Racist part in Post office

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.


Founding member
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....

Digney in Burnaby

donkeys live a long time
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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lothario speedwagon
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...


Founding member
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.



Founding member
to just wave your hand and say "Get over it - that was 40 years ago" is kind of condescending.
Okay. So how far back are we going? Where is the cut-off point when we stop taking offense at the words of the dead? In art? The bible that so many people hold dear and sacred is full of slavery and murder and unbridled hatred of women. Why don't we talk about that?

Or would that be a pointless conversation that will never resolve anything?

It's human nature to focus on, and exploit, differences rather than commonalities. That's why people who promote the idea of unity meet such resistance and have historically ended up on the wrong end of a rope, guillotine or bullet. I do not believe, based on being alive at this moment and growing up in the 60s, that discussions about friction between different kinds of people have ever made anything better.

Arabs and Jews have been slaughtering each other for thousands of years, and will continue to do so, despite all the talk and treaties and governmental hand-wringing. Because they hate each other. It isn't rational, it just is.

What we say is important, I'm not arguing that it is not. But much more important is how we behave in the world when we're face to face with each other. Taking offense at a word in a novel, a work of fiction, is like taking offense at a crucifix in a jar of piss, or a sliced up shark carcass. It's pointless.

As far as things getting better for minorities, that's good news for me, since I live in a city (and very soon a state and country) where I am a minority.

Being in the minority isn't the problem. Lack of power over your own destiny is the problem. And that has always been a political problem, not a social problem. Which is why Malcolm X said, "Whether you use bullets or ballots, don't strike at the puppet, strike at the puppeteer."

As long as those in power can keep the masses at each others throats, their position is safe. You don't have to look any further than American politics to see that.

the only good poet

One retreat after another without peace.
Johannes - you would have to come with your own agenda to read B's use of the term as a racial slur.

I believe Russell Harrison cites the poem, yeah, man? in Dangling to point to Chinaski's racism.


Founding member
If you really want to you can read a lot of racism, anti-black statements in B's work. Like "Who's afraid of LeRoi Brown", the Notes column or "The Black Poets" (forgot which collection, Mockingbird?), interviews, Bukowski-tapes ("The Kid Stardust in the Slaughterhouse" - story told there) and etc.

About 99% of what I've read is self-referential and tongue-in-cheek, always "If that's an anti-black statement here, so be it", which really makes it something else -- like a literary tool of provocation in a politically correct cultural climate. He did it on purpose. So the "monkey"-term would be the 1% exception, not fitting in this scheme, at least with me. If it is a greasy nasty rasist-term slipped to the reader under hand to present the authors true political opinion. Even tho it is not my mother-tongue, I have a strong feeling that this interpretation is bullshit.

Then again, I am not black and of course in no way want to defend or support racism or discrimination of any kind or anybody. As, I guess, nobody around here would.

d gray

tried to do his best but could not
Founding member
last lines of "the black poets" -

"o.k., muthafucka, you ain't seen the last of

I suppose I haven't. and it's useless to tell you that I am not
that's when the whole subject becomes

all necessary points have been made. this thread is spinning its wheels.

Gerard K H Love

Appreciate your friends
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.'
I would like to think maybe the great editor may have had a hand in this but the book is raw, by design.

As for your step dad, there is the NAACP!


I think that I think too much
Founding member
Yeah well, I'm kind of offended about his derogatory remarks about Hippies and the underground presses that he wrote for. That was serious shit.. Revolution man. Hell, I just may stop reading that racist bastard. I think that if one reads enough Buk the positives out weigh the negatives when he speaks of african americans. I think that at least he felt some commonality with the "poor working class blacks" I can't recall him ever speaking positive of the "Hippie movement" He always said the safest people to discriminate against, or shit on, was the white american male.
He wasn't as down on the hippies as you say here. He defended the hippies against Jon Webb when Webb asked him to write a diatribe against them and the opening column in More Notes describes a discussion he had with a co-worker at the post office in which he again defends them...And he even says he was the "first hippie" or "first Beat" (I believe in the essay "A Dirty Old Man Confesses") back in the Thirties and Forties when he had already "dropped out" of American society. He didn't like their "softness" I think and the fact that after all many were pampered middle-class kids...
Sticks and stones man. What are you doing reading a volatile bums prose if words can hurt you? He calls old Hector a monkey because the guy is a Neanderthal bastard who tries to stab him in the back and is too stupid to even manage that.
@Jordan, you pretty much hit the nail on the head. Thank you for that.

