Racist part in Post office (1 Viewer)

I think I'm one of a kind. I'm black, but I listen to rock as hard as any other white guy I know. I've been raised in my culture to listen to Led Zeppelin, the Foo Fighters, and Metallica, and I've been fine growing up with my white friends. Some consider me a black emo, although I don't even know what that means and I think the term is stupid to begin with. What polarizes me from Bukowski's work is his use of the word monkey on page 116 of Post Office. I loved this book up until the point in which he started saying this shit that pissed me off and made me skip pages till the end. (But don't get me wrong, I have read this entire novel). He says, "Cunt! You set this up, didn't you? You'd let this monkey kill me for the lousy 4 or 5 hundred bucks in my wallet!" If y0u are a Buk fan, I don't know how you will defend this. Sure I know Buk might have been speaking for white men at his time, but this is way too racist. He should have known better. The man manages to degrade not only black people, but women as well. If there are any arguments to him being a sympathetic character it ends here. I hate Buk for these lines, and I'm just wondering what you all think. In my book, a character has to at least have our sympathy in order to carry a book forward. His nature in Post Office and Women just make me doubt that. I only like Ham On Rye, but all else is shit. Controversial or not, this shit just angered me.
while the term 'monkey' is indefensible, I don't think we necessarily have to like a character to like a novel. literature is full of good books with unlikable characters.

and there has been talk here and elsewhere of Bukowski being antisemitic, etc. and while this is no excuse, the racism was probably a product of Bukowski's generation; the same way I cringe every time my 75 year old step dad says 'coloured.'

Bukowski also treated blacks, Jews and women very sympathetically in a lot of his writing. when push came to shove, I think Bukowski would generally side with the underdogs (minorities in this case). flawed and inconsiderate at times? yes. full out racist? no.
hoochm*****9 is spot on. Like any author - Bukowski's characters can do all sorts of indefensible stuff. You don't have to root for them, you don't have to get yourself a banjo and start chewing tobacco.

Perhaps it doesn't matter, but I re-read that section - seems to me the character Hector is probably a Hispanic American - he is described as 'a little dark guy' not 'black' - Bukowski usually describes African Americans as 'black'.

edit:- I'm not suggesting monkey is an acceptable term (now or in 1971 or 1960 or whenever) for Hispanic Americans either, just commenting on the piece. FWIW I don't think of Bukowski as a racist, or Chinaski either for that matter.
You're right, Hank Solo, Hector was Hispanic in the book, not black.

Austin, if you read the rest of the book you will see that Buk got along good with the black folks in the post office.
In fact, they liked him because he was crazy with a weird sense of humor. Much more of this is covered in the books of letters from that period. I think Bukowski treated everyone equally: if a man or woman (regardless of race) was an asshole he would call them out unrepentantly. He spared no one.
I hate Buk for these lines, and I'm just wondering what you all think. In my book

Trust me, Bukowski wouldn't give a shit if he lost a reader who got offended over his work. He was uncompromising, and for that I thank him.

And what book of yours would that be?
I have an old ( as in old) friend who comes from North Carolina, who also uses the word 'coloured' in reference to non white people.
I do think that it is a generation thing. I have managed to make him think about what he says.
He now says 'coloured black'. :rolleyes:
He also uses the term monkey for anyone else who is not related to him. You could call him an asshole with a big heart. I am a monkey to him.
I also concluded that Buk was not a racist at heart.
hoochm*****9 is spot on.
You bastard, you made me LOL again.

Dear babyhead, what would you have preferred he said when taking about your people?

You must be very young. I admire the blind ignorance of youth. I should know, I suffered from it for more than 40 years. Some might say I'm still suffering from it.

But let me hip you to the scene, little brotherman. You ain't the first "black guy" to do anything. You aren't unique, special or one of a kind. And I can clearly see that you ain't been around, as they say on the west side of Los Angeles (that's the tough part of town). You are lashing out at enemies who are not your enemies.

You're sensitive. I understand that. It must have been hard running with all those white clowns and their denim jackets and Weezer music and whatnot. But it would behoove you to get a grip and recognize kindred spirits, even if they look a little ugly to you at first.

I wonder if you have run into much of this in your life, or a not much at all... I just wonder. People say a lot of shit about you, us, them when we are not around. You must know this. It's a lot better, in my opinion, to hear it straight up than for people to act all PC and fake in your face, when they clearly have racist and sexist leanings. I like to know exactly what I'm dealing with.

