Best Post OfficeAuthor Charles Bukowski –

It began as a mistake By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost than twelve years of his life to the US Postal Service In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mudsoaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the daytoday trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkersThis classicnovelthe one that catapulted its author to national fameis the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski

10 thoughts on “Post Office

  1. Jenn(ifer) Jenn(ifer) says:

    Okay, I can already hear the “booooos” from the Mitchellites saying “how can you give Cloud Atlas two stars, but you give THIS four stars?” I will tell you how. It’s simple really. I thought Cloud Atlas was “okay,” whereas I “really liked” this one. That’s all there is to it. So here we go...

    This book made me want to drink. A lot. I mean a lot, a lot. And it made me laugh. A lot. Now you know; my secret is out – I am a twisted, depraved human being who enjoys reading the thoughts of a dirty old man. And I’m okay with that. I’m not going to read Bukowski for profundity; I’m going to read him when I need reminding not to take myself and life so daggone seriously. I mean, sometimes it’s just a good idea to let your hair down and read a bit of trashy, boozy fun. Let's call it making yourself more well rounded.

    This is his world folks, enter with caution! (Just be careful not to touch anything, you don't know where it's been).

    I enjoyed the fact that as I read the book, I didn’t feel like I was really reading. I felt like Bukowski was telling me a story. I could hear his gravelly voice and smell the whiskey on his breath.

    Some people might refer to his style as “conversational,” others, “raw.” To me, his writing was simple, like the everyman telling his tale. If the everyman is a pervy drunk. I like that. You know what else I like about Bukowski? He doesn’t overstay his welcome. I like a man who knows when to shut the hell up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my cue.

    Oh wait.. in the immortal worlds of Modest Mouse -- and yeah I know he's a pretty good read, but God who'd want to be such an a$$hole?

  2. Paula Paula says:

    is it just me, or does reading bukowski make you want to listen to tom waits, too? finished post office last night and this morning listened to small change on the train. here are the opening lyrics to I Can't Wait to Get Off Work (And See My Baby on Montgomery Avenue):
    I don't mind working, 'cause I used to be jerking off most of my time in bars,
    I've been a cabbie and a stock clerk and a soda-fountain jock-jerk
    And a manic mechanic on cars.
    It's nice work if you can get it, now who the hell said it?
    I got money to spend on my gal,
    But the work never stops, and I'll be busting my chops
    Working for Joe and Sal.
    And I can't wait to get off work and see my baby,
    She said she'd leave the porch light on for me.
    I'm disheveled and I'm disdainful and I'm distracted and it's painful

  3. Mutasim Billah Mutasim Billah says:

    It began as a mistake.

    No writer has written about the hoodlums, the lowlifes, the lost souls, the unemployed, the castaways etc etc more beautifully than Bukowski. He hasn't pitied them, like Dickens would. He hasn't detested them either. He has made us live their lives: talk their talk, walk their walk.

    The charm of this book lies in the relentless attachment of Chinaski to the US Postal Service, as he puts in thankless hours on the trot in pursuit of a life drowned in alcohol, cigarettes, race-horses and (obviously) women.


    The novel is a semi-autobiographical account of Bukowski's years working as a carrier and sorter for the United States Postal Service, the novel is dedicated to nobody. Post Office introduces Bukowski's autobiographical alter-ego, Henry Chinaski. It covers the period of Bukowski's life from about 1952 to his resignation from the United States Postal Service three years later, to his return in 1958 and then to his final resignation in 1969. During this time, Chinaski/Bukowski worked as a mail carrier for a number of years. After a brief hiatus, in which he supported himself by gambling at horse races, he returned to the post office to work as a sorter.
    “What's wrong with assholes, baby?”

    Jane Cooney Baker, the love of Bukowski's life, is mentioned in the text as Betty. Bukowski's first wife, Barbara Frye is portrayed as Joyce, a wealthy nymphomaniac.
    Mickey Rourke and Faye Dunaway in the film Barfly. Dunaway's character Wanda was based on Jane Cooney Baker.
    “In the morning it was morning and I was still alive.
    Maybe I'll write a novel, I thought.
    And then I did.”

