In what is widely hailed as the best of his many novels, Charles Bukowski details the long, lonely years of his own hardscrabble youth in the raw voice of alter ego Henry Chinaski. From a harrowingly cheerless childhood in Germany through acne-riddled high school years, and his adolescent discoveries of alcohol, women, and the Los Angeles Public Library's collection of D. H. Lawrence, Ham on Rye offers a crude, brutal, and savagely funny portrait of an outcast's coming-of-age during the desperate days of the Great Depression.
©1982 Charles Bukowski (P)2013 HarperCollinsPublishers
"Very funny, very sad, and despite its self-congratulatory tone, honest in most of the right places. In many ways, Bukowski may have been the perfect writer to describe post-war southern California - a land of wide, flat spaces with nothing worth seeing, so you might as well vanish into yourself. In an age of conformity, Bukowski wrote about the people nobody wanted to be: the ugly, the selfish, the lonely, the mad." (The Observer)
I love the ugly truth of it. It is a stark description of a time and place in American history that rings true in every line. Some of it is shocking, some of it perilously ennervating, sometimes both at the same time. If you are at all familiar with Bukowski's work, you will love this narrative version because it IS Bukowski. Mr. Baskous's narrative is studied and perfect, capturing the crude as well as the lyrical parts of the novel in what I imagine would be just as Bukowski would have wanted it (though I a pretty sure, knowing what I know about Bukowski, he would have complained).
The ugly truth of it. It is timeless in its description of despair of the modern world coupled with tiny lights of joy and happiness that extinguish almost the minute they take light. Nobody does it better than Bukowski.
I have listened to and really loved some of his other work. I think this series of Bukowski novels will showcase Mr. Baskous's particular talents more than the other work he has done. Mr. Baskous has a feel for this kind of writing, a genuine understanding of its importance and its grace and I look forward to listening to the rest of the series. He knocks this one out of the park, essentially. A truly excellent work of art.
Light and Dark in LA
If you have the guts and the time, buy this audiobook but don't try to listen in your car on the way to your day job. Wait until it is dark and you can listen without interruption.
This is a favorite book that I read maybe fifteen years ago. I was very pleased to read this and other Bukowski titles are now available on Audible. Some of Bukowski's books don't hold up when I revisit them years later, however Ham on Rye is the exception. It is a very blunt, honest tale of fierce aloneness, being anti-social and a struggle to grapple with the madness of the world around him. This book, I don't think, is intended to be funny but I laugh out loud so many times while reading it. At first I wasn't sure how I felt about the narrator, but he grew on me. I don't think I could listen to him narrate any other book, but it fits Bukowski so that after a while you actually feel like its Bukowski reading it to you. I guarantee that you'll never read another book like this. In fact, I feel like it actually gets better as it progresses into the second half. Most books are the opposite. I also recommend Factotum by Bukowski. The beauty in these books is that none of them are very long. I wish they would put some of his poetry into audible like Love is a Dog From Hell or You Get so Alone Sometimes.
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