Friday, March 12, 2010

Post Office

"The streets were full of insane and dull people. The voices of the people were the same, no matter where you carried the mail you heard the same things over and over."
You know, Anthony Trollope was a postal worker. They say he'd rise at 5am, write steadily for three hours, and then go to work. My sister-in-law recently remarked that if he'd finish a novel after hour number two, he'd use hour three to start the next novel. You can't help but to look at such a regimen and believe it to be nothing more than robotics rather than a creative process. Either way, being a postal worker seems not to have phased Trollope too much.

Now at the opposite end of the spectrum you have Chuck Bukowski. In Post Office, we read how the job almost swallows him whole - and let me tell you, this was not a man who rose at 5am, ready for work. You always have to wonder how much of Chuck Bukowski is real. Because how can one man drink and whore himself into oblivion yet still return intact to our shared reality to write about it? As is often the case with skid row poets, (like Tom Waits), you have to wonder what's real and what's affectation.

Post Office was Bukowski's first novel, published in 1971. In this book, Bukowski describes the life as a novice postal worker as a horrific, powerless and soul crushing existence. Supervisors are sadistic, shifts are short on manpower and long on hours, customers are ghastly at best and days seem to be controlled by either torrential rains or scorching sunlight. Between shifts, Bukowski's alter ego, Hank Chinalski wallows away in the world of copious booze and random sex that was late-60's Los Angeles.

There is a good deal of poetry in this work though. Despite his seemingly nihilistic behavior, Chinalski is a man searching for something, some shred of meaning in world gone uncaring and insane.

For the next post, I'll be presenting Chicago White Sox players who look like postal workers. --C.C.

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