Tag Archives: Black Sparrow Press

Post Office – Charles Bukowski

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Bukowski was a pretty prolific writer.  Not in the way that someone grim like Dick Francis is prolific, churning out the dirge, more in the variety of work he produced; poetry, short stories, non-fiction, TV & film screenplays and novels.  Post Office being the first of his attempts at the latter form.  He was 49 years old and had accepted an offer by publisher John Martin of Black Sparrow Press to write full-time , having recently quit his job at the US Postal Service to do so.

This visceral, semi-autobiographical account of his time with the USPS follows anti-hero Henry Chianski as he drinks, gambles, misogonises (sorry, I know this is not a verb really, but describes it quite well!) and fucks his way firstly around his given route as a mail carrier and latterly as a chair-bound sorter, taking his life by the scruff of its neck and introducing us to grubby glimpses of his existence.  Structured as a series of vignettes and mini everyday-life occurences, we soon learn of the ridiculous ways the USPS controls its employees.  Chianski often finds himself at the rough and sharp end of some “Soup” (supervisor) or other’s wroth.  He never gives a stuff, metaphorically giving them all the bird any chance he gets by carrying out his own private rebellions.  Yet his staying power to endure this arcane form of employment torture is impressive.  Despite his grossness, lack of respect for himself and often others, there is something admirable and fascinating about his entire disregard and lack of love for himself.

Bukowski shows us human failings in a rich and honest manner with speech that spatters the page and genius character descriptions – you cannot help but respect and marvel at the work; it’s funny too in places and packs a punch despite its slim 160 pages.  Total legend.

(12 sentences – bugger!  I’m totally not managing to stick to this 10 sentences rule…postcript below also, which is sort of cheating!)

Postscript

The story goes that Bukowski was heavily influenced by John Fante; there are certainly similarities between Wait until Spring, Bandini and Post Office.  If one legend spawned another then that influence must have been great indeed.  Certainly Bukowski was responsible for persuading Black Sparrow Press to reissue Fante’s work in the late 1970s when it had been long out of print.  Clearly they owe each other some sort of debt or does this count as literary karma?

If you want to read some other more excellent reviews than mine of Post Office check:

Guy @ His Futile Preoccupations

Max @ Pechorin’s Journal

Wait Until Spring, Bandini – John Fante

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Sometimes it is useful having a husband who works in the publishing industry…although he doesn’t work in fiction publishing, he got hold of this gorgeous edition of John Fante’s Wait Until Spring, Bandini by Black Sparrow Press some years ago, but I only picked it up last year; what a shame I waited so long.

From the very first page Fante’s spare but energetic writing allows the reader to form a vivid impression of Svevo Bandini, his family and their pathetic existence.  Debt ridden, dirt poor and living on the edge we follow this Italian immigrant family’s attempts to survive another winter in depression era Colarado.  Chancer and smooth talking builder and odd-job man, Bandini abandons his family for 10 days over Christmas to escape his vitriolic and spiteful mother-in-law.  He thinks he’s found an answer to his miserable debt situation with a rich local widow who he shacks up with for a while.  Meanwhile things at home go from bad to worse with his wife having a nervous episode and his eldest son experiencing an adolescent crisis of identity.  This is very much a story of identity, fitting in and the importance of family and heritage.  Wait until Spring deals with familiar themes and in some respects Fante has nothing new to add to depression era writing, but the vivid description of his characters’ emotions, desires and motivations are so energetic, moving and often funny that it is a pleasure to read despite the grim situation of the characters.  Writing at its best.