Synopsis: "It began as a mistake." By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost more than twelve years of his life to the U.S. Postal Service. In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mud-soaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the day-to-day trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkers. This classic 1971 novel—the one that catapulted its author to national fame—is the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski.
I really wanted to like this book. This author -- and this book in particular -- came highly recommended by more than one friend, and I was led to believe Charles Bukowski was a genius, a visionary welder with the English language and cunning insight into humanity as his tools.
He's funny. I can give him that. This book made me laugh out loud several times, and that's why I was pretty generous with my rating by giving this thing two and a half stars. I almost gave it two stars and called it done, but the lead protagonist -- however unlikable he may be -- is deliciously sarcastic, making for some hilarious dialogue and inner monologues.
That's about all the good things I can say about this one, though. This is the story of a man somehow wasting twelve years of his life at a job he hates -- in this novel, said job is first a delivery man and then a clerk position at the local post office, hence the title -- and his random drunken encounters/fumbling sex with women he meets on his routes . . . and that is really it. That's all there is to the novel. The main character -- and this one is first-person, so we spend a helluva lot of time in this guy's head -- is a lazy drunkard with a smart mouth who does nothing but look for ways to get out of work and degrade women either in his mind or out loud.
Okay, okay. Perhaps a look at the time in which this was written is vital. Published in 1971, this book came out just before women really started speaking out for their freedom and independence. So . . . I suppose the attitude toward women in this book is a little forgivable, though it ground my gears something fierce and made the work look like a dusty antique -- a relic of a more ignorant time.
All in all, I just really didn't like this book. I've heard Bukowski's poetry is good, so maybe I'll give that a whirl. I know I would never be interested in reading another novel of his, though. Most folks claim Bukowski is a visionary, with this work acting as one of the crowning achievements of the Beat Movement, but all I can do is shrug and say "meh." It's a quick and easy read, so I don't feel like I wasted too much time on it, fortunately . . . But I don't think I would read it again.