If you’re able to get access, check out this small article on Flash Fiction (Smoke-Long Stories) at BBC Radio 4’s Open Book. It includes a tasty piece by Ian Rankin and some thoughts on the origin of the Hemingway six word tale
And now to Post Office (US).
“I went to the bathroom and threw some water on my face, combed my hair. If I could only comb that face, I thought, but I can’t.”
It can be really interesting re-reading books that made an impact in youth. There’s a different perspective offered and the book's that little bit older.
Post Office was a real treat to read, but carried a lot less of the sense of romance to it this time around. Whereas I might have wanted to be like Chinaski at one time in life, the prospect of living from bottle to bottle, woman to woman and race to race seems a much less attractive one these days. On reflection, I guess that I can say I gave my early ambition my best shot. I can no longer gamble because of my addiction and had to give up the booze and the rest when my children came along. As for the women thing, I guess that a messy and turbulent phase finally settled when I straightened out. And that’s another story that I’m not going to share anywhere.
The book is an interesting work, with some really strong prose. In many ways, it feels like a gathering of short stories that come together to form a novel of sorts. This brings advantages and disadvantages.
On the negative side, there’s rarely the energy at the end of one chapter of Chinaski’s life to give it enough momentum to catapult a reader into the next.
As a positive, the strength with which Bukowski puts into nailing a moment, phrase or rounding-off is huge. Pieces often finish with hammer blows that express a huge amount in the smallest of spaces.
The story is very simple. A man takes a job with the post office. It’s a tough life. He needs drink. Likes sex. Dislikes authority. Enjoys a gamble. He has tough bosses and difficult rounds. Each episode is told in a matter-of-fact way. Even the most extraordinary events are told plainly. There’s the sense of rhythm of the run-of-the-mill and a feeling that this life is anything but.
Well worth checking out if you’ve not been there before. If you like it, when you’re done make sure you read some of Bukowski’s poems. That’s where he really excels.