So I Finished Ham On Rye

Well I'll be a son of a b****, Ham On Rye was the first book I finished cover to cover in what feels like an eternity and I did it in a matter of days which I hope conveys how much I loved it. I said in my introductory thread that I had not been this excited by a work since Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment and I write this before you still echoing that sentiment. Ham On Rye was an absolutely enthralling experience and taking this journey with Henry "Hank" Chinaski was nothing short of a delight. I trust that I am in honest company when I confide this, but still I am tentative to say it. However, this thread would be disingenuous if I did not say that I identified so strongly with Hank. From the self-loathing, all the way to his frustration of being unable to connect with women even on a purely physical level, Hank's existential plight is one that strongly resonates with me and even now there are some residual aspects of my struggle that stay with me and bond me to Hank.

I have to say I cheered him on the entire way. I yearned for nothing more than for Hank to beat the ever loving hell out of his father Henry Sr., who to me was worth less than the dirt kicked up by my shoes. I admired our anti-hero. For while he had his glimmers of sadism and generally had a loathing for companionship (The interactions between him and Jimmy Hatcher were HILARIOUS), he was never completely void of compassion. I think one of my favorite relationships in the book was the friendship between him and Becker (Becker is amazing by the way. Him and his gang of outsiders drinking with Hank was one of my favorite scenes in the book.). You can tell he cares about Becker and the feeling is mutual. Hank being able to make and maintain that connection gives me hope for him.

What I loved most of all about Hank though, was his refusal to submit. The philosopher Nietzsche once made an important distinction with the philosophical concept of nihilism. Nietzsche asserted that there existed active nihilism and passive nihilism. Passive nihilism is when Man doesn't actualize their own purpose or meaning in the desert and just assimilate within the confines of a pre-existing ideal (Identifying solely as a Democrat or a Catholic for instance). Then there is active nihilism. Active nihilism is when one actively pursues meaning and strives towards finding purpose in their life. Now Hank may not appear to be an active nihilist to many. After all, he says multiple times that he just wants to be alone and drink, maybe get a woman or two every now and again. That said, He never succumbs to the herd of his age. He doesn't work the jobs people want him to work, he doesn't apply himself in school and barely gets by, and he doesn't get swept up in the fervor of nationalism in a WWII America and become a soldier or a Marine. He may be a louse sure, but he is a louse by his own design. The scene where he is watching the rich and beautiful dancing and being happy, he swears by that sight that he will find his own happiness. He may be a radical pessimist, but in my estimation he never fully yields to the pessimism. I'd say he is one of my favorite literary characters from this book alone.

I want to give thanks to two entities to conclude this post. The first is Charles Bukowski himself for being such a magnificent author in writing this work. It was crude and in your face (I felt Jimmy's antics particularly exemplified this tone) and captured the voice of the youth and its existential woes in the form of Henry "Hank" Chinaski. It has been too long since I have awoken from my slumbers as far as pure literature outside of Philosophy is concerned, I owe Bukowski a significant debt. My second thanks, goes out to this forum and the entirety of its constituents. The feedback on my introductory post was so warm, sincere, and substantive and I recognize I have discovered a real treasure in Bukowski not just in his writing acumen, but in those who faithfully read him. I look forward to many future discourses as I continue my personal odyssey through his authorship. Next up is Factotum. In the meantime, in the spirit of Hank, I am gonna toss back a drink (Water), and go to bed to do this wonderful humdrum we call life all over again in the morning. Take care guys.

PS: It doesn't feel right not ending this with a question. So here are three

1. Overall thoughts on the book?
2. Favorite moment(s) of the book?
3. Do you feel like you identify with Hank in any sense and if so how?
 
The main thing I always remember about Ham on Rye is that last couple of pages when he's playing that boxing penny arcade game. Brings a fucking tear to my eye every single time. I think it's some of Bukowski's best writing.

I love the book overall but Hank told so many of the stories contained in it so many different times that some of his childhood traumas start to lose some of their impact eventually, as jaded as that may sound. I envy you that you're coming into these books with a completely fresh perspective.
 
@CaseyW are you saying that books like Factotum and others are a bit repetitive? Because I know we keep following Hank. Also yes, that scene was so well written.
 
No. Not at all. He doesn't repeat a lot of stories in his novels since they all take place at different parts in his life. But in the bazillion short stories and poems and recorded interviews, you do eventually start to hear some of the same stories again. So now when I read Ham on Rye again for the fifth or sixth or tenth time, the stories still have impact, just not THE SAME that they once did for me.
 
@CaseyW Understood. I am so ready to start Factotum tonight. I have so much Bukowski content to consume and the existence of this forum just makes it so much better.
 
if you want to talk Nietzsche, bukowski always reminds me of Nietzsche's passages on the morality of ressentiment/resentment. It seems like in some poems somewhere I've seen Bukowski talk about reading the great philosophers and he seemed to work his way out of the classes, to become his own man free from all the constraints of the working man.It took a hell of a long time, but he did it through perseverance. One passage that always reminds me of Nietzsche was from factotum "How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 8:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?"

Maybe sometimes resentment be it, to your enslaver, your society, your parents, and all the hardship and adversity, and beatings you've had, you come out with resentment, but you can choose how you rise above, some with words, other with action. either way shit's about to go down.
 
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