Post Office (novel)

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First edition (publ. Black Sparrow)

Post Office is a 1971 novel written by Charles Bukowski. In the same way that Ham on Rye can be said to be an autobiographical account of Bukowski's childhood, Post Office may be said to be an autobiographical account of Bukowski's later years. Down-and-out barfly Henry Chinaski becomes a substitute mail carrier; he quits for a while and lives on his winnings at the track, then becomes a mail clerk. Chinaski survives through booze and women, combined with an extremely cynical view of the world.

Bukowski's first novel, Post Office, is "dedicated to nobody". The great love of Bukowski's life, Jane Cooney Baker ("Betty" in Post Office), was a widowed alcoholic 11 years his senior with an immense beer belly. She also served as the model for "Wanda" in the 1987 Bukowski-scripted film Barfly. Bukowski's first wife, Barbara Frye ("Joyce"), suffered a physical deformity – two vertebrae were missing from her neck, giving the impression that "she was permanently hunching her shoulders". After a little over two years of marriage in the late 1950s, she filed for divorce, accusing him of "mental cruelty". In the novel, Joyce is portrayed as a wealthy nymphomaniac.

Post Office is the first novel by Bukowski to feature his autobiographical anti-hero, 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.

According to Born into This, a documentary on Bukowski's life, Black Sparrow Press founder and owner John Martin, offered Bukowski 100 dollars per month for life on condition that Bukowski would quit working for the post office and write full-time. He agreed and Post Office was written within a month. Post Office was Bukowski's first foray into writing a novel. All of his earlier work had been poetry. Martin was actually a little worried that Bukowski would not be able to make the transition to prose. However, this concern turned out to be quite unfounded as Bukowski had no trouble writing stories about his life.

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