Three or four years ago I read Women just so I could cross Bukowski off my list of “important” American writers. I found the book and it’s first-person, semi-autobiographical narrator so deeply unpleasant that, upon finishing the book, I stood up, walked to my kitchen and deposited the book in my garbage can. My first inclination was to set it on fire using the burners of my stove, but I decided that was a little over-dramatic and potentially unsafe.
So I suppose you could say it was masochism to subject myself to another novel by Bukowski. In reality, I recently met a woman who said Post Office was her favorite book and I was so astounded that I resolved to check it out.
Thankfully, Post Office is a brief read which I essentially tore through in two sittings. However, the book crosses the line of being a portrait of debauchery and is instead a celebration of its protagonist’s selfish, lazy, drunken negligence. Bukowski’s stand-in Henry Chinaski spends nearly a dozen years working in various capacities for the Los Angeles post office, constantly skating right on the line of being fired. He spends his off hours drinking heavily, betting on horse races, and sleeping with a surprisingly large number of women.
The high points, relatively speaking, of Post Office are the moments when Bukowski manages to capture the absurdity of mechanized office work. Taken to task for not sorting through a tray of mail within the allotted 23 minutes, Chinaski points out that no two trays are equal, and that he never gets credit when he gets through a tray in well under the time limit.
But honestly, reading Post Office made me suspicious of my acquaintance who lists it as her favorite novel. Indeed, anyone who could enjoy this book should be looked at askance. Post Office is a tedious book about, by, and for those assholes who think they know how the world really works.