I won't defend Bukowski ...because I DO think he was a bit racist and pretty damn sexist at times. I think he softened up as he got older and changed as the times changed. I do blame his upbringing and his generation. He was born in the 20s. My father was the same exact way, even more so. Maybe that's why I wasn't shocked when I read these things.

I grew up with black people and we all experienced a lot of horrible, racist bullshit. I witnessed really fucked up things. We were musicians and had a wide variety of musical tastes. It was a great meshing of worlds, but other people out there are still twisted with some stupid ideas. I think there always will be.

When I started reading Bukowski, believe it or not, I was somewhat of a feminist! It was difficult to get past the womanizing, but I accepted it as his character. This was who he was and with all his dirt and grit, he was still a human and BECAUSE of Ham on Rye, I understood why he was the way he was. It was amazing to me that he could be optimistic and hopeful about the world and women when he was. He was a broken soul that found a way to write incredible stories and poems after surviving a shit storm. I found it easier (perhaps easier than you) to be empathetic.
mjp - Your response wasn't racist but it sure as hell was rude and confrontational. Having a bad day ? C'mon - unless Austin Charles is a troll, chill out.
I was responding in kind. It's all the rage.

How else do you reply to such a post? With a defense? We're not here to speak for Bukowski, or as our friend suggests, "for white men."

It's a stupid conversation, and not one, I believe, that would have been started by someone who wasn't so young and full of shit piss and vinegar.
To defend mjp, he's just saying that Austin isn't a "one of a kind" for hanging out with white people and listening to rock. Austin gives away his age for saying something like that. Also, he's saying he "hates" Bulowski for these lines, which I understand, but he's making enemies with a group of people that could be his friends. I understand mjp perfectly. But I have a lot of the inside scoop on the way he ticks.
I believe it would be prudent at this point to make it very clear that Mr. Phillips loves people of all races and wishes fervently that we could put our differences aside and live as one. He has some strange ideas about what it means to "live as one," but attorney/client privilege prevents me from making any further statement in that regard.

Once again, there was no ill-will, slanderous intention or effort to libel in Mr. Phillips' statements. Any interpretation of them as such is misinformed and mistaken, and I request they be stricken from the record.

Thank you.
From anything i have read by Bukowski, he is not a "racist", or a sexist, if anything he is a misantrophe (with a bluebird inside)
If I knew a person was semi-fickle-minded and thin-skinned, Buk is the last person I would recommend they read, he is an author for people who have lived a little, ie. (adults), and most adults/people who have lived a little/people who can think, wil realise that racism and sexism actually do not, nor CAN not exist independantlly alone as a single entity, they are merely by-products of the social/emotional setting in which a person has lived for a prolonnged period of time.

I know one thing for certain, Bukowski had a HEART, a pounding, loving,living,dying heart. Probably more than most people I know, even though I didn't know him, but you know what I mean, I hope.

One love brothers and sisters, everywhere x
I know one thing for certain, Bukowski had a HEART, a pounding, loving,living,dying heart. Probably more than most people I know, even though I didn't know him, but you know what I mean, I hope.


Speaking for myself, I didn't pick up on ANY type of youthful, "too-inexperienced-to-know-better" vibe from Austin Charles' post. I read it in the context in which he presented it: A black guy offering his reaction to racist terminology being used by a writer whom he otherwise admires. He shared his viewpoint and asked for ours. Well, it's a touchy subject for sure. I've been a member of this forum for 6 years and I can't recall this subject being raised before. Which is what kind of derailed me when I read your reply, mjp. It looked arrogant and taunting, instead of conversational. C'mon -.... "little brother man" and "tough part of town"... you don't see the hostility in that ? OK - call me overly-sensitive, but it rubbed me the wrong way.

For the record, Austin Charles - if you're still listening - mjp is NOT a racist. And, in my opinion, neither was Buk.

