats) have been packaged as two more sonnets, published in two parts each. (C D E F) Sometimes, PG feels this is a bit of post mortem cultural appropriation. The Hank of Tales of Ordinary Madness would have hated seeing his work used this way. How the millionaire, wine sipping Hank feels is a good question. Then, PG found a quote that made him feel better.

“I got into Bukowski about five years ago on a trip to New York from North Carolina. I swallowed Ham on Rye in a single sitting while riding in the back of some clunker-type Honda thing racing north on I-95 in what I think was June of 2005. Since then I’ve read all of his novels and much of his poetry (which is a lot, do you know how much poetry he wrote?) and don’t give a shit about the literary ball bags at the Vice office who say he’s a boring, repetitive, pompous, fake-macho, southern-California-weather-system-addled boozehole, partly because I agree, and partly because I don’t read him for some sort of illumination on the haggard life of the proletariat. I just see his writing as a quick source of thrills, spills, and funny things to call women that you’re angry at but also still want to fuck.”

A book report about Post Office would not be complete without one star reviews. patricia neumannon August 8, 2014 “One star for the fact that this was even published. I was offended by Mr. Bukowski’s low regard for women. Pehaps his target audience is adolescent boys, who might twitter at Bukkowski’s vulger attempt at humor.” Auntie Mon September 1, 2014 “A book about a pathetic, selfish White man? No thanks.” gammyrayeon February 8, 2013 ” … The narrator Henry Chenaski is a low-life alcoholic who spends his life getting drunk, having sex with girlfriends and chance acquaintances, and betting at the race track, all while working at the post office. Finally he resigns from the post office. End of story. All this is written in an arrogant tone, as if the narrator feels himself to be superior to all the other characters, especially to his fellow workers. Bukowski has stated that the novel is autobiographical, and he seemed to take pride in the tumble-down life that he led. I have known guys like this–he is every drunk or drug addict who ever excused his addiction as an indication that he is too intelligent and sensitive to deal with the angst of living among the clods and drudges. Alcoholism is not hilarious and entertaining, even to the alcoholic, eventually. And it is not hilarious and entertaining to read about.”

Pictures today are from “The Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library”. These images are from “… a collection of images of downtown Atlanta streets that were taken before the viaduct construction of 1927 – 1929. Later, some of the covered streets became part of Underground Atlanta.” The renovation at Underground never stops.

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  1. A Natural Woman: A Memoir | Chamblee54 said, on January 17, 2019 at 1:43 pm

    […] hit the jackpot at a friends-of-the-library book sale. ANWAM is the last book. The first three were Post Office, I Slept With Joey Ramone, and Bastard Out Of Carolina. It is probably back to the library for […]

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