I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to get to this stage of my life without having previously stumbled across Charles Bukowski, but I suppose that is one of the great joys of being a reader. You don’t have to keep looking at the new releases, there’s bound to be thousands of books and authors that have just passed you by.
So yes, I’m afraid I have to admit that Ham on Rye is my first Bukowski, but it has bowled me over to such an extent that it is certainly not going to be my last!
Published in 1982 Ham on Rye is the fourth of Charles Bukowski’s novels.
Read on for a full review….
It follows the life of the main character Charles “Chuck” Chinowski from an early age, through his school and college days and into the alcohol soused years of his early working life.
Brutally treated and abused at home, Chinowski develops into an understandably bitter and twisted character. The onset of an especially severe and disfiguring case of adolescent acne further isolates him into the role of social misfit.
There are many ugly traits portrayed through the book’s main characters, but particularly in Chinowski’s case, it is easy to see the root causes of his problems, and he is further redeemed by his obvious insight and intelligence.
You would think then, that all this violence and brutality would make for a difficult read, but in reality I found Ham on Rye difficult to put down. It is also genuinely funny in many passages, such as when he tries to share his sandwiches with a starving stray dog. His food is so impoverished, that even a stray turns up it’s nose at it!
If you are uncomfortable reading bad language and violent scenes, then Ham on Rye is possibly not the ideal book for you. But as a gritty, honest and beautifully well observed account of a troubled young life, I’m struggling to think of anything quite as good as this that I’ve read.
Already read Ham on Rye? What did you think of it? Please post a comment below, Novel Suggestions is always keen to hear your opinions.
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