Post Office

Post Office

by Charles Bukowski


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"It began as a mistake." By middle age, Henry Chinaski has lost more than twelve years of his life to the U.S. Postal Service. In a world where his three true, bitter pleasures are women, booze, and racetrack betting, he somehow drags his hangover out of bed every dawn to lug waterlogged mailbags up mud-soaked mountains, outsmart vicious guard dogs, and pray to survive the day-to-day trials of sadistic bosses and certifiable coworkers. This classic 1971 novel—the one that catapulted its author to national fame—is the perfect introduction to the grimly hysterical world of legendary writer, poet, and Dirty Old Man Charles Bukowski and his fictional alter ego, Chinaski.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061177576
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/29/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 60,116
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.47(d)

About the Author

Charles Bukowski is one of America’s best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in 1920 in Andernach, Germany, to an American soldier father and a German mother, and brought to the United States at the age of two. He was raised in Los Angeles and lived there for over fifty years. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp.

Abel Debritto, a former Fulbright scholar and current Marie Curie fellow, works in the digital humanities. He is the author of Charles Bukowski, King of the Underground, and the editor of the Bukowski collections On WritingOn Cats, and On Love.

Date of Birth:

August 16, 1920

Date of Death:

March 9, 1994

Place of Birth:

Andernach, Germany

Place of Death:

San Pedro, California


Los Angeles City College, 2 years

Read an Excerpt

post office

A Novel

Chapter One

It began as a mistake.

It was Christmas season and I learned from the drunk up the hill, who did the trick every Christmas, that they would hire damned near anybody, and so I went and the next thing I knew I had this leather sack on my back and was hiking around at my leisure. What a job, I thought. Soft! They only gave you a block or two and if you managed to finish, the regular carrier would give you another block to carry, or maybe you'd go back in and the soup would give you another, but you just took your time and shoved those Xmas cards in the slots.

I think it was my second day as a Christmas temp that this big woman came out and walked around with me as I delivered letters. What I mean by big was that her ass was big and her tits were big and that she was big in all the right places. She seemed a bit crazy but I kept looking at her body and I didn't care.

She talked and talked and talked. Then it came out. Her husband was an officer on an island far away and she got lonely, you know, and lived in this little house in back all by herself.

"What little house?" I asked.

She wrote the address on a piece of paper.

"I'm lonely too," I said, "I'll come by and we'll talk tonight."

I was shacked but the shackjob was gone halfthe time, off somewhere, and I was lonely all right. I was lonely for that big ass standing beside me.

"All right," she said, "see you tonight."

She was a good one all right, she was a good lay but like all lays after the third or fourth night I began to lose interest and didn't go back.

But I couldn't help thinking, god, all these mailmen do is drop in their letters and get laid. This is the job for me, oh yes yes yes.

Chapter Two

So I took the exam, passed it, took the physical, passed it, and there I was -- a substitute mail carrier. It began easy. I was sent to West Avon Station and it was just like Christmas except I didn't get laid. Every day I expected to get laid but I didn't. But the soup was easy and I strolled around doing a block here and there. I didn't even have a uniform, just a cap. I wore my regular clothes. The way my shackjob Betty and I drank there was hardly money for clothes.

Then I was transferred to Oakford Station.

The soup was a bullneck named Jonstone. Help was needed there and I understood why. Jonstone liked to wear dark-red shirts -- that meant danger and blood. There were seven subs -- Tom Moto, Nick Pelligrini, Herman Stratford, Rosey Anderson, Bobby Hansen, Harold Wiley and me, Henry Chinaski. Reporting time was 5 a.m. and I was the only drunk there. I always drank until past midnight, and there we'd sit, at 5 a.m., waiting to get on the clock, waiting for some regular to call in sick. The regulars usually called in sick when it rained or during a heatwave or the day after a holiday when the mail load was doubled.

There were 40 or 50 different routes, maybe more, each case was different, you were never able to learn any of them, you had to get your mail up and ready before 8 a.m. for the truck dispatches, and Jonstone would take no excuses. The subs routed their magazines on corners, went without lunch, and died in the streets. Jonstone would have us start casing the routes 30 minutes late -- spinning in his chair in his red shirt -- "Chinaski take route 539!" We'd start a half hour short but were still expected to get the mail up and out and be back on time. And once or twice a week, already beaten, fagged and fucked we had to make the night pickups, and the schedule on the board was impossible -- the truck wouldn't go that fast. You had to skip four or five boxes on the first run and the next time around they were stacked with mail and you stank, you ran with sweat jamming it into the sacks. I got laid all right. Jonstone saw to that.

