Cecily's book reviews

In general I've written reviews of every book I've read since I joined GoodReads (RIP) in May 08, along with one or two I read prior to that. More recent reviews tend to be longer (sometimes a tad too long?). I always carry a book, though I don't get as much time as I'd like to get engrossed - life is busy, but in a good way. Too many of my favourite authors died without writing enough! Apart from reading, and writing about reading, I enjoy Scrabble, good restaurants, woodland, and attending the theatre.
Post Office - Charles Bukowski I enjoyed this more than I expected and in some way, more than I think I should!

Hank Chinaski describes a little more than a decade of his life. He is intelligent, but mostly lives the life of a loser: too much booze; menial work, mostly in the eponymous post office; bad relationships; bunking off work; betting on horses; more booze etc. It is all somewhat detached; his daughter is "the girl", even though he knew "as long as I could see the girl I would be all right", but such detachment is necessary for him to survive his lifestyle, especially the times when he is hurt.

Despite his general amorality, and the dreadful way he treats some women it is a compellingly written story, with a wonderful irreverent wit than won me over, rather as an indulgent adult overlooks the worst excesses of a naughty child. At times it appears like a rambling stream-of-consciousness, but I think that is a chimera and that it is actually a carefully crafted story.

The opening line is, "It began as a mistake", section two opens, "Meanwhile, things went on" and the book closes with, "Maybe I'll write a novel I thought. And then I did." Wonderful bathos.

When job hunting, "The first place smelled like work, so I took the second" and much of the humour comes from work, especially satirising the bureaucracy of the post office supervisors and colleagues who are variously incompetent, sadistic and playing the system. It's not just bureaucracy, but full control, bordering on brainwashing: at one point, they are told "Each letter you stick... beyond duty helps defeat the Russians!" Targets and training are rigorous and a nurse does spot checks on anyone off sick, yet those who miss targets get compulsory "counselling" (as well as disciplinary chits). When trying to learn the routes, Chinaski comes up with a variant of traditional memory techniques, but instead of visualising ordinary people and objects along the route, his is more like a series of orgies. Like many administratively burdened institutions, "You had to fill out more papers to get out than to get in", but before he leaves, Chinaski has one victory: a small fire from cigar ash heralds the introduction of ash trays: "I had all by myself... revolutionised the postal system", which I'm sure would be an epitaph he'd be happy with.

Despite the light touch, Chinaski isn't immune from hurt, grief and introspection: "We slept without touching. We had both been robbed." and "How the hell do I know who you are or I am or anybody is?" but nevertheless, dirt and depravity notwithstanding, the overall tone is humorous.

Early on Chinaski realises "the streets were full of insane and dull people"; he is probably the former, but certainly never the latter.

Currently reading

The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy
Sebastian Peake, China MiƩville, Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake