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Book 9

  1. Portis, Charles — True Grit (215 pages)
  2. Simpson, Joe — Touching the Void (210 pages)
  3. Bardin, John Franklin — The Last of Philip Banter (207 pages)
  4. Millar, Martin — The Good Fairies of New York (278 pages)
  5. Millar, Mark — Kick-Ass (190 pages)
  6. Sachar, Louis — Holes (225 pages)
  7. Baxter, Stephen — Moonseed (523 pages)
  8. Buchan, John — The Thirty-Nine Steps (152 pages)
  9. Bukowski, Charles — Post Office (167 pages)

Page count: 2167.

I first heard of Charles Bukowski some eight or nine years ago. I was trying to convince a fellow at work to join my book club. He wasn't interested in "typical book club" selections and strongly urged that we consider something offbeat such as Bukowski. He told me a bit about this controversial figure and I became curious.

My curiosity increased in the last couple years as, more and more, I've seen his books in stores. It seems the Brits have finally discovered him. So I recently picked up a copy of his first book, Post Office.

For those few who may not know, Bukowski is best known for a series of thinly-veiled autobiographical (or semi-biographical) novels featuring his alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. The narrative is crude, brusque, but scathingly honest in its depiction of everyday life. Bukowski attempts to capture how an ordinary bloke facing all the pressures of ordinary, humdrum existence gets by.

It isn't a pretty picture. The stresses of Chinaski's job first as a mail carrier and later as a postal clerk and of life outside of work are many. Bukowski shows us in vivid, intense language the ways Chinaski finds to cope. The result sometimes elicits laughter, sometimes disgust, sometimes anger, sometimes sadness.

Reading Post Office was an interesting experience. Chinaski is not a particularly sympathetic character. I could list any number of character faults. Yet there were moments when he is doing something utterly despicable and I couldn't help but think the other person had it coming. There were moments I sympathized with Chinaski and the situations he finds himself in that are beyond his control. There were moments when I asked myself, "Doesn't he care?" and then was surprised by the depth of emotions running just beneath the nonchalant narrative.

Perhaps I'm not so wowed as my co-worker back in Boston was, but I am intrigued, perhaps even fascinated, and want to continue reading about Chinaski. So, at some point I will pick up a copy of Factotum and carry on.

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