My first Charles Bukowski novel, “Ham on Rye”-recommended?

I’m reading my first Charles Bukowski novel at the moment. “Ham on Rye”.

It is said to be semi-autobiographical. If it is you would have to have great deal of sympathy for Bukowski the child. Because the upbringing he describes in “Ham on Rye” is brutal.

An uncaring, ignorant, violent father and a submissive, dull, obedient mother are the child’s parents in the novel. The constant refrain from the mother is “why can’t you be like Abe (or whoever)..”

The character, Henry Chinaski, doesn’t like his parents, never mind love them.

The novel itself is generally brutal and graphic. It is also hilarious in places. You can see how such an upbringing could colour a person’s view for life.

Maybe this is true of Bukowski. I don’t know because I don’t know enough about his life. I am not sure whether he became an alcoholic or not. But there was a lot of alcohol abuse in his family and Bukowski clearly enjoyed drinking once he discovered it as a young man.

I am taking the book at face value and on its own merits. I am not paying any attention to Bukowski’s life. But I will, in time, as I am thoroughly enjoying the book, and his style of writing.

Much of his writing is Heminway-esque insofar as he uses short sentences a lot. For this reason, it is an easy book to read.

I would give it a strong recommendation. The story, the description of the upbringing, and the writing make it a good use of your time.

I intend reading some of his other books, too. Books such as “Post office” and “Factotum”. For now I am savouring the surprising “Ham on Rye”.

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