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Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski
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Ham On Rye (original 1982; edition 2001)

by Charles Bukowski (Author), Roddy Doyle (Introduction)

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4,043682,103 (4.08)58
A down-and-out writer recalls his childhood, schooling, and the years leading up to World War II.
Member:amiraa
Title:Ham On Rye
Authors:Charles Bukowski (Author)
Other authors:Roddy Doyle (Introduction)
Info:Canongate Books (2001), Edition: Main, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski (1982)

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» See also 58 mentions

English (61)  French (2)  German (2)  Portuguese (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
Teenage Angst & Alcohol Fantasy
Review of the HarperAudio audiobook edition (2013) of the original hardcover "Ham on Rye" (1982)

I picked up the Ham on Rye audiobook as the Audible Daily Deal on August 16, 2020. That day was #Bukowski100, an event that otherwise went unnoticed and unremarked in any of my media viewing on that day. Audible didn't mention it either, but I simply chanced to see the coincidence with Bukowski's August 16, 1920 birthdate.

Ham on Rye is Bukowski's highest rated book on the Goodreads chart and definitely provides a great deal of absurd entertainment in its saga of the teenage Henry Chinaski (Bukowski's regular fictional version of himself). I also found Christian Baskous' voice in the narration to be oddly reminiscent to that of comedian Norm MacDonald which added to the comedic value. ( )
  alanteder | Aug 29, 2020 |
Charles Bukowski sets the artistic limits for the down and out beat poet stereotype. Prose is not his strong suit, but this tale of his growing up gives an adapt description of why he ended up an alcoholic. Growing up with few friends and a violent uncaring father, it is a tale of survival rather than entitlement. ( )
  kerryp | Jul 4, 2020 |
This is like reading Faulkner, without all of the fuss, with more fun, and perhaps without the same levels of philosophy and psychology. It's arty without being hoity-toity about it all. A simple language is used, and bombs go off without much fanfare. It's astounding in the way that it mixes observations with inner thoughts from the main character.

From the very first paragraph:

The first thing I remember is being under something. It was a table, I saw a table leg, I saw the legs of the people, and a portion of the tablecloth hanging down. It was dark under there, I liked being under there. It must have been in Germany. I must have been between one and two years old. It was 1922. I felt good under the table. Nobody seemed to know that I was there. There was sunlight upon the rug and on the legs of the people. I liked the sunlight. The legs of the people were not interesting, not like the tablecloth which hung down, not like the table leg, not like the sunlight.

The book is strewn with subtle and horrendously beautiful writings about the patriarchal, capitalistic stuff that happen:

There were continual fights. The teachers didn’t seem to know anything about them. And there was always trouble when it rained. Any boy who brought an umbrella to school or wore a raincoat was singled out. Most of our parents were too poor to buy us such things. And when they did, we hid them in the bushes. Anybody seen carrying an umbrella or wearing a raincoat was considered a sissy. They were beaten after school. David’s mother had him carry an umbrella whenever it was the least bit cloudy.

The above shows how this book, published in 1982, hasn't really changed much over most of Western "society" when considering nowaday literature like Édouard Louis‘s “The End of Eddy“, which was published in 2014.

I love the way that things are written about, in a quite stoic and existentialistic fashion:

He walked over and slapped me on the ear, knocking me to the floor. The woman got up and ran out of the house and my father went after her. The woman leaped into my father’s car, started it and drove off down the street. It happened very quickly. My father ran down the street after her and the car. “EDNA! EDNA, COME BACK!”

My father actually caught up with the car, reached into the front seat and grabbed Edna’s purse. Then the car speeded up and my father was left with the purse. “I knew something was going on,” my mother told me. “So I hid in the car trunk and I caught them together. Your father drove me back here with that horrible woman. Now she’s got his car.” My father walked back with Edna’s purse. “Everybody into the house!”

We went inside and my father locked me in the bedroom and my mother and father began arguing. It was loud and very ugly. Then my father began beating my mother. She screamed and he kept beating her. I climbed out a window and tried to get in the front door. It was locked. I tried the rear door, the windows. Everything was locked. I stood in the backyard and listened to the screaming and the beating. Then the beating and the screaming stopped and all I could hear was my mother sobbing. She sobbed a long time. It gradually grew less and less and then she stopped.

There are some funny, and a lot of tragic sides to all of this. While reading the book, I often wondered whether the character caused his problems, or was just affected by them, unable to avoid it all; naturally, it all depends on from where you're standing. The book reminded me a lot of Camus's "The Stranger", but that may be due to the existentialistic nature of that book, which I love.

All in all, this book makes me want to read more of Bukowski's books. This book will linger in the back of my head for quite some time, I think. ( )
  pivic | Mar 23, 2020 |
This has to be the most depressing book that I have ever read. But it has to be since, it depicts the life of a boy who belongs to a working class family during the 1930s which was an especially dark period in the history of the world, especially the USA.