Chapter Three

The subs themselves made Jonstone possible by obeying his impossible orders. I couldn't see how a man of such obvious cruelty could be allowed to have his position. The regulars didn't care, the union man was worthless, so I filled out a thirty page report on one of my days off, mailed one copy to Jonstone and took the other down to the Federal Building. The clerk told me to wait. I waited and waited and waited. I waited an hour and thirty minutes, then was taken in to see a little grey-haired man with eyes like cigarette ash. He didn't even ask me to sit down. He began screaming at me as I entered the door.

"You're a wise son of a bitch, aren't you?" "I'd rather you didn't curse me, sir!"

"Wise son of a bitch, you're one of those sons of bitches with a vocabulary and you like to lay it around!"

He waved my papers at me. And screamed: "MR. JONSTONE IS A FINE MAN!"

"Don't be silly. He's an obvious sadist," I said.

"How long have you been in the Post Office?"

"Three weeks."


"What does that have to do with it?"


I believe the poor fellow actually wanted to kill me. He and Jonstone must have slept together.

"All right," I said, "Jonstone is a fine man. Forget the whole fucking thing." Then I walked out and took the next day off. Without pay, of course.


Excerpted from post office by Charles Bukowski Copyright © 2007 by Charles Bukowski. Excerpted by permission.
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Post Office 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 117 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best Beat books you'll ever read. Trust me. :)
Guest More than 1 year ago
While it is very much the norm in modern literature to focus on the self as the central theme of the writer's work, the novelist choses this motif at his own peril. Bukowski's grasp somewhat outstrips his reach this is because his talent to describe a reality is so much more powerful than the material that he chooses to create that reality. Very few writers since Hemingway can set the scene and paint the stage with such remarkable economy of the written word. I see the main difference between a great writer and a good one (and Bukowski is a very good one)is the scope and breadth his material. But Hemingway's world was much larger while Bukowski binds himself too closely in his nutshell. He takes us into strange fields filled with enchanting flowers, only to describe, in breathtaking detail, a blade of grass. Bukowski's fearless approach to truth as a writer comes from (what one can only assume) is his relative poverty as a human being...however well he reveals to us in this novel the transcendental beauty of his blade of grass, we long to be able devour the scents and absorb the sunlight which we can only sense is just outside the writer's realm of experience. Hattely
robertjgarcia4 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bukowski is the king, and this is a great book.
jackichan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Trying to sum up Post Office is a very elusive feat. Much like trying to describe the wind. Post Office is more or less a large set of short stories. For there isn't much of a plot and each chapter is usually independent of the previous. Entertaining though, laugh out loud funny at times.
lriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
With an opening line like 'It began as a mistake.' how can you go wrong? He follows that with 'It was Christmas season, and I learned from the drunk up the hill, who did the trick every Christmas, that they would hire damned near anybody',...For what it's worth being a postal worker I think I have an unique perspective when it comes to this particular book. I don't know if Buk's entrance into the postal enviroment (through his alter ego Henry Chinaski) might seem somewhat surreal to some but it has always seemed very real and matter of fact to me--and as a matter of fact I have passed this around to fellow employees and they have laughed and laughed and to the person have remarked about the authentic feel to it. And it seems the older and more senior the employee the more real it seems to them. To be honest there are not all that many books out there that speak to work experiences and I have not seen one quite so vivid as this in how workers relate to each other and to their (so called) bosses. It's a very good laugh if nothing else. As a side note Bukowski was actually employed by the Post Office for many years so he does speak from experience. His writing overall as with his poetry is very rough and at times obscene. It is perfectly suited for blue collar and working poor mentalities. Others may or may not care for it. Anyway I do and recommend it highly.
caklr650 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm a big Bukowski fan, although some of his stuff (Notes of a Dirty Old Man, Tales of Ordinary Madness) can be hit or miss. This is one of his best. If you can't stomach this one, you will never like him.Very funny, a good intro to Bukowski.
sanddancer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first Bukowski. I had been put off reading him having seen the film Bar Fly and didn't much fancy books about a drunk. But out of boredom, I gave this one a go and was impressed. Yes, the narrator is a barely disguised Bukowski, a gambler and a drunk, but he has a rare wit and a self-deprecating tone. This book, unsurprisingly, centres on his time working for the US Postal Service, a job he hates from the offset, but somehow ends up staying 11 years despite his attempts to break and bend the rules. A great read for anyone who has ever done a boring repetitive job.