@number6horse I totally agree. I could be wrong, I could be stupid for this or that, but I'm glad I got this dialogue going at least.
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.

you came onto a bukowski page and said he should have known better. running with the big dogs here. i for one am glad that mjp toed the line, even if in an unsavoury fashion.

because face it. no. he should not have 'known better.' do you have any idea what the man had been through by that time in his life? what kind of fucking world he lived in? one of the starred jewels in bukowski is that he wrote FROM A PLACE, not FROM A POLITIC. and that place was not pretty man. they've glossed it all over by now, guys waving the flag of ideology and niceness and pushing all the grime aside. to me when bukowski wrote novels, he was transmitting. like an antennae. if his antennae picked up a racial slur or a condescending attitude, it's not because he invented the fucker, it's because he was so busy filtering out all the other garbage that our culture pumped into him, and maybe he had an inkling that it was important to leave some reality on the page alongside the art.

and no, i'm not defending him. i'm explaining him. i'm not doing him a favor, i'm doing you one.

finally, i think monkey is a great term to talk some shit about anybody. i grew up outside of detroit and we used it for white kids black kids green kids, didn't matter. and it was tongue-in-cheek because we all thought monkeys are actually a pretty fucking awesome animal. just a way to talk some shit about somebody. i understand that the term has been used to oppress black folks. and the oppression of black folks, while it hasn't gone on nearly as long as the oppression of irish folks, is a shame.

Shame on the oppressors, that's really the only bottom line here imo.

judge not lest ye be judged to be young and sure is lovely but you are just beginning to use your brain lad...hate takes up too much energy

ive laughed with low level rap artists about why i lost my teaching job in the inner city its all about context you can learn from something or react to it the most offensive racist term i've ever heard were utterd by my co-workers in the teaching game that word is "they" as in, " you know how they are" instant skin crawl, instant revulsion to be painted with a racist brush, to be a co-conspirator not enuf hot showers in the world

i spent 12 years trying to help my parents were hippies and activists and i thought i knew what the worst word in the world was i tried to fight the good fight i tried to replace ignorance with enlightenment but why? ignorance is bliss why am i trying to replace someomes bliss with a lifetime of difficult questions? teaching someone to read is like trying to drive them crazy

the most public use of the MONKEY description was by HOWARD COSELL on live TV during a Monday Night Football game - you can read that book and discover the details

anyONE, the offendER or offendEE, can pick what IS and ISN'T racist to THEM

SUBliminally, it has been indicated, we are ALL racist




Founding member
One of my favorite B and B episodes! I actually got MTV recently because they were back on the air, but now have unfortunately apparently disappeared again...
I didn't know black people could read.

*removes that*

I think it's ridiculous to get bent out of shape over one potentially racist word in the book. As has been stated before, Hank repeatedly referred to women as cunts, etc, and no one complains about that except maybe the most hard-up feminist. I think as has been said Bukowski's writing is gritty, it is down-to-earth and it's realistic.

Austin, what about all the black rappers and comedians who refer to white people as honky or cracker? Does this offend you? It sure as hell doesn't bother me.

MJP, you are a genius.


Austin, what about all the black rappers and comedians who refer to white people as honky (snip)...

You gotta get in a time machine to hear white people in this country called "honky". The last time I heard that word, it was from a dry cleaner livin' on the East Side in a deluxe apartment in the the sky, i, i, ....


Art should be its own hammer.
Founding member
honky may have lost its cache, but jive ass turkey is still devastatingly relevant.
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