If anyone mentions there five-year plan to you, calmly walk away and into the nearest ocean. Let the cold waters fill your lungs and carry your body away to a briny place where it’s quiet and dark, still except for the sensible conversations of seahorses and peaceful wavings of sea anemones.
So I just finished reading Ham on Rye. It was surprisingly dark! I remember reading Hot Water Music, the only other Bukowski I’ve ever read, and it had its standard cringey modernist/beat parts (misogyny, petulant nihilism, etc.). I don’t recall it being half as dark as Ham on Rye though, a lovely coming-of age story that starts with child abuse and wife-beating and ends with … contrarian Nazism I guess?
So, not super-fun to read at times! But, the book was still philosophically interesting and a water-smooth read, so if you’re a fan of Bukowski I suppose it’s worth checking out. It’s also worth mentioning that the book is supposed to be semi-autobiographical, so I suppose it’s unfair to be too critical of the dark parts. I bookmarked a passage I thought was pretty and also a good summation of the whole book:
I could see the road ahead of me. I was poor and I was going to stay poor. But I didn’t particularly want money. I didn’t know what I wanted. Yes, I did. I wanted someplace to hide out, someplace where one didn’t have to do anything. The thought of being something didn’t only appall me, it sickened me. The thought of being a lawyer or a councilman or an engineer, anything like that, seemed impossible to me. To get married, to have children, to get trapped in the family structure. To go someplace to work every day and return. It was impossible. To do things, simple things, to be part of family picnics, Christmas, the 4th of July, Labor Day, Mother’s Day … was a man born to endure those things and then die? I would rather be a dishwasher, return alone to a tiny room and drink myself to sleep.
So, very nice writing, but in way that’s like black jellybeans? Sweet, different and interesting, but in a way that makes you want to spit or drink a bright glass of orange juice afterwards?
Anyway I don’t have a conclusion or point here. I just felt like talking about a book I thought was particularly interesting with strangers on the internet. Read Ham on Rye if you like thinking about and internally debating weird and dark things!
“Go to Work Wasted” –NOFX