Book Review: Post Office, by Charles Bukowski

postofficecoverI find it easier for me to write a review on a book I dislike because the wrong comes easily to point out, but a review is way harder to complete when you find the book to be a really good one, and you have to pick and choose what is more important than the rest. I will try my best here, but I have feelings for this boozy bastard, so if I do not achieve what I intend to say, just know that I deeply like Bukowski.

“It began as a mistake.”

This is how we are introduced by our narrator, Henry Chinaski, who appears in this novel for the first time (basically because this is Bukowski’s first work), and who represents his creator himself and his experiences working in the Post Office (hence the name). This novel is completely autobiographical, almost, may I say, too autobiographical. It is basically every-day life made novel, as the character parades from work to home and then back to work, which may sound as the most boring thing taking into account that this is what almost all of us do in a daily basis. However, I believe here is where the greatness of this novel resides, because no one had ever thought that normal life could be so entertaining.

This entertainment has a lot to do with the way our narrator copes with life: alcohol and women, both in abundance. Now combine the rudeness of his character with an amazing literary style. No literary plethora, no academic words, no pretty writing, just pure words straight from a drunk genie.

“Was I some kind of idiot, actually? Did I make things happen to myself? It was possible. It was possible that I was subnormal, that I was lucky just to be alive.”

Bukowski received a lot of critic because of the same reason I find him so great. He was too real, and some do not get to read in between the lines. By writing this book he was criticizing the people around him, his job, the United States of America, and himself, all of this at the same time. Because he is not trying to be a figure to follow at all, he is only showing his vision of life, how one can still be happy with the small things in life. What if the guy is always drunk and has a serious weakness for women? He is just trying to survive the best way he can.

And he is funny, really funny.

“Look, let’s give it up. Let’s just lay around and make love and take walks and talk a little. Let’s go to the zoo. Let’s look at the animals. Let’s drive down and look at the ocean. It’s only 45 minutes. Let’s play games in the arcades. Let’s go to the races, the Art Museum, the boxing matches. Let’s have friends. Let’s laugh. This kind of life is like everybody else’s kind of life: it’s killing us.”

 “I was being raped by a high yellow enchantress! For a moment, it excited me. Then I told her. “Shit. Get down, baby. It’s been a long hard day. There will be a better time.” She climbed off. The thing went down like an express elevator.”

It was hard to choose quotes, I would put the whole book down here if I could. I can’t do that (copyright and stuff), so you may have to read it yourselves and decide whether you love it or you hate it. One or the other, this book is worth reading nevertheless.

Currently: trying to finish “How to be both” by Ali Smith before I start reading “High Rise” by J. G. Ballard (I have to read it before I watch Tom Hiddleston going crazy on screen).

New Purchases

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How many times have you heard “New Year, New Me” so far this new 2016? To me it is more like “New Year, New Reads”, and I am already planning what my reading list is going to include this year (open for sugestions as always).

So here are my picks of the month again, which are basically auto-christmas presents as I like to call them:

The Bachelors, by Muriel Spark

Interesting plot, intriguing idea, and good reviews all over the place, I will be very disappointed if I do not like this one. Set in London, it presents “The Bachelors” as its characters, and the torments these will too suffer, which means drastic changes and excentric situations, or at least that what I expect.

– Your Fathers, Where Are They? And The Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, by Dave Eggers

I mean, who is not attracted by that title? I am sure the “weird title” and the bright cover are a very well done marketing strategy, but I am certainly sold. Thomas and Kev, abductor and abducted respectivelly, find themselves in an abandoned military base, a perfect place for them to have “a conversation”, so high expectations for this one.

– How To Be Both, by Ali Smith

Not sure if I have the “camera” version or the “eyes” version of this book, but either way I am expecting something interesting and moving. It involves art and changes of time, mirrowing two different eras with different characters. Thanks to my friend Vivi for letting me borrow this one,  I have a feeling I am going to like it coming from her.

And I may be repeating the repeated now, but Happy New Year everyone, hope you have a good start and a better ending to this 2016, and please, read a lot.

Book Review: Bark, by Lorrie Moore

3170385-9788845279096I love compilations of short stories. There is something really intense about them, a fixed moment on a bigger story, a memory, filling up the gaps with your own conclusions, and Lorrie Moore has proved to be pretty amazing at them.

