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.