I’d seen and enjoyed some of Bukowski’s work with Ron Crumb’s comix but hadn’t read any of his books or poetry. When a reviewer compared MY book, CHICAGO RAGE to HIS writing, I just had to dive into his POST OFFICE and look for resemblances. It’s a novel, but reputed to be autobiographical, a window into his mindset, as are my memoirs that read as novels.  

His main character is either drunk or hung over all the time, whereas I’m only an occasional imbiber who favors psychedelics over the hard stuff. His fascination and lustful desire for the female body matches mine, however he shows little empathy for those he beds beyond his own gratification. Well, okay, he paints a stark portrait of the all-too-common man, too many of whom I’ve written about. I suppose he’s being honest about his motivations, but even a guy down on his luck, enveloped in an alcoholic haze, ought to have some flicker of interest in his broader horizons.

His portrayal of the hostile workplace is spot on. Employees are verbally abused and ground down, used up, their only reward is to be thrown away as worthless empty shells to be replaced by fresh meat for the grinder. The American work culture is remorseless and often as pitiless and deadly as a fascist labor camp. De-fanged labor unions may be powerless to address these issues head on because achieving broader goals in the Realpolitik power-play with entrenched management often necessitates compromise and sacrifice for the greater good. I’ve been there.

I couldn’t identify or sympathize with his character’s lack of effort at understanding womankind, much less his sad-sack workmates, until his divorce. Then his character, still valuing booze over the affection of his ladies, makes more of an attempt at some show of minimal gratitude for all he’s received on a one-way street of emotional and financial support. That gets a low-key BRAVO from me.

But then there is the birth of his child and the death by booze of an ex, sad tales of distracted interest that should inspire the reader to forswear drinking and wrap his/her arms around those precious beings in his/her own life.

Yes, the book is worth reading, adding to the sum of our experience and as a warning not to emulate a near-sighted drunk. I hope the real Bukowski is more of a Mensch than his cartoon character. Maybe I’d like to have a beer, even get drunk with him some time. Or maybe we ought better to trip on LSD or Magic Mushrooms and explore the death culture from another angle.

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