Charles Bukowski (1920 to 1994) was a poet, a novelist and a short story writer. Post Office was his first fiction novel and is described as semi-biographical. This is not a crime novel. However, it is a brutal look at the post office work culture that exposes some of the injustices & bureaucracies of the job. I was so caught up in the story that I read this all in one sitting.
The opening page makes clear: this is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.
Written in 1971, Post Office is said to be the novel that catapulted Bukowski’s career. The story is narrated by 36 year old Henry Chinaski and goes on to follow him for 11 years. The story is short so he didn’t waste words. Henry is Bukowski’s analog and would be best described as an anti-hero. He’s a hard drinker, womanizer and gambler.
The chapters are short and the prose is spare. The language is crude. The story doesn’t have a plot per se. It’s a just a string of stories made up of Henry’s affairs, his gambles, his run ins with social injustice with the bulk of the focus on his “soul-destroying job” at the post office. The story has a bit of tragedy and some irony.
For me, the most riveting parts of the story were those scenes at the post office. The sadistic supervisors, the crazy co-workers and the bureaucracy of it all. He’s delivering mail in the pouring rain and in the 100 degree heat. The stress of those periodic postal exams and the mandatory overtime. The author evoked an atmosphere of monotony that eats away at the soul.
The author does insert moments of levity to lighten things up. I went through the gamut of emotions reading this book. I recommend this title with caveats. If easily offended by language and such then think twice about reading it. Looking at the big picture, this is a story about the average working man trying to survive the day to day and escaping into a successful writing career (eventually). Insightful and thought-provoking story. A classic read. You can read a sample chapter here.