Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Charles Bukowski: Ham and Rye

This novel is really something else. Published in 1982, it's a semi-fictionalized account of Bukowski's childhood from his first memory below a kitchen table to the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

The book deals with the beatings inflicted by his father, explores the social anomie of a teenager suffering sever acne, how he discovers sex and alcohol and perhaps most importantly; his literary heroes John Fante and Ernest Hemingway.

Time after time Bukowski describes how he is faced with a choice between 'bad and worse'. The impotence of his circumstances manifests itself into fighting, drinking and seeking solitude in his writing. He describes how difficult he found it forging deep friendships in his childhood. Of course, this is a theme that has been developed by other writers but I have never seen it described with such clarity before.

Often a weakness in one area of life can mean that another part becomes developed more than ever could be expected. The vitality of Bukowski's writing demonstrates this like nothing else.

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