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The Lowly Life of Charles Bukowski: Post Office and American Lowlife

A prolific American writer, whose works were highly influenced by the atmosphere and geography of the city of Los Angeles, and was called by Time as ‘a laureate of American lowlife’ was Charles Bukowski.  Post Office is one of his novels and was published in 1971.  As Ham on Rye is said to be an account of his childhood, Post Office is said to be Bukowski’s autobiographical account of his later years.

Bukowski’s works are marked by significant emphasis on the lives of the Americans who are poor, relationships with women, the drudgery of work, the act of writing, and alcohol.  As an author, Bukowski was able to write hundreds of short stories, thousands of poems, six novels and more than sixty books in print.

If there is one poet, novelist, and writer who’s known to be very much in touch with the poor Americans, it stays to be Charles BukowskiPost Office is his first novel and is said to be ‘dedicated to nobody’.  In this novel, he makes mention of the great love of his life, who was named ‘Betty’ in the novel Post Office.  In real life, she is known to be Jane Cooney Baker.  She was an alcoholic who was widowed and is 11 years older than Bukowski.  In 1987, she served as model for the film ‘Wanda’ which was scripted by Bukowski.

Post Office features Bukowski’s anti-hero autobiography in the name of Henry Chinaski, who portrayed a substitute mail carrier.  This features Bukowski’s life from 1952 until he resigned from the US Postal Service after 3 years, to his comeback to the USPS in 1958 until his resignation in 1969.

Barbara Frye is the first wife of Charles BukowskiPost Office has a character named Joyce who portrayed Barbara’s persona.  She suffered from a physical deformity caused by missing 2 vertebrae on her neck, which caused her to look as if her shoulders were permanently hunched.  She filed for divorce after having married for two years, accusing Bukowski of ‘mental cruelty’.  The novel portrays Joyce as a rich nymphomaniac.

In the novel Post Office, Henry Chinaski quits for quite a time from being a substitute mail carrier.  He found the work boring, menial and degrading.  The hero survives through women and alcohol and with an extreme cynicism of the world.  Henry Chinaski in Post Office is apparently portraying the real life in the later years of Charles BukowskiPost Office was written within a month, after BUkowski agreed to quit working for the USPS and become a full time writer after he was offered USD100 per month for a lifetime by John Martin, the owner and founder of Black Sparrow Press.

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