Factotum - broken clock scene (1 Viewer)


On my second reading of Factotum and remember this moment from the last read many years ago, and from the film. This time around though I noticed that he makes mistakes every step of the way and missed the final answer by about half a day. Am I missing something obvious here or is it a joke that he gets it wrong?
Seems to me that at 7.30pm, 19.5 hours have passed since midnight last night, not 7.5 like he starts with.

If the clock gains 35 minutes per hour that would be 682.5 minutes ahead, so it's about 8.07am?

Even if he didn't make that mistake, he still messes up adding 17.5 to 245, coming up with 252.5.

The reason this jumped out of me was I always thought this scene was quite cool and funny, but now I'm wondering if it's also funny for a different reason, or if Bukowski just couldn't be bothered with working out the real maths.
That's what I thought. In one of his letters about John Martin, Bukowski made it clear that apart from the odd typo or grammar mistake he has the books just how he wants them when he sends them off, and you would assume, like most gamblers, his mental arithmetic is pretty good too.

I know it's not important but it broke the flow for me and Bukowski's style is usually all about keeping that flow going, so I would've thought he of all people would want his second novel to be perfect and free of error, even insignificant ones like this.
the most interesting thing about this thread is that you took the time to actually do the calculations
to find out they were wrong!

in a good way, i mean.
I see you point. I suppose I am a man of leisure haha
Agreed on the 19.5 hours as a starting point, but since the clock moves 95 minutes every 60 minutes, the actual time passed since it was set properly is (19.5 hr) * (60/95) = 12.32 hr, so it's 12:19 PM.
A dumb man of leisure at that as Purple Stickpin has nailed it and I was wrong too!

This makes me think it was possibly intentional as the scene can still make sense this way.
he makes mistakes every step of the way and missed the final answer by about half a day. Am I missing something obvious here or is it a joke that he gets it wrong?
I don't want to go all philosophical here, but this is a joke but it also is centrally connected to one of the main themes of Factotum: Time. And the way clock-time dominates the lives of workers in the modern world and the absurdity of living by clock-time rather than by inner time, or sun-time, or life-time. Modern factory/industrial/capitalist time will kill you. Bukowski is often writing about time--he has a poem in which he describes calling up the number to give the correct time, and he gives the exact time of writing in his story "The Absence of the Hero" and he gives the times for each entry in The Captain is Overboard and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship.
That's really interesting, thanks. This time around I noticed something I don't remember thinking much about last time, which is the way that the narrative in Factotum starts off quite linear as we follow Hank through the beginning, middle and end of each town and job he experiences, but with each new job this narrative gets looser and looser. By the end the chapters have little to no thread between them and it feels like we've lost all sense of time as he goes from job to job.

Your suggestion fits perfectly with this and I love that there are layers to Bukowski's work that I completely overlooked in my late teens that I can appreciate now as a more mature reader.
"...the new theory
(Formula K) enacts itself:
M plus S plus C plus O
(brought down to
the relative power of
1/4 each): and the horse with the
lowest total is
the winner."

Simple really.

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