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4.6 out of 5 stars36
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on 18 February 2011
I first picked this up when I was working low paid jobs, I was actually cleaning toilets at the time and I identified with Bukowski's humorous take on the matter. In this book using dry but hillarious humor Bukowski exposes pointlessness and monotony in working for minimum wage and having to live a slum life because of it. You will like this book if you are a rebel at heart and have always found yourself criticising the system in which seems so unfair in so many ways. This book is about Bukowski's alter-ego Hank Chinaski who is a lost soul travelling around America not in search for anything but to get drunk, get in adventures and have sex with women no matter how old or ugly they are.

It is a very funny book with so many great parts in which I found myself laughing out loud in public areas. There is a great scene when Chinski is hired as a janitor for media centre and is told to clean a brass rail. However, he gets tired very quickly and finds himself gazing out the window at a pub accross the road, you can guess what happens next! There is also a great scene when he falls asleep in the ladies toilet whilst his boss is lurking nearby with one of the managers. It is really a great read and I recommend this to anybody who is going through a difficult time looking for jobs or is constantly finding themselves unemployed, this will cheer you up a treat!
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on 27 May 2010
A prequel to Post Office and to Women, this isn't as good as either. Why do I start with such a negative comment when I've given it 5 stars? A warning not to read it first (Post Office, then Women, then Factotum).

Chinaski charts his malcontent and dysfunctional adolescent course, out of his parents' dwindling goodwill, though various jobs and lots of alcohol, via a number of sexual relationships (some longer than others).

This is classic Bukowski: seedy, stream-of-thought and utterly cynical, giving no recourse to rose-tinted views of humanity, and in fact doing the opposite.

Although leaving an extremely bad taste in the mouth, and although not as good as the two aforementioned novels, I did really enjoy this. I have to question why, apart from the fact that (like Chinaski and work) I don't like books to be too effortsome, and this appealed to the lower echelons of my intellect (not to mention morality).

Maybe that's what makes Bukowski so appealing; he seems to hold up a mirror. (at least to the bad parts?)
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Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) was an underground writer of poems stories, and novels who has exerted a fascination over me for many years. He is best known for his portrayals of the shabby, dingy side of Los Angeles. His reputation has grown subsequently to his death. Many of his works originally were published by a small publishing house, Black Sparrow Press which specialized in unusual writers, A few years ago, Black Sparrow was purchased by a HarperCollins which continues to maintain Bukowski's works in print and to publish posthumous works.

This reprint of "Factotum" was released by HarperCollins this month to capitalize on the movie version of Factotum. I read it eagerly in anticipation of seeing the movie, which premiered at independent film festivals before its commercial release. Earlier Bukowski movies include "Barfly" (1987) and the documentary "Bukowski: Born into This" (2004).

Factotum (1975)is Bukowski's second novel, and its main character is Bukowski's alter ego, named Henry Chinaski. The word 'factotum" means "A person having many diverse activities or responsibilities" or "a general servant". These definitions, particularly the second, capture much of the spirit of the novel. Chinaski is a young man, down and out, who has been rejected for the draft during WW II. In short, fast-moving chapters, the novel chronicles Chinaski's search for work crossing back and forth throughout the United States.

The novel is gritty, raw and tough. Chinaski is hardly a hero as he loses one dead-end job after another and throws away the few possible opportunities that come his way. Chinaski is solitary and anti-social. He drinks heavily and plays the horses. He takes up with women and generally drops them as quickly as he meets them. He leads the life of a drifter, loner, and outsider.

Without prelude or introduction, the book opens as Chinaski arrives "in New Orleans in the rain at 5"o'clock in the morning" and is quickly accosted by "a high yellow sitting on the porch steps swinging her legs". He goes through a series of jobs and shabby hotels before embarking on a journey that takes him to Texas, Los Angeles, his hometown, New York City, Philadelphia, St Louis and, finally back to Los Angeles. At the end, we see Chinaski, frustrated and angry fantasizing over a dancer in a burlesque house.

Chinaski loses a litany of jobs, including working as a janitor, window washer, shipping clerk, baker's helper, assistant in a dog biscuit factory, and similar ventures. He either quits, or, more often, is fired for absenteeism, attitude, fighting, and drinking. He has affairs with a variety of women, the most prominent of whom in this book is Jan, with whom he has an on again off again relationship punctuated by alcohol, horseracing, fighting, and Jan's affairs with other men.

Chinaski is an aspiring writer, when he is not drinking or otherwise occupied, and the book includes a scene in which a short story is accepted for publication. Writing and reflection are used, as is so often the case, as a way to understand and distance oneself from a shabby, difficult life. There are many lively, funny scenes in Factotum. Chinaski does not ask for sympathy and gives none. The story is toughly and unapologetically told. The book gives the impression of an individual deeply down on himself and on others who sees himself as fighting and carrying on simply to live his life for what it is.

