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Ham on Rye ("Rebel Inc") [Paperback]

Charles Bukowski , Roddy Doyle , Sean Penn
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 2000 "Rebel Inc"
This work, by legendary barfly Charles Bukowski, follows the path of his alter-ego Henry Chinaski through the high school years of acne and rejection, drinking his way through the Depression, and ends emotionally at the start of World War II. It captures the battered feelings of a true outcast.

Product details

  • Paperback: 329 pages
  • Publisher: Rebel inc.; New edition edition (April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 086241993X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0862419936
  • Product Dimensions: 21 x 13.6 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (88 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 892,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Charles Bukowski is one of America's best-known contemporary writers of poetry and prose, and, many would claim, its most influential and imitated poet. He was born in Andernach, Germany, and raised in Los Angeles, where he lived for fifty years. He published his first story in 1944, when he was twenty-four, and began writing poetry at the age of thirty-five. He died in San Pedro, California, on March 9, 1994, at the age of seventy-three, shortly after completing his last novel, Pulp (1994).

Product Description

Amazon Review

Charles Bukowski's fourth novel, Ham on Rye, is the semi-autobiographical story of the early years of his alter ego Henry Chinaski. It is a finely written and honest account of the painful childhood of a boy marked out from his peers. Regularly beaten by his father, Chinaski is shown growing through his difficult and violent adolescence (struck with the worst case of acne his doctors have ever seen) through to the first jobs he can't and won't hold down. In this moving story of growing up Bukowski disciplines his muscular, concentrated writing and creates a novel that distils his poetry into the finest full-length piece of prose that he ever wrote. Bukowski is often good but in Ham on Rye he's great.

Sadly, best known as the alcoholic inspiration for the film Barfly (an experience he reflected on in his book Hollywood), it is as a poet, rather than a drunk, that Bukowski should be best remembered. His bitter, caustic, direct, humane, damaged poetry reflects a life dominated by poverty and booze. His poetry stretches over many, many volumes but Bukowski also wrote great novels: all of them have many faults but the first four books he wrote shine for similar reasons. Post Office and Factotum both dissect, quite brilliantly, the life of an angry, poor man forced to do mindless jobs, pushed around and considered mindless by the fools who force him to do them. Women, as Roddy Doyle points out in his short introduction, continues the themes but focuses on the numerous women who share his hero's bed and bottle. --Mark Thwaite


'Very funny, very sad, and despite its self-congratulatory tone, honest in most of the right places. In many ways, Bukowski may have been the perfect writer to describe post-war southern California - a land of wide, flat spaces with nothing worth seeing, so you might as well vanish into yourself. In an age of conformity, Bukowski wrote about the people nobody wanted to be: the ugly, the selfish, the lonely, the mad.' - The Observer --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
50 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski as "Survivor", 26 Mar 2004
By A Customer
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Ham on Rye by Bukowski. I'd read some assorted poems and short stories of his that I found amusing because of their bluntness and coarseness. I found that Ham On Rye was much in the same vein: that is, the story of a non-comformist who has to pay the price in America for not selling out and becoming just another salesman or suit. Bukowski needed to follow his own music. This book is obviously autobiographical, and it depicts his rough and sad childhood: his abusive father who wouldn't cut him any slack, his skin condition that pock-marked his face and made him feel like an outcast, his alienation from school and his classmates, his alienation from most of America and the values America holds most dear: being the "alpha dog," the big "winner." Bukowski in effect is a foreigner in his own land, a socially isolated individual who escapes the cruelty of people by eventually becoming a writer and indulging in drink -- while longing for a poetry that our banal consumer society tries to squash. I love this book. It's an easy-to-read and very personal novel, which would probably be marketed today as a "memoir." I know Bukowski is NOT read in college and that's because he's generally "anti-New Yorker," anti-understatement. He's the John Belushi (think of Pluto in Animal House) of literature. His characters WILL COME OUT TALKING, LIKE THIS!!.. Reading Bukowski is an intimate experience, like reading the work of a friend or watching a friend's home-movie. He's largely a self-taught artist so his work is sometimes rough, sometimes over-the-top, sometimes sloppy -- but always full of humor and always largely entertaining and loads of fun. This is my first Bukowski novel, but it certainly won't be my last! So crack open a brew, shut off that stupid TV, kick back in your dirty shorts and read Ham on Rye. I also agree with the reviewer who recommended The Losers' Club by Richard Perez, another lively, funny novel that I could relate to.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not at all HAMMY , and very WRY. 1 April 2003
By Mr. B. A. D. Plowman VINE VOICE
I have read a handful of Charles Bukowski's literary efforts but found none of them to be quite as endearing as this. The focus is on Chinaski's high school days and the way his outlook on life is steeped in cynicism due to an infliction of acne vulgaris .

