Dysfunction that Breaks the Heart Ten Times Over. Knowing, however, that You Can Break Free from the Chains.
Ham on Rye: My first read by Charles Bukowski, came highly recommended.
A semi-autobiographical coming of age story about a young man named Henry Chinaski.
There is angst, desperation, dysfunction, heartache, and pain and then there is hysterical laughter.
Growing up during the Great Depression, this is the story of a young man who learned to question his existence, during a time when such a thing was not acceptable.
A father who is an abusive, alcoholic and is also mentally unstable, from whom Henry learned the finer points of alcohol. A mother who is unable to stand up for herself or her son.
Bullied, covered in acne, and terrible with girls, Henry sort of becomes a bully himself. Can’t say I blamed him, all things considered.
Then there is Henry’s personality. His cynicism. His sexual frustration. His adoration of Panties (yes, I said panties) and finally, Miss Gredis’ classroom – thump, thump, thump. That, my friends, is where the hysterical laughter comes in.
What makes this novel so wholly realistic is the writing, which is inflected with honesty and sincerity and clearly comes from a place of both pain and salvation. From knowing that there is more to life than the hand that Henry Chinaski was dealt.
What is astounding is that at such a tender young age, Charles Bukowski as Henry Chinaski, was wise beyond his years, asking pertinent questions, including what he wanted out of life. Pushing boundaries, and rejecting social conventions, making others do the same. Though somewhat crude, rude, and brash, “Henry Chinaski” was also brave, going where others had not gone before.
While I didn’t quite love this book, due to the way it was told, it resonated with me for a variety of reasons. At first, I found the writing to be a bit choppy though, thankfully it evened out as the story got going. Bold, and daring, Henry Chinaski is a “character” I won’t soon forget as he is one I identified with in many respects. Sadly, his parents, unfortunately, were quite like my own in many ways. The fact that this novel is semi-autobiographical broke my heart.
I have heard that Mr. Bukowski has written several other books that are a bit more profane, shocking, and vile. That remains to be seen.
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