5.0 out of 5 stars
The Great American Novel, 10 Dec. 2002
Ham On Rye is, quite simply, one of the greatest works of fiction I've ever had the pleasure reading. It is sparse, direct, scalpel hard, heart-breaking and utterly inspiring in its rites of passage portrayal of a rightly cynical, dissaffected American youth. Chinaski suffers a great deal, yet never weighs the reader down with his inability to shed his outsider status or state of mind; his ostracisation merely renders the reader complicit in his world-weary resignation, yet never at the expense of a somehow life-affirming overall impression. The darkest moments, here, carry an admirable and undiminishable streak of resigned humour. The demotics of youthful discourse are replicated in a supremely believable way. This is the kind of novel that maybe only Raymond Carver could ever have hoped to parallel. From the American books I've read, it is perhaps the very best, most evocative and affecting, and must rank alongside other great works such as the Bonfire of The Vanities, Rabbit At Rest, Underworld, Breakfast Of Champions, and Portnoys Complaint as a vivid, unflinching and hugely entertaining masterpiece.