Lit Pick of the Week: “Ham on Rye” by Charles Bukowski

Radar is committed to all forms of art and entertainment and as such, will pick one book as a reading recommendation every week. This week, Radar’s “Lit” pick is “Ham on Rye” by Charles Bukowski.

Written by novelist, poet and short story writer Henry Charles Bukowski, “Ham on Rye” centers around the early stages of his life, from his childhood to the start of adulthood. The novel, written in Bukowski’s straightforward prose, is semi-autobiographical as he tells the story through his alter-ego Henry Chinaski and his life in Los Angeles during the Great Depression.

The novel takes us into Bukowski’s life, as we enter his joyless childhood, acne-riddled high school years, and his experiences with alcohol and women. We see Bukowski’s struggle living in a rowdy neighborhood with a hostile and abusive father as he goes onto living his life in a depressed world. We definitely sympathize with him as he gets beaten by his father and is self-alienated due to others failing to understand how different he really is from the other kids. But as the novel progresses, we see how he enjoys inflicting harm on others and getting drunk, making him an anti-hero and revealing his coming-of-age as a writer. The novel unveils Bukowski’s character and how he became a writer that writes with such anger, savagery and dark honesty, making him one of the most praised underground writers during his time.


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