Who's got the acoustic guitar ? We need a Kumbaya here....
I think the OP raises a fair enough point. I don't really agree Chinaski or Bukowski were racist (I think it's important to separate the two), however people can have racist thoughts / say racist things in the heat of the moment. They may then deeply regret what they thought or said. Perhaps this is an example of this. I know (as has been pointed out) that Hector was a Hispanic, rather than African American, character but it's still an offensive term to use I suppose.
Isn't a bit of a contradiction to be offended by this term being used but to be ok with Chinaski hanging out with Nazis though? (I assumed you're ok with the latter since you still like Ham on Rye, Austin).
Its all so simple in my eyes.
If you're mad at someone you might use a cuss word or a racial phrase to show you're anger.
Very, very simple.
If Buk had written something like "that pile of shit" in the text mentioned it would have had the same meaning.
Not racism, but anger.
Now go ahead and call me a norsky cracker.
a couple of Bukowski's co-workers from the post office (0:59)

"all right, all you monkeys/clear the god damned halls!" p.66 The Days Run Away...
C'mon -.... "little brother man" and "tough part of town"... you don't see the hostility in that ?
I call everybody brother and sister without irony or condescension. The kids I work with get called little brother, and they don't seem to take offense. The habit is left over from my time as a Black Panther in the 60s. I remember Austin's daddy, Brother Barrow. He taught me how to tear down an M16. We were tight. He'll vouch for me.

And the west side of Los Angeles is the wealthy part of town, if we're explaining jokes now.

The point is, no one should feel like they have to explain or defend Bukowski as a person to someone who gets their panties bunched up over a word in 40 year old book. A word that wasn't even applied to him or his father or his grandfather. I'm surprised no one has brought up this 65 year old poem yet. Or Huckleberry Finn. Don't read that Austin Charles, your head might explode.

I said - and continue to say - this is a stupid conversation because we are talking about one word in a book written generations ago by someone who was born before there was even a radio station in California. It's like discussing whether we should allow those dirty Irishmen into the country or repeal prohibition.
. It's like discussing whether we should allow those dirty Irishmen into the country or repeal prohibition.

Now Now my friend, my brother or sister, nemisis or allie, I must say, I take great umbgradge with that statement "dirty Irishmen", actually, I have never been so offended, ;)
I am almost too offended to type. let me say, we have showers and soap in Ireland too, not many jobs, not many attractive women (polish immigrants are a different story) our alcahol iss too expensive, our roads have too many pot-holes, our men depend too much on their mothers, our drink is too expensive, our music has been going downhill for decades, our politicians are brainless, our food mostly tasteless, our women are nott too attractive, ( apart formthe polish, who aren't relaly ours, butneeds must) our water is lacking in flouride, our future looks dismall, and we are neitral, but PLEASE please please dont call us dirty, we are not dirty,
if for now other reason than
the alcahol in our systems kill all known germs and illiminate 99.999%T of odours, and even if they didn't , every one would be too drunk to either notice or give a damn.
lol, I speak in jest brothers and sisters

Love and hate you all equally
You're the one who's tone-deaf...
That's what my last band said to me, right before they kicked me out and I subsequently "retired" from the music business. Now here you are, twenty-plus years later, opening those old wounds and twisting the knife. I thought we were friends.
Would you have preferred a more Twain like remark?????
Austin Don't you see what you did?
You glossed over the use of cunt-missed it entirely-didn't even blast a bleat about the word.
How dehumanizing is that to women??I mean women who give a shit about words and Twain and Bukowski and Lennon song titles. Now if you were a black woman+well then you may have a real issue.
Listen, I have read all of your comments. I just want to say, I understand all the technical shit, Bukowski was born in the 20s and he was born with learned racism and all that. Yes, I understand all that. What I'm trying to say is that many of you don't understand what its like to read this from a black reader's eyes. When the protagonist uses the word 'monkey' to refer to another character, he loses respect in my eyes. I love Buk, don't get me wrong, but in this scenario, he's dropped the ball with sympathy. I don't fell anyone can challenge me on that. Mjp, I'm just going to ignore you. and to answer your question esart, I'm only saying I hate Bukowski because he wrote that shit in his novel. I still love Buk. Listen, I'm not the hyper sensitive negro who will cry foul on any black person's pardon. I'm merely saying that the only person of color in this story was a 'monkey' and was seen as bad in the eyes of the white protagonist. I will advise you to read the term magic negro to see the same thing. Bukowski is not the best writer when penning a novel, and I'll be the first to call this out. His best work is his poetry. I'm just saying this could have been handled better. By the way mjp, I happen to agree with number6horse, I'm not a troll.