    In December 1969, John Martin founded Black Sparrow Press in order to publish Bukowski's writing, offering him $100 per month for life on condition that Bukowski would quit working for the post office and write full-time for Black Sparrow. Bukowski agreed; three weeks later, he had written Post Office.

    Note: Trigger warnings for rape and misogyny.

  4. Brent Legault Brent Legault says:

    Bukowski was once an idol of mine. I've since grown up. He took himself too seriously (while pretending that he didn't). And he was practically talentless. He had spunk and a surprising (surprising because of all the booze) work ethic but an ultimately boring sense of humor. His words are like what Hemingway would have thrown away. Bukowski was America's greatest one-trick pony. Or perhaps that's giving him too much credit. He might have had only half a trick, like that uncle of ours who used to steal our noses. After a while, it's not even worth trying to get your nose back. You just want your uncle to pass out so he'll stop bothering you.

  5. Arthur Graham Arthur Graham says:

    Why is reading Bukowski so much more enjoyable when you've been drinking? Easy: because everything's much more enjoyable when you've been drinking.

    Still, for however much the man's life and writing was informed by the bottle, it was informed by a lot of other things as well, and working for the U.S. Postal Service from the early 1950s to the late 1960s was one of them. This is the book where Bukowski explains how he fell into his career as mail carrier (and later mail clerk), why he stuck with the job for as long as he did, and everything that eventually forced him to quit.

    It began as a mistake, he tells us at the outset. Doesn't everything, though? Our parents get together (mistake #1), we're conceived (mistake #2, sometimes also mistake #1), we're not aborted (mistake #3), and then the rest of our lives -- an unending succession of mistakes. Luckily for us, it DOES end eventually, but in between it's nothing but trial and error. What keeps us going is the knowledge that for all our fuck ups, it is precisely these mistakes that teach us how to live, what we love and what we loathe, our aspirations and our aversions.

    Bukowski knew this, which is why he wrote the sort of stuff he did, and why it resonates so well with so many. Admittedly, he wasn't the most sophisticated of writers. He does a lot more telling than showing, although the tales he tells show us quite a bit about the absurdities of modern life, the insanities we're so often driven to, and all the myriad ways in which we choose to cope. Post Office is no exception. I would read it if I were you, but then again, if I were you I'd probably kill myself. Or maybe I'd just grab a bottle and try to live for tonight instead. Cheers!

    For more Bukowski:

  6. Rosie Rosie says:

    My first affair with Bukowski. I found this book while substitute teaching a group of tranquil 12th graders. I picked up the book, began reading, and couldn't believe that this book was allowed in a classroom.
    Luckily the students had no interest whatsoever in the book, so I had it all to my evil self.
    The book is hilarious. I read it in an afternoon. I became that crazy person in a coffee shop cackling over her book. The sentences are short and sharp. The protagonist has no regard for anything. He is a fucked up womanizer, but I still love it. The juxtaposition between his attitude and the solemnity demanded by the UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE is too much. I almost died. Plus, Bukowski's use of capitalization is genius. I know he's fucked up, but I love him so.

  7. Matthias Matthias says:

    Thank you for registering to BarBud!

    Ever wandered into a bar, hoping to meet a fellow to philosophize with deep into the night, only to find yourself alone with a student bartender who simply doesn't have it in him yet? Ever wanted to approach that old lonely drunk staring into his glass, so deeply lost in his thoughts that you dare not disturb him? Ever wanted to talk nonsense with a sleazy, voluptuous barfly, laugh and kiss and stroke and fuck and drink and drink and fuck and smoke and drink and sleep and drink, but found no such willing individual during your outings? Can't find someone with whom to share the drink Billy Joel called loneliness?

    The times they are a-changing!

    BarBud is here to help. Based on your preferences, we will find the perfect selection of bar buddies for you, right in your neighbourhood. Get yourself your favorite drink and let's get crackin'.