weirdorippers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
To me, the most striking thing about this book is how oddly joyous it is, in spite of (or maybe because of) the fact that it's more or less a chronicle of misery, dissolution, and failure. Criminally, I had never read any Bukowski before this, and I'm looking forward to plowing through the rest of it.
Hagelstein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The first and main thing is the voice. Cynical, streetwise, and raunchy. It starts on the first page and never waivers throughout. Henry Chinaski's postal job, jobs actually because he quits for a while, tend to infere with his gambling, boozing and whoring. It's not the sadistic bosses, loopy co-workers, or insane customers that finish him off for good - it's the mind and body numbing tedium.
juliana_t on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read my first Bukowski after I heard that his books are the most commonly stolen in bookstores. I enjoyed this one; lots of funny moments.
MsDLB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
semi-autobiographical, drinking, drunkard, 20th century, mail carriers, alcoholism, work
shawnd on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a ruddy, swinging romp through many life experiences of the protagonist, an erstwhile postal carrier and then postal clerk for many years. The book is disruptive and disappointing in its casual mentions of criminal violence against women, which in my mind is serious, disturbing and can't be completely chalked up to the era in which it was written. Other than this, the book almost instantly makes the reader say, 'this is or could be a Great American Novel' and has the brash, forward Studs Terkel, yet distinctly Los Angelean laid back almost Raymond Chandler, Chet Baker-ish style. The book is frequently hilarious in its deadpan and always believable critique of the US Postal System. I'd say this is a must read for the strong-stomached readers, especially if you enjoyed Under The Volcano or Raymond Chandler - I'd rate it a 4.5 or 5 if it didn't condone assault of women.
poetontheone on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my first foray into Bukowski's novels, having now been acquainted with his poetry and shorter prose for a couple of years. The hallmarks of his shorter fiction are all present here: the down and out protagonist surrounded by a cast of off the wall characters, and the pace doesn't let up one bit. Bukowski's strong and unique narrative voice holds you from the first page until the very end. Beautiful humor and story emanating from the laughing gutters of skid row.
deebee1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An autobiographical account of Bukowski's life as a postal worker, covering a period of 12 years. Henry Chinaski is Bukowski, gambler, womanizer and heavy drinker. He joins the post office as a substitute mail carrier. He hates it, and makes it seem as if the most thankless job there is. After some time he decides to quit and lives off the winnings from the tracks. He returns to work in the post office, this time as a mail clerk. It is menial, tedious, mind-numbing work, usually supervised by aggressive and sadistic individuals. He seems resigned to his fate. He stays on for many years. And between all this are failed relationships, a permanent affair with the bottle, long periods of intoxication, and brief intervals of lucidity. Bukowski writes in simple, frank prose, giving us an uncensored and unflattering view of a quintessential institution, and through Chinaski, the daily struggles and frustrations of the underclass in an unsympathetic society. Bukowski, though, never preaches and does not offer a social agenda. He just tells it like it is. A small, interesting read. It also goes without saying that I now appreciate better what my neighborhood postman goes through to get my mail (including ordered books!) promptly through my door daily.
MColv9890 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Bukowski's great first novel describes his alcoholism and his dead end job at the Post Office as well as the women he bedded during that time. This is a hilarious piece of work and should not be ignored by anyone who can tolerate even a little bit of the great Bukowski.
Trotsky731 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An author who tells it like it is with a witty style and a smooth delivery takes us on an adventure through the post office as a carrier and later a clerk. Hilarious and straight forward.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Second to none!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great lag
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Creepy pasta RP @ 'Lost in Insanity' warning you must put: must read rules it has wranings because Lost Cannibal and Hyena dont want Spammers !
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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RichardEdina More than 1 year ago
This book was a real treat. I only wish I had discovered Bukowski earlier. This is an interesting look into a degenerate, alcohol dependent, sex driven, poet working in a mundane job. It is a combination of memoir and fictionalized account of a life and choices that are both impossible and real.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago