Book: Charles Bukowski

Ham on Rye

A semi-autobiographical novel by Charles Bukowski

A 1982 semi-autobiographical novel by American author and poet Charles Bukowski. Written in the first person, the novel follows Henry Chinaski, Bukowski’s thinly-veiled alter ego, during his early years. Written in Bukowski’s characteristically straightforward prose, the novel tells of his coming-of-age in Los Angeles during the Great Depression.


Ham on Rye. Charles Bukowski -

The novel centers around the protagonist Henry Chinaski. The start of the novel are his first memories. Then as the novel progresses we follow him all the way through school and into adulthood. We start in elementary school and he tells us his experiences. We learn that he has an abusive father, and a mother that lets it happen. He isn't very good at sports, but he wants to be and he tries hard. Football is hard for him, but he likes the violence that comes with it. Baseball, the other playground sport, is the sport he is better at. He hits hard, but hardly ever hits. As we progress into grammar school the focus of Henry's attention, and the other boys, is on sports, violence and girls, as it has been. Then going into high school his father, who pretends they are rich, makes Henry go to a private school where he fits in even less. However, he develops horrible acne, bad enough that he has to get painful treatments from the doctor. Then we follow him to college, and eventually his attempt to get a job.