Post Office (novel)
First edition cover
|Publisher||Black Sparrow Press|
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 drifts from place to place, surviving through booze and women, with his biting sense of humor and a cynical view of the world.
Writing and publication
An 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 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.
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 died in January 1962. 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 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.
In December 1965, 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. All of his previous work had been poetry.(Note: The assertion here that all of Bukowski's previous work had been poetry is contradicted by the fact, asserted in the "Charles Bukowski" entry on Wikipedia and many other sources, that Bukowski published his first short story years earlier : When Bukowski was 24, his short story "Aftermath of a Lengthy Rejection Slip" was published in Story magazine. Two years later, another short story, "20 Tanks from Kasseldown", was published by the Black Sun Press in Issue III of Portfolio: An Intercontinental Quarterly, a limited-run, loose-leaf broadside collection printed in 1946 and edited by Caresse Crosby. Other short fiction is listed to him.)
The film rights to Post Office were sold to Taylor Hackford in the early 1970s, but a film version of the novel has yet to be made. Hackford did direct a 1973 documentary about Bukowski, simply titled Bukowski.
- Michael Nordine, "Best L.A. Novel Ever: John Fante's Ask the Dust vs. Charles Bukowski's Post Office, Round 1," LA Weekly, November 2, 2012.
- Kyle Ryan, "Post Office by Charles Bukowski," The A.V. Club, August 16, 2011.
- William Booth, "Charles Bukowski, Bard of Booze," Washington Post, July 6, 2004.
- Jonathan Smith, "'I Never Saw Him Drunk': An Interview With Bukowski's Longtime Publisher," Vice, June 20, 2014.
- Lori Moody, "Charles Bukowski Leaves A Controversial Legacy," Chicago Tribune, March 16, 1994.