August 16, 2009
Until he was nearly 50, CHARLES BUKOWSKI (1920-94), drinker, womanizer, brawler and writer, cranked out short stories and poetry only in his spare time. These garnered him a reputation for miniatures that accurately and painfully encapsulated the condition of the modern working man. (Also, nobody exposed the ugly underbelly of life in Los Angeles more effectively than he did.) But it was only after he quit his long-held position at the post office, and wrote a novel about the experience, that he moved on to bigger canvases and evolved into the influential father of “dirty realism.” Post Office, penned in just a month, is a grim, hilarious proto-slacker masterpiece that has become a bible for surviving the tediously torturous conditions of white-collar slavery. Traces of Post Office and its two subsequent appendices, Factotum and Women, can be found in the work of many modern cynics (Henry Rollins, Chuck Palahniuk, Michel Houellebecq). It’s in no small part thanks to Bukowski, and those he influenced, that it is now impossible to regard the impositions of the latter-day 9-to-5 complacently.
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