    Gender preference: Irrelevant
    The romantic tension that comes with meeting a strange lady in a bar will potentially crowd out any other thoughts in my mind, effectively reducing my conversational skills and potential for philosophical questing, but if she doesn't mind me just paying for her drinks and hearing her out and not have any of the romantic stuff happen that's fine by me. Also, my girlfriend is watching over my shoulder as I'm filling out this form. Just to make clear that sad, dirty old men are just as welcome!

    Political views: No strong ones
    I aim to find someone to get along with, not someone who bores and aggravates me all at once.

    Favorite drink: Irrelevant
    I'll drink anything, as long as it's much of it!

    Interests: Women, the little things, personal anecdotes
    I like hearing about a guy's romantic conquests. Even when they're exaggerated and unbelievable, it's nice to compare notes or just be happy for the guy.

    By the little things I mean the stuff that's easy to hide but shouldn't be. Little physical ailments, little frustrations, little reasons to smile, little reasons to complain, the little things that fill a day and make a person.

    And personal anecdotes to add color and context to the BarBud. I want to know where he works, where he sleeps, his favorite swearwords used to coat around his soft nature. I want him to complain in a way that makes me laugh. I want to see his eyes glaze over with sadness and disappointment. I want him to regale me with stories of the strange people he's met in his life, the people who made him happy, who made him sad, who brought out his kindness and generous spirit, who made him violent and who made him despair. I want to hear about his bad days at work and his good days in the bedroom. I want to get to know my BarBud, the good and the really bad. I want to be the guy who understands him, pats him on the back, reassure him he's a good bloke no matter what the people in corner of the bar are saying about him and buy him a couple of drinks.

    Level happiness: Low - Medium low
    I can see happy people on TV and Facebook all the time. Their stories mostly sound all the same. I think there's a famous book that starts with that kind of wisdom. My BarBud should be able to tell me which one, because I forget these things.

    Level of education: Irrelevant
    We'll be meeting in a bar, not some fancy shmancy conference, so that the university of life stuff should do. Only my BarBud shouldn't mention that cliché or I'll kick him in the teeth and ask him to thank me for a free lesson.



    We have found (1) match!

    Charles Bukowski, also known as Henry Chinaski. Do not disturb before 5pm. He used to be spotted in several bars, around the post office, at the racetrack or in his moldy appartment, but since he's dead now we recommend looking for him at the library. In fact, we highly recommend it. Be sure to bring him with you on your next visit to the bar, it's where he truly shines.

  8. Fabian Fabian says:

    Another masterpiece of feminism in American Literature. JK!

    Oh, nah. The daily tale of the proletariat is fully disclosed here in such a disarming & shocking manner. The protagonist is one alcoholic, misogynistic mess! And I love him for it, & perhaps now C. Bukowski, too. Cannot wait to discover his books!

  9. David Schaafsma David Schaafsma says:

    “We’re forced into absurd lives, against which the only sane response is to wage a guerrilla operation of humor and lust and madness—Chinaski/Bukowski

    I just finished, with a sour taste in my mouth, Bukowski’s Women, infamously making many of the Worst Misogynist Novels of All Time lists, but maybe in part because I am a masochist (and because it just happened to pop up on my audio tape queue and had some time to drive and listen), I jumped right back in to Bukowski, into the novel that catapulted this former postal worker to fame/infamy.

    A quick comparison: Women (1978) is mostly sad, woman after woman, without apology or shame. The events of that book describe the time after Chinaski/Bukowski (Chinaski is Bukowksi’s fictional alter-ego) begins to get famous, with opportunities for an unsatisfying parade of women. Both books have lots of women, booze, and gambling, but in Post Office there are places of real regret and sorrow, and a little joy. There’s more humor, genuinely funny spot-on meditations/anecdotes about the absurdities of working at the post office that anyone who has ever worked a shitty job can relate to; there’s a divorce, there’s the death of Betty, his old girlfriend, who visits him before she dies:

    “I met Betty on the street.
    ‘I saw you with that bitch a while back. She's not your kind of woman.’
    ‘None of them are.’”