And yes Short Bus, women should totally be represented in this post. They are as equally as insulted. But since I'am not a woman, I will ask you to reserve that for another post

Maybe you don't get that I'm not challenging you or the fact that what Buk wrote is racist and sexist. I am not defending it. I am saying I accept that in him and/or in his fictional character. Accepting does not mean I agree. It just means I can understand him despite of this. It's part of the character, as I see it, it needs to be there as part of the truth in the work whether it offends me or not. That's all.
The thing here is that if any of us remained stuck on the stupid things that Bukowski said or did, and not get passed that, we would have to ignore all the good stuff that he stood for and done for the underdog, the lonely.
Austin Charles, I understand what makes you cringe, and as a woman, I also got angry by some of his sexist remarks. The fact is that as a reader, you need to separate his art from his personal life, although knowing his life helps to understand where he came and from where he'd shoot a line. You made it clear that you understand that.
That it is painful to you is also understood.
Here, I am trying to help you to get passed that bump, so is everyone else. Not that it should be ignored completely or discussed, but that Bukowski's intention was not to hurt others, but rather to heal himself as a survivor of his own horror.
I am not sure if this makes any sense? I just hope so.
Mjp- you'd assume wrong because you don't know shit about me. My daddy Brother Barrow? Really? If that was supposed to be a funny joke it was pretty horrible. I'm not telling you this as someone who is 'sensitive' and 'young' and easily offended, I'm just telling you because you aren't funny. Maybe if you weren't so condescending with your comments I'd reply to you in a respectful manner. But I don't care to. I won't feed a troll when I see one.

esart- I agree with what you said. And I didn't get that you were challenging me. As a writer I understand being true to character and all of that, but I'm viewing the work objectively as a reader to another artist's body of work. I'am merely commenting on his usage over a character that is of another race and commenting on how negatively he is portrayed in the context of the book. I'm not flipping out or anything I'm just calling it as I see it. Buk is a favorite writer of mine although I find his portrayal of women pretty one dimensional in many of the works I have read of his.

Do I think Buk was racist? Probably not, but as a reader I'am allowed to critize his usage of race in his novel. And I don't feel like race is a subject that is talked about much in Buk's work.
Hi Austin,

I certainly think that someone can be occasionally racist without being a racist, at heart. People are flawed, of course and may do things and say things that they later regret. Also, being racially insensitive seems different from being racist, but I am a suburban white guy, so I may not see it the same way. I guess what I'm saying is that Eminem using the N-word and David Duke using it seem, to me, to be completely different levels. One is maybe inappropriate in its insensitivity, while another is clearly meant to hurt.

I have been to poetry readings where I heard a white guy use the word in a poem. I always cringe, but the poem is meant not to be anti-black, but anti-racist (in the same way that it is used by Burroughs in the poem THANKSGIVING PRAYER.) I have never seen people have a problem with it, and although the readings are overwhelmingly white, there are people of color there. In the same way, I have seem Asians walk out at racially insensitive comments in poetry readings.

I have heard people say that Buk was anti-gay. He certainly said some very insensitive things about some gay people (especially when viewed through 2012 goggles), but he also had very close gay friends. If you view many things from the past with current standards, you will see a LOT of things that were not considered racist then, but today are seen for what they are. Take the Abbott and Costello buck-toothed Japanese or the "It's a Small World" ride at Disney.

Add to this, that Post Office is a piece of fiction and Chinaski is similar, but not exactly Bukowski and it muddies the waters. Chinaski can be racist, but that does not mean that Bukowski is racist anymore than it makes an author a sex predator is they write a story about one.

Anyhow, that is my lily-white take on it, for what its worth.
Race is not talked about anywhere ever because people are afraid they are going to say the wrong thing. Often they do. Usually they are misunderstood - like mjp. I too have been pegged as racist, against whites, against all kinds of people. Am I? I really don't think I am, but I might have a little leaning towards the underdog in most situations. That's just me.

I've tried to speak about it on forums and have had rotten fruit thrown at me. I think it's good to talk about. Then again, I also see the viewpoint that it's meaningless too. I think the majority of people are good. Some say ignorant things sometimes, but I really don't think they have a true dislike against a whole group of people. Of course there are some groups of people out there - whack jobs - that want to destroy all of us that are not Anglo pure, but they are a small band of freaks that will hopefully destroy their own selves. People without brains are the least of my problems. I'm interested in people in my life I can address when this stuff comes up.
And not to get all "yes we can", but things are getting better for minorities, although not fast enough. If I live long enough, I hope to see a society where differences are not seen as a negative, be it color, sex, orientations. Of course, while the old guard sees this, they get more militant and upset as the world changes around them. Still, they only live so long and are replaced with more and more people who see a person as a person....
What polarizes me from Bukowski's work is his use of the word monkey on page 116 of Post Office. I loved this book up until the point in which he started saying this shit that pissed me off and made me skip pages till the end. (But don't get me wrong, I have read this entire novel). He says, "Cunt! You set this up, didn't you? You'd let this monkey kill me for the lousy 4 or 5 hundred bucks in my wallet!"