I really liked the way he writes about his childhood memories. They seem so innocent and pure!
One passage really stood apart:
One problem I had was going to the bathroom. I always needed to go to the bathroom, but I was ashamed to let the others know that I had to go, so I held it. It was really terrible to hold it. And the air was white, I felt like vomiting, I felt like shitting and pissing, but I didn’t say anything. And when some of the others came back from the bathroom I’d think, you’re dirty, you did something in there…
It is an excellent description of a child's irrational thoughts.

He had terrible human beings for parents. He didn't really care for them too.
I began eating. It was terrible. I felt as if I were eating them, what they believed in, what they were. I didn’t chew any of it, I just swallowed it to get rid of it. Meanwhile my father was talking about how good it all tasted, how lucky we were to be eating good food when most of the people in the world, and many even in America, were starving and poor.
“What’s for dessert, Mama?” my father asked.
His face was horrible, the lips pushed out, greasy and wet with pleasure. He acted as if nothing had happened, as if he hadn’t beaten me. When I was back in my bedroom I thought, these people are not my parents, they must have adopted me and now they are unhappy with what I have become.

There was some satire sprinkled here and there as well. Like the bit where a cat and a dog are in a standoff, and all the people wait with bated breath to see what happens next:
The bulldog moved closer. I couldn’t watch the kill. I felt a great shame at leaving the cat like that. There was always the chance that the cat might try to escape, but I knew that they would prevent it. That cat wasn’t only facing the bulldog, it was facing Humanity.

I thoroughly enjoyed the part where he describes his experiment in writing. The character he wrote about was a German aviator who was a hero and a mystery.

I felt very glad when he told that he'd read books endlessly. I enjoyed his quotes about reading:
To me, these men [the authors] who had come into my life from nowhere were my only chance. They were the only voices that spoke to me.

Turgenev was a very serious fellow but he could make me laugh because a truth first encountered can be very funny. When someone else’s truth is the same as your truth, and he seems to be saying it just for you, that’s great. I read my books at night, like that, under the quilt with the overheated reading lamp. Reading all those good lines while suffocating. It was magic.

It was good to read them all though. It made you realize that thoughts and words could be fascinating, if finally useless.

And boy, did he like to fight. He'd pick fights with anybody just for the heck of it. He'd take on guys bigger than him and return bloody and bruised, but without any regrets.

One thing was really kind of shocking for me. After he wins the medal at the parade event, he becomes disillusioned with all that and decides the world is all about finding your mold - doctor, lawyer etc. then pushing on and on. So, he drops that medal into the gutter!

In conclusion, I'd like to say it was a unique reading experience. Maybe I'll read more of him later; but for now I'll have some laughs by reading me some Woody Allen. ^o^ ( )
  Govindap11 | Mar 21, 2020 |
Pretty foul and x-rated overall, but brilliant. ( )
  shum57 | Jul 22, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 61 (next | show all)
I consider Ham on Rye by Bukowski probably the greatest American novel ever written. It's an autobiographical novel (as are all his novels except Pulp, which is so awful it's unreadable) about his childhood, being beaten by his parents, avoiding war, and beginning his life of destitution, hardship, alcoholism, and the beginnings of his education as a writer. I'm almost embarrassed to admit he's an influence. Many people hate him and I'm much more afraid of being judged than he ever was.
added by SnootyBaronet | editHuffington Post, James Altucher
 
Una novela autobiográfica, contundente como un preciso uppercut, que nos muestra una visión bien distinta del «Sueño Americano», una visión «desde abajo», desde los pisoteados y humillados: la infancia, adolescencia y juventud de Henry Chinaski, en Los Ángeles, durante los años de la Depresión y la Segunda Guerra Mundial. Un padre brutal que cada día finge acudir puntualmente al trabajo para que sus vecinos no sospechen que está en paro; una madre apaleada por el padre, que sin embargo está siempre de su parte; un tío a quien busca la policía; un mundo de jefes, de superiores aterrorizados por otros superiores. El joven Chinaski algo así como un hermano paria de Holden Cauldfiel, el dulce héroe de Salinger en The Catcher in the Rye (al que Bukowski parece aludir en el título original Ham on Rye) tiene que aprender las reglas implacables de una durísima supervivencia. En este libro inolvidable, escrito con una ausencia total de ilusiones, se transparenta, evitando la autocompasión, una estoica fraternidad con todos los chinaskis, todos los underdogs de la «otra América» de los patios traseros, los bares sórdidos, las oficinas de desempleo.
added by Pakoniet | editLecturalia
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Bukowski, Charlesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Doyle, RoddyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vermeer, RitaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weissner, CarlTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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for all the fathers
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The first thing I remember is being under something.
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It was great. My whole head was bandaged. [...] I felt very exceptional and a bit evil. Nobody had any idea of what had happened to me. A car crash. A fight to the death. A murder. Fire. Nobody knew.
Turgenev was a very serious fellow but he could make me laugh because a truth first encountered can be very funny. When someone else's truth is the same as your truth, and he seems to be saying it just for you, that's great.
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A down-and-out writer recalls his childhood, schooling, and the years leading up to World War II.

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