Michaeldgriffiths's Blog
One's man Chaos is another person's Entertainment

Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski

Alright, before any gasps of shock or complaining starts, yes, this was my first-time reading Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski.  I have read other works by him but give me a break, being an exclusively Speculative Fiction reviewer for twelve years left me out of the loop. I read so many mediocre books… so many. Therefore, reading this powerful, punch in the face, book was so rewarding and intense, but also disturbing for me.

Genre:  Fiction/Autobiography

Publisher: Harper Collins

Released:  1982

Stars:  5 Stars

Reviewer: Michael D. Griffiths

The book is a quasi-autobiographical look at Bukowski’s youth, and it is mostly sick and sad. The main character, Henry, is an antisocial and unattractive boy. He has an abusive father who would have been mean enough to make a thousand ‘woke’ teenagers cry. Henry avoids friendship and rejects any attempt to bond with his horrible parents. He finds himself in mild adventures and odd situations, but also lays in his room doing nothing for hours. If his life could be described in one word, I think it would be, hate.

I like Bukowski and I found Henry insightful, and I sympathized with him often, but part of me wondered if I was reading the journal of an evil person. This could have been an instruction manual to parents on how to make an evil child. In our current era people are more likely to be labeled with diagnoses rather than more malign descriptors but again, much of the behaviors and beliefs I read had me cheering him on as Henry looked through the ‘normal and expected’ lifestyles and beliefs and dismissed them as the arbitrary mistakes they were. However, his dark nihilism and rejection of his or anyone’s attempts to follow a happier path left me felling disturbed and tainted by this sad angry soul.

The writing remained driven and the emotional responses to what was read hit the reader hard. Bukowski is a giant in the realm of American novelists. He has left an impact of future generations and his gritty no holding back style has helped change how writers are expected to adapt to their changing times. He is fearless in his assaults on the expectations of his time, putting down everything he sees including himself.

Unlike many classic novels, this book commands you to burn through the pages. Bukowski can make the most mundane subject stimulating. This is an exciting, if brutal, read. I would recommend this book to any aspiring authors out there. Also, I think students studying mental health might get a good background on how abuse affects children and can make them into antisocial monsters. The same would go for game masters to help them design believable villains. This is a must read for any serious reader or author, just top-grade A 5 Star action.

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