Bukowski is a vulgar, raw author who will not appeal to everyone. But I continue to be taken with him and with Factotum. The book exerts a pull that I can't shake off.

Robin Friedman
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on 7 November 2001
Bukowski's language is among the most powerful you will ever read. Bukowski pounds. His sentences are compact, his grammar tough. His stories always raw-honest. Entirely original. They hit you hard like a charging rhino. Whether they are woven into a novel or not. They are always charged with emotion. Buy this. Buy all Bukoswki. You will never read anything like him. But be prepared to hit the bottle mid-read. He can drink. And he wants you to drink too.
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on 29 July 2012
It is the first book of Bukowski that I've ever read. Factotum is a 160page story, to read in no time. It made me feel uncomfortable at first to read about a guy who basically spends his life drinking and switching crappy jobs. But it quickly won me over mixing sincere and simple writing with a pinch of comedy. One thing I know of, is that it left me thinking and challenging the only right way of living. Not that I mean to follow the "Factotum" path :)
If you have some time then to read a not too long book and prefer something of a higher value, go for it.
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on 9 October 2001
People read Charles Bukowski for two reasons: to live vicarious, and; to feel better about who they are as individuals (the latter accenting the former). Chinaski is the alter ego of Kid Stardust, who is the non de plume of ....
"Factotum" begins a touch slow, with a drawn-out account of Henry meeting an older rich man and partying with his girls; hereafter is where the endless slew of dog jobs begin, and his experiences with the staff. Not totally unlike "Post Office" this text explores other horrific minimum-wage pit stops; material handlers for markets and art stores; security for hotels; inspection for gaskets at factories. I very much relate to the anxiety, hopelessness and comedy that complements these exploitive jobs.
Strong supporting cast comes from Old Grandad, Pabst and Brahm. This is just as great as "Women." Attn: MEN: Please do yourself a favor and DO NOT ask your parents OR your conservative girlfriend to read "Factotum." You will only cause grief and unnecessary discussions. Be comfortable with and guard your guilty pleasures.
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on 5 October 2007
In FACTOTUM, Charles Bukowski follows his alter-ego Hank Chinaski through a sequence of 19 menial jobs. For each, Buk shows how Hank gets, experiences, and then loses a job, while the core activity in his life is really boozing.

Take, by the way, this description of FACTOTUM. Then, replace the subject of menial jobs with the subject of strangely worshipful women. What you get is a decent description of WOMEN, Buk's hilarious novel about the mature and successful Chinaski. For this reader, Bukowski's ability to write in such parallel structures is almost eerie.

In FACTOTUM, Bukowski presents the young Chinaski, who is just beginning to define himself as a writer and to gain some recognition for his work. In contrast, Chinaski is an established poet in WOMEN and pursued, to his incredulous delight, by attractive but crazy women, who feed his verse. While WOMEN is hilarious, the humor--in my opinion--isn't really there in FACTOTUM. Instead, this novel is a story about sly but self-destructive integrity, with the young Chinaski willing to live a very marginal existence, since this is the life that makes sense to him. I don't think Bukowski is writing with a message. Even so, young Hank is "just saying no" to work until he achieves the work that he wants.

Once again, Bukowski uses a very clear and direct style in this novel. In fact, I don't remember a single striking metaphor or simile in FACTOTUM. In a way, his writing is the opposite of his poetry (I'm reading THE ROOMING HOUSE MADRIGALS), with Bukowski seldom, if ever, pulling a wry or melancholy or thoughtful subtext out a short poetic narrative. Instead, the style in FACTOTUM is straightforward while the voice is consistently that of an alienated boozer who has "realized everything is a hoax" (page 61).

FACTOTUM is amusing but not hilarious. It is also occasionally grim, especially when Bukowski lets Hank test bottom and, oh, say, soil himself. This is an easy read and a good novel but not for the squeamish.
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on 24 January 2014
The story is that bukowski wrote this at pace wanting to complete it ASAP, it feels that way too, but not in a bad way. I could of happily read on for a few hundred pages more, a fascinating life written with contempt for everyone including and especially himself.
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on 25 February 2013
Super book. The master of dirty realism/transgressive fiction - he came before the likes of Morton Bain, Chuck Palahniuk and Michel Houellebecq. For everyone who has rebelled against the drudgery of work and the banality of everyday life...
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on 24 November 2013
A brilliant book by a brilliant author. This book is of the time and is, therefore, very easily interpreted as misogynistic, however, this does not affect its power. Highly recommended.
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