Chinaski has had a streak of luck at the track, taken a leave of absence from the post office, and "saves" a supposedly drunken Mary Lou from being tossed out by track security. Has a great time with her immediately and then goes to pick up her stuff, with her, at the motel of the man she had arrived at the track with the day before, Hector -- a little dark guy with a wart on the side of his nose.

Hector ("what the hell kind of name was that") and Chinaski swap ideas concerning where Mary Lou will go. She signals that it's Hank. Hector has brought out three beers before this. Hank swaps the beer set out for him with Hector's. He seems to be smelling a scam and maybe the end of his good luck and his life away from the post office.

Then he catches a glimpse of Hector in the mirror coming at him with the bottle. Hank swings first and comes to a quick, angry, life-just-been-threatened conclusion stated with the phrase/word you got angry over.

Hank leaves but is looking over his shoulder for some sort of retribution for a while after. He might have made the wrong call on the Grifter game (feign drunkenness and set him up for a robbery even if that takes fucking him to get his confidence) but Hector was on the potentially lethal offensive for whatever reason (jealousy, theft, etc.).

So was "monkey" just a heat of the moment word (if you're going to write fiction it better be believable to the reader) or a reference to an "organ grinder (Mary Lou) and monkey (Hector)" Grifter game?

Or would the more Chandleresque words like "big ape" or "gorilla" have worked for you? (Of course, Hector had been described as "little" so he wasn't either of those.)

The other thing is what edition of Post Office do you have? The Black Sparrow trade edition I have only has 115 pages. And the Ecco trade edition has the offensive line on page 142. 116 doesn't work for me.

Phew, that's a lot of typing for one word.
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i would rather someone come in and express hatred for lines bukowski wrote (while still professing love for his body of work) than the seemingly endless parade of losers who fashion themselves the modern reincarnation of him. he was a lout who used offensive language for effect. the scene in question is only one of many. it still baffles me why people want to try so hard to emulate him, and so i certainly won't begrudge someone who has a visceral negative reaction to his work. (in fact, i'd much prefer discussing this than just running around the garden variety criticisms of his work that people tend to toss around.)

bukowski's characters were louts as well. shit, i find the fact that the protagonist in post office RAPES A WOMAN slightly more off-putting than any epithets that come out of his mouth. does this make bukowski sexist? a rapist? the whole point of the book is to chronicle the down-and-out, the poverty, the desperation of the flipside of the american dream. it's a dark, shitty world down there, and i think bukowski was courageous in that he didn't seem to mind if people attached this or that label to him the writer because he wrote in the first person about a protagonist who resembled him in a lot of ways. this, or any of the other controversial scenes in his work doesn't make me hate him, not by a long shot. defending it as "of its time" misses the point - the nasty shit in his work is "of its context" in that, when you're reduced to that life, where you're struggling to eat and put a roof over your head, your mind betrays you and you start thinking some really bad stuff... things you don't want to admit to yourself that you would ever think. i think it's a real stretch to extrapolate the exclamations of a character in such a state into a judgment of the author himself, but as a reader, you're free to do it. just imagine how bland bukowski's books would be if they were sanitized to remove all of those traces - because it's not just one racist word, its an entire depiction of a state of mind.
Listen, I have read all of your comments. I just want to say, I understand all the technical shit, Bukowski was born in the 20s and he was born with learned racism and all that. Yes, I understand all that. What I'm trying to say is that many of you don't understand what its like to read this from a black reader's eyes.

That's essentially what I wanted to say too. When it comes right down to it, I don't think white people (like me) can ever REALLY understand the hurtfulness of language like that. And to just wave your hand and say "Get over it - that was 40 years ago" is kind of condescending. But talking things through is always best. Look at how this thread is turning out. Some good points are being made and the dialogue continues...
I wasn't even aware, that monkey is a racist term. I read it as synonym for a stupid and brutal grifter. Of course, it's not my mother tongue so I never get all the meanings, terms and nuances.


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