Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Ham on Rye – 1982

Ham on Rye is a semi auto biographical novel by Charles Bukowski. The Novel follows his alter ego Henry Chinaksi and is written in first person throughout.

Ham on Rye follows Chinaksi as he recalls his childhood until when he becomes a young man. From his tenuous at best relationship with his father to his indifference almost with his mother. Ham on Rye follows Chinaksi as he joins school and the work force as a person who feels more alone when surrounded by people than when he gets to rest while on his own.

Bukowski’s style shines through with every page. His no bullshit straight talking it a breath of fresh air. His raw and gritty style paints a picture that is often depraved and fucked up and yes I want to read the next page. Chinaksi is a low life and outcast often by his own choice and actions you can’t help but feel empathy and hatred simultaneously while reading. Bukowski is the master of putting the brutal and honest truth on the page.

Bukowski wrote Ham On Rye after his publisher told him to write more about something he didn’t focus on much in his writings. His childhood, which is just what he did. I can’t help feel sorry for Henry during parts of this from his father’s beatings, his scarring and horrendously detailed account of being prodded and probed by doctors to his wanting to escape people and be alone with his records and writings. Henry Chinaksi goes through a lot and looks for a lot of trouble too. It’s really an unflinching depiction of his life with all the gritty and grimey details left in for us to feel present with him.

Ham on Rye is a great first Bukowski book to get into and get a feel for his style and flow.