The basis of the stories put together in Bark are nothing you could ever expect. You get easily trapped in them from the start, and when they come to an end you just want to know the rest of the story, where those characters come from and what happens next in their lives.It feels like finishing a meal whilst thinking what you are going to have for dessert.

I will also dare to say that the combination of the stories’ themes and the way they are written is close to perfection. Somehow Lorrie Moore has managed to transmit the characters’ feelings and thoughts through their actions, something that is already hard enough to achieve in novels, and this is another reason why I am so impressed by this work.

“At this my heart sickened and plummeted down my left side and into my shoe. My appetite, too, shrank to a small pebble and sat in stony reserve in the place my heart had been and to which my heart would at some point return, but not in time for dessert.”

To be fair, she is basically good with words. The combination of words is outstanding, and she does not fall in the routine of using literary jargon just for the sake of it, the words are simple and pure, and so the message gets transmitted smoothly, and, of course, she does not forget about giving the stories a touch of irony and humour as well.

“You could lose someone a little but they would still roam the earth. The end of love was one big zombie movie.”

“The plastic panel where the number should show was clouded as if by a scrim, a page of onionskin over the onion – or rather, over a picture of an onion. One depiction on top of another.”

The stories are intense and touching, easy to read but nonetheless perfectly put together. A book anyone would enjoy and no one would regret reading.

Favouritest

It is overwhelming how many books there are in the world, so picking up only a few favourites is not an easy thing to do, but I thought this would give you a better idea of what type of books I like the most and what my preferences are when it comes to reading. And no, you will not be surprised by my favourites if you are already into the art of the written word. I tend to be quite stubborn when it comes to reading, and I decided a long time ago I would read as many classics as I possibly can, as I want to see if they are as good as their recognition, and so my favourites tend to be classic readings that, honestly, everyone should read.

  1. Nine Stories, by J.D. Salinger

As it name announces, this is a compilation of nine short stories written by the Elvis of literature, J.D. Salinger, famous for his “The Catcher in the Rye” (and we all know why). Published in 1953, it has that characteristic simplicity of Salinger, combined with outstanding originality in the theme of his stories. Every single one of them gets you shockingly close to the “fuck-ups” of the world, in a beautiful literary way. Being “A Perfect Day for Banana Fish” my favourite one, none of them is disappointing and it is a great, if not the greatest example of the greatness of Salinger writing skills.

  1. The Great Gastby, by Francis Scott Fitzgerald

Oh the old 20s! There is something about the literature of this age that I love, and “The Great Gatsby” is the novel that really got me into it. Published in 1925, it can be summed up as a discectomy of the people of that era, with great romantic tones and amazing settings, that will definitely take you back in time. I am not much of a romantic myself, but I have to admit that no one has ever worked as hard as Jay Gatsby in order to get a woman, and I wouldn’t mind to be looked at the way he looked at Daisy Buchanan.

  1. Choke, by Chuck Palahniuk

Now you don’t know me yet, but if you did you would know that Palahniuk is my little baby. I have not yet disliked one of his novels, and I do not expect to dislike any in the future. Extremely shocking and explicit, his novels are not for everyone, but if you are like me and you like harsh language and difficult characters, then you will definitely add Choke to your favourites. The basics: sex addict with childhood traumas that earns a sad living by pretending to choke in restaurants, luring a “good Samaritan” into saving his life, asking them for money later on. You will probably dislike the character, but you will definitely recognise the greatness in this work.

  1. The 1984, by George Orwell

I decided to read this book during my uni days, a few years ago (not so many), and I am glad I did not know what the book was about before I got my hands into it. You will be disappointed if what you are expecting is hairspray and bad music, as this book is entirely set in a fictional world. Easy to relate to, the main character lives in a world of oppression, always watched by The Big Brother, unable to feel or express anything freely. It will definitely make you think about the world we live in, and it will show you the worst face of humanity. If you haven’t read it yet, it is a must.

  1. As I Lay Dying, by William Faulkner

Last but definitely not least. Harsh and realistic, it will make you go back in time, and the old times were not better. It is the story of Addie Bundren’s family, and their trip to Jefferson after her death (you were not expecting someone not to die with that title, right?). It is a story about honour, selfishness, death and sorrow, and a long trip full of misfortunes. It is also written in proper Faulkner way, so I would not recommend it if you don’t like jumps in the story line and non-expected changes of narrator.

Feel free to let me know which book is your favourite, I am more than happy to extend my already long to-read list.