    And none of them actually seem to be, though he is constantly looking for, or at least settling for, sex. But try as they may, he and Betty can’t recreate the early “magic” of their relationship:

    “It was sad, it was sad, it was sad. When Betty came back we didn't sing or laugh, or even argue. We sat drinking in the dark, smoking cigarettes, and when we went to sleep, I didn't put my feet on her body or she on mine like we used to. We slept without touching. We had both been robbed.”

    Elsewhere, he speaks a kind of gutter truth:

    “Lady, how the hell do I know who you are or I am or anybody is?”

    In Women there are far fewer insights such as these, such as they are, anguished. But he grieves his losses here in a way he does not, or does far far less, in Women. And later in this one he and Fay have a daughter, which is a gift for him (though it is not the focus of the book in any way, and that happiness doesn’t seem to last forever, either). These events of ordinary joy and loss seem to humanize Bukowski a bit, though we aren’t talking sainthood here; Bukowski is always Bukowski:

    “I put on some bacon and eggs and celebrated with an extra quart of beer.”

    He’s a pretty lovable and charming guy at times we connect to especially through our shared experience of terrible jobs, doing “the same thing over and over again,” his humorous self-deprecation/nihilism, and bad relationships. Oh, he’s often a crabby, irascible asshole, but as he says (in a longer meditation on the subject):

    “What's wrong with assholes, baby?”

    Indeed, what’s wrong with them! Post Office is pretty funny at times, wincingly funny, and very entertainingly written.

  10. Cecily Cecily says:

    I enjoyed this more than I expected and in some way, more than I think I should!

    Hank Chinaski describes a little more than a decade of his life. He is intelligent, but mostly lives the life of a loser: too much booze; menial work, mostly in the eponymous post office; bad relationships; bunking off work; betting on horses; more booze etc. It is all somewhat detached; his daughter is the girl, even though he knew as long as I could see the girl I would be all right, but such detachment is necessary for him to survive his lifestyle, especially the times when he is hurt.

    Amorality Redeemed by Humour

    Despite his general lack of moral compass or consideration of such matters, and the dreadful way he treats some women, it is a compellingly written story, with a wonderful irreverent wit than won me over, rather as an indulgent adult overlooks the worst excesses of a naughty child. At times it appears like a rambling stream-of-consciousness, but I think that is a chimera and that it is actually a carefully crafted story.


    The opening line is, It began as a mistake, section two opens, Meanwhile, things went on and the book closes with, Maybe I'll write a novel I thought. And then I did. Wonderful bathos.

    When job hunting, The first place smelled like work, so I took the second and much of the humour comes from work, especially satirising the bureaucracy of the post office supervisors and colleagues who are variously incompetent, sadistic and playing the system.

    It's not just bureaucracy, but full control, bordering on brainwashing: at one point, they are told Each letter you stick... beyond duty helps defeat the Russians! Targets and training are rigorous and a nurse does spot checks on anyone off sick, yet those who miss targets get compulsory counselling (as well as disciplinary chits).

    When trying to learn the routes, Chinaski comes up with a variant of traditional memory techniques, but instead of visualising ordinary people and objects along the route, his is more like a series of orgies. Like many administratively burdened institutions, You had to fill out more papers to get out than to get in, but before he leaves, Chinaski has one victory: a small fire from cigar ash heralds the introduction of ash trays: I had all by myself... revolutionised the postal system, which I'm sure would be an epitaph he'd be happy with.


    Despite the light touch, Chinaski isn't immune from hurt, grief and introspection: We slept without touching. We had both been robbed and How the hell do I know who you are or I am or anybody is?. Nevertheless, dirt and depravity notwithstanding, the overall tone is humorous.

    Insane but Never Dull?

    Early on Chinaski realises the streets were full of insane and dull people; he is probably the former, but certainly never the latter.