i recently finished reading ham on rye by charles bukowski... after hearing a quote from him i was instantly interested in reading some of his works. i had heard that ham on rye was his most autobiographical work so i thought that would be a good place to start. i had no idea what i was in for. bukowski is undoubtedly a phenomenal writer... i thoroughly enjoyed each page of this novel... but i was no less than shocked by the vulgarity of his writing.
the novel is written from the point of view of charles' alter-ego henry chinaski... it takes you through his life, from the time he immigrated to los angeles, california from germany at the age of 3 through to just before his writing career started. it is set in 1930's, and life is noticeably different than what we know today. this book covers everything, from whippings from his father to his first interest in women. he struggles with a severe case of acne vulgaris in his teens, a case worse than any doctor has seen. his image of self and confidence is greatly affected by the painful boils that cover his body, and it seems to form his tough guy image... the book becomes increasingly raunchy. swearing, fighting, gambling and alcohol seem to be a consistent theme in henry's life.
while i have read novels from a male's pov - i was enlightened by the brutal honesty of his story. i believe growing up is painful, no matter what gender or decade it happens in... and he illustrates this point as it is somehow relatable. i was so engaged, that i didn't even take the time to research the man himself. now that i have seen a photo of bukowski and read a bit of his story on wikipedia, i believe ham on rye must be incredibly close to accurate.