Book Review: Post Office by Charles Bukowski

Anyone who has ever flirted with the idea of trimming some of the responsibility in their life can take a raw glimpse into a life of reckless abandon in Charles Bukowski’s debut novel Post Office.

Through scoundrel protagonist Henry ‘Hank’ Chinaski, Bukowski explores a world of exhaustive menial work that funds an inconsequential life of sex, alcoholism, and gambling.

Although it is clear Chinaski has taken more than a couple of wrong turns at some point and should probably know better than to live the way he does; it occasionally appears that he has bypassed conventional wisdom and hacked the system as he enjoys an eventful life of instant gratification and simple work. The work itself is never made out to be anything other than an unglamorous slog, but the carefree and at times triumphant manner in which Chinaski goes about his life, at times, has one teetering on the brink of giving up the career and signing up as a postman for a simple life filled with cheap thrills.

But amid the triumphs Chinaski enjoys during his time at the US Postal service, there is an undertone of caution as the strain the job and the subsequent lifestyle Chinaski partakes in to tolerate it, begins to take its toll on his health.

While the post office may not be the titan it was nearly fifty years ago when the novel was first published, menial jobs are still at large in western society and while a 21st Century Henry Chinaski might no longer work for the post office, he might work in an Amazon warehouse or as a Deliveroo driver. Despite Chinaski’s best efforts, Post Office is a reminder that exhaustive menial jobs are seldom good for a person’s health. And in a society which despite advances in technology, is still full of such work, it is a message worth remembering.

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