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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski as "Survivor",
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...
Published on 26 Mar 2004

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski by Bukowski
This was the first Bukowski book I ever read and I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. The story (autobiographical in nature) follows Henry Chinaski from his early childhood until he reaches manhood. It revolves around his endless struggles with his family, his friends, his surroundings, his body, his desires and his hopes (rather lack of) for the future. It is a...
Published on 31 Aug 2010 by Belmiro Vilela


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51 of 52 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski as "Survivor",, 26 Mar 2004
By A Customer
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
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 "Brendan" (UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A book with attitude, 27 Feb 2007
By 
Heather "star_reader" (Leeds, Yorkshire) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
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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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski at his best., 25 April 2005
By 
M. Bridgeman (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended!, 28 July 2007
By 
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
Ham on Rye (HOR) is a semi-autobiographical tale, written in the first person, and describing the 'rite of passage' of Bukowski's antihero "Hank Chinaski". HOR is similar in many ways to Catcher in the Rye, however unlike Salingers' protagonist Holden Caulfield, the deep depression and feelings of alienation and existential anxt experienced by Hank Chinaski are provoked by genuinely difficult circumstances. Hank is raised in a poor small town American family during the 30s depression. Suffering abuse from a sadistic father and school bullies, Hank spends hours in contemplation, reading widely and thinking of becoming a writer. Disfiguring skin boils and acne compound Hanks' predicament, leaving him unsuccessful with women, bitter, isolated, and turning to the bottle.

Hank is used as a mouthpiece to discuss the authors distaste for overly elaborate prose, and it is clear that Bukowski was trying to do something new with this novel. The prose of HOR is concise and uncomplicated, and this strengthens the clarity and emotional impact of the book, generating a palpable sense of Hanks' alienation and emotional turmoil. A friend commented on the fact that all the women in this novel are floored, pathetic and week minded characters, but so far as I can tell Bukowski is not misogynistic but universally misanthropic.

Depressing, angry, bitter, and with a cynical view of the human condition, this is my first Bukowski novel but I'll definitely be coming back for more.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Catcher in the Ham on Rye, 28 Jun 2007
By 
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
This is a truly great book and although there are many surface differences with JD Salinger's wonderful Catcher in the Rye, their similarities are much greater.

Although Henry (Hank) Chinaski and Holden Caulfield live in different decades and occupy different ends of the social spectrum, they are of the same mould. They are both non-conformists, unable to settle into their respective social groups. They both see through the superficiality of their respective worlds and are unable and unwilling to adapt themselves to it. They both see the futility of their lives, leaving them feeling alienated and alone, unable to communicate with their peers or with their disfunctional families. They are both unbending in their respective morals, revolted by injustice and bullying. They are both self-destructive, finding more solace in drink than in human relationships.

I loved this book, but thank heaven that I didn't read it as a teenager.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars bukowski's masterpiece outdoes Salinger, 10 July 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Ham on Rye (Paperback)
Move over, Holden Caulfied. In Henry Chinaski, Charles Bukowski has given American Literature what to my mind is one of the most devastatingly funny, sad, compassionate and wise portraits of adolescence we have. The book is packed with dozens of thumbnail vignettes that shine a tiny circle of light upon man's humanity--and lack thereof--to his fellow creatures. Think of Nurse Ackerman; the scene with the kitten trapped by the dog; the itchy ROTC uniform; Henry's beatings at the hands of his sadistic father; his friend with one arm...it goes on and on. To my mind, this book is Bukowski's masterpiece.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chuck on the Whisky, 18 Oct 2010
By 
Dr. Delvis Memphistopheles "FIST" (London) - See all my reviews
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
Chuck's masterpiece is his confessional novel where he uses the template devised by Ferdinand Celine to produce this great piece of work. It sups a long draught from the deep cup of cynicism fermented by Ferdie and then Bukowski spits in it for good measure before offering it around.

Then he reveals an overwhelming despair, a bile slowly brewing as he is ground into the dirt by a father who acts with a loveless leathering of belt to beat his son into righteousness. This was the old way and Bukowski shows the simmering hatred that boils over his body. Beaten at home and taunted at school, he sought solace in flights of fancy and eventually created his own private worlds. These he populated with the apparitions of his life detail as he hit the flophouses and wrote from poverty about being poor. This was the genius of Bukowski because it had been tackled by Algren, Selby, Baldwin and Wright there were still elements of idealism lingering. Bukowski wrote of the poor beyond the liberation of Marxism, Christianity and morality.

This is naked life revealed without the bath robe, make up and adobe photoshop touch up added. A Life revealed in wishing a life away, the need to drown in whisky, the abusive relationships and the glimmer of hope that one day life can be different.

Ham on Rye undermines and reaffirms the American Dream, the outsider, the German immigrant covered in boils, can make it with enough hard work. The book however tells a different story, it represents the lives of the homeless who never make it past forty. This was the opening salvo in looking at life from the bottom up and said failure was OK too, it was just another perspective. How revolutionary is that?
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bukowski by Bukowski, 31 Aug 2010
By 
Belmiro Vilela (Barcelona, Spain) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
This was the first Bukowski book I ever read and I have to say that I enjoyed it very much. The story (autobiographical in nature) follows Henry Chinaski from his early childhood until he reaches manhood. It revolves around his endless struggles with his family, his friends, his surroundings, his body, his desires and his hopes (rather lack of) for the future. It is a straight, cynical, bitter and brutal account of his life. I found that Bukowski was trying to come to terms with his own origins and I am glad that he invited me along for the ride. This book felt very personal at times and at these moments it read as if an old friend was talking to you or writing you a letter. I did not find it brilliant or particularly insightful but it works well as a story and words, phrases, paragraphs and whole pages just kept flowing easily until the end.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just got better, 15 Jun 2003
This review is from: Ham On Rye (Paperback)
I was slightly sceptical as to whether or not this book would live up to the pace of Women, and after reading the introduction by Roddy Doyle, I was even more unsure.
When a book begins in the childhood life of the main character, in this case the alter-ego Chinaski, I can't help but get the feeling that it's going to be a long haul, but, seriously, the years seemed to flip by, through childhood, high school, University and ultimately the start of adult life and I couldn't get enough. I am sucked in by the rawness portrayed within Ham On Rye, and whilst some may not see through the alcoholism and sometimes violence, I see a kid that grew up in a tough world and survived better than most.
Bukowski's style of writing has come at the end of a personal literary trip through the Beats. including Kerouac, Carver, Ginsberg, Whitman and Burroughs, and I have to say that this is some of the best. I have seen some of Bukowski's short stories, and it cannot be said that they do reflect upon his life as well as his novels, yet he must be admired for simply sticking to a most individual style, both in literature and, seemingly, in life.
Whilst the frenetic pace and almost surreal action within Women absolutely encapsulated my fascination, I must totally agree in retrospect with Roddy Doyle, in as much that there is a real sense of depth within this novel, as well as a glimpse into the cultural and social setting of America within this period, ie the Depression, and the Second World War.
I believe this book would suit anyone who cares about life with pretence; the world in it's purest sense; and the account of a life through drink, drugs, politics, religion and sex, through the thick skin of a child grown old on his own.
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Ham On Rye
Ham On Rye by Charles Bukowski (Paperback - 7 July 2001)
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