Book Review: Factotum by Charles Bukowski

Henry Chinaski the shameless yet strangely lovable aspiring writer and semi-autobiographical creation of Charles Bukowski returns in Factotum, where he continues to eke out a boozy, promiscuous existence only this time he does so via a series of menial jobs.

It is a lifestyle that Bukowski, as he did in Post Office succeeds in glamourising (up to a point) as Chinaski although a common bum in the eyes of society, has a series of entertaining adventures and meets memorable characters along his road as a journeyman. The falling off point preventing anyone from abandoning the structures of one’s own life coming via the perpetual danger of permanent homelessness that Chinaski flirts with. As he flits from town to town, resigning from one job and being sacked from next, Chinaski walks a novel-long tightrope over a pit of hopelessness that it is unlikely he will ever climb out of if he falls for good.

For a man in such bleak circumstances, he has fun with it. No sexual encounter is too dirty and there are no depths to which he will not sink for his own survival or gratification.

Though his fight for survival and brief bouts of pleasure are entertaining, they highlight just as Post Office did, the seemingly inescapable cycle of soul-destroying jobs and desperation people with failed career plans live in.

Chinaski’s admirable strength is that however grim things seem to get and however many jobs he loses, he dusts himself down, hits the road and turns up somewhere else in search of easy money and loose women.

Though most of the world see Henry Chinaski as a loser, he is in many ways a hero who never says die. His second outing only serves to solidify his legacy as the rogue who whatever the circumstances, refuses to let life beat him into submission.

Rating: 4/5 – Brave, honest and hilarious. Bukowski once again manages to make life on the brink of ruin look like a whole lot of fun.

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