The reader will be very hard pushed to find a more cynical literary character than Chinaski , and the book is entrenched in bitterness. However there are some heartbreakingly human moments such as Chinaski viewing young couples holding hands,and believing he can never live like that.
The narrative is gritty , stripped down and to the point.This perfectly suits Chinaski's clipped and dismissive viewpoint on life. Bukowski's human prose allows us to sympathise with the character as he rejects the world.
In conclusion, I would say that this book is in turns moving, witty and repulsive.It is essential for those who feel that now and again life has given them a raw deal.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski at his best. 25 April 2005
The only Bukowski I'd read previously was Post Office, which is a bare-bones story about a man whose life is swallowed by his job at the Post Office, years passing by, and his struggle to basically try and retain something of himself (be it a woman, his drinking, his gambling - anything).
Ham On Rye features the same character (Bukowski's alter-ego Henry Chinaski), but focuses on his earlier life, going to school and university, and descending into violent alcholism. It, too, is a bare bones story - but there's much more to it. Chinaski's frustration at not wanting to be a part of anything, while at the same time wanting to be accepted, result in him being seen as nothing but a bullying drunkard. And yeah, Chinaski is an a-hole, and Bukowski makes no bones about that. But I was forever hoping he'd pull himself out of it.
A great book, and Chuck's no BS writing style is always instantly refreshing.
Check it out, if you can.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book with attitude 27 Feb 2007
I have just finished reading Ham on Rye and as my first experience of reading Bukowski i found it really enjoyable, and definitely feel like it has given me an insight into his writing and i will look forward to reading more of his fiction in the future.

Ham on Rye describes the early life of Bukowski's alter- ego, Hank Chinaski, who features in much of his fiction. Chinaski is growing up in America between the end of the first and the start of the second World War. Being raised by an abusive father, Chinaski grows up learning to hate the world, becoming seriously disallusioned with it and descending slowly into alcoholism. Despite Hank's cynical and angry outlook i found him to be a character that i could quickly warm to and sympathise with. Knowing this book it partly autobiographical, however, makes Hank's life seem all the more saddening.

Ham on Rye shows the adolescent Chinaski and sets up the life of the down and out character that appears in other Bukowski novels. Despite it being his fourth novel, i would say that it acts as a great introduction to this character and i didn't feel any worse off having not read Bukowski's earlier novels first.

Overall, this is a powerful novel, sometimes uncomfortable, somtimes depressing but generally easy to read and enjoyable. It describes full blown adolescent angst emerging from a dysfunctional family set up. I like to think of Hank Chinaski as Holden Caulfield with attitude! Highly recommended.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars It was good but not great
Since reading his first book Women I am hooked with reading at least one Bukowski book once a year. Had I picked this up as a young adolescent exploring my own sexuality, I would... Read more
Published 1 month ago by PS BHAKAR
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark childhood
A supposedly autobiographical account of Bukowski's childhood and youth. Very funny, it will have you howling with laughter at certain points. Read more
Published 1 month ago by High Seas Drifter
5.0 out of 5 stars book club
I foiund this book very good to read, I belong to a bookclub and it wasn't everyones cup of tea as the father is a spiteful man but the story of a young lads struggle to grow up... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mrs. Laraine S. Nash
4.0 out of 5 stars Uncompromising And Honest
This 1982 novel (his 4th of 6) by German-born American Charles Bukowski is an (almost) unremittingly bleak (autobiographical) account of the childhood and teenage upbringing of... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Keith M
4.0 out of 5 stars solid
Easy and enjoyable to read. Felt an attachment to the character so wish the ending had slightly more meaning. Nevertheless, worth a read.
Published 4 months ago by jcpunk
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite non-poetry Bukowski book
I read Ham on Rye after having read the novels Post Office, Factotum, Women and Hollywood, and the short stories collections South of North, Tales of Ordinary Madness and Notes of... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Orestis Tsinalis
5.0 out of 5 stars Charles Bukowski - Ham On Rye | Review
This is Bukowski's fourth novel, and it's been described as his most autobiographical - nevertheless, like the work of Jack Kerouac, it's difficult to categorise because of the... Read more
Published 8 months ago by SocialBookshelves.com
5.0 out of 5 stars Beauty in the grotesque
Much like his often-cited literary inspiration, Ernest Hemingway, Charles Bukowski was a master of finding beauty in the stark, and even the ugly. Read more
Published 10 months ago by Carol A.
5.0 out of 5 stars Great
Bukovsky is one I am reading around a lot at the moment. I'm sure I won't be disappointed with this
Published 11 months ago by jenny S
5.0 out of 5 stars epic and bargain price
Start with this book and read them all you won't be dissappointed. I read this book in one day and bought the rest straight away.
Published 13 months ago by It's so easy101
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