Tag Archives: literature

A Piece of Charles Bukowski’s Ham on Rye


I don’t have a storied past with Charles Bukowski. I got acquainted with him through Brandon Boyd of Incubus. He was a guest at an MTV show and he was asked who his favorite writer is, and he answered Charles Bukowski. I was probably 15 and could not afford books yet, so I read what I could about him and his works online.

The other week, I was looking to add another book to my Haruki Murakami collection, and there it was peaking through “Dance, Dance, Dance” and “Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World”, “HAM ON RYE”. It was the only copy on the shelf. Iloilo city is not entirely a city where you can find every literature you want and ordering things online would just double the item’s price. It was a little bit serendipitous. It was a little bit serendipitious.

Ham on Rye is known as an autobiographical novel where Charles Bukowski retells his childhood, adolescence and how he found his way to writing. It also has the most intriguing first line in a novel, “The first thing I remember is being under something.” which could probably symbolize how he started at the bottom. It was fun to read. I ate every word like they are my favorite sandwich. When you think your life sucks, think about how the children of the 1940’s struggle with war and famine which to an outsider’s point view is basically an impending apocalypse. The world outside is struggling, your home is a wreck and you don’t even know what to make of yourself.

Although the novel is set in pre-World War II, everything is strangely identifiable. The protagonist, Henry Chinaski, is like you. He is the self you don’t want to end up with. He is Charles Bukowski before he became the writer everyone wanted to be like. His honesty is scary. His courage is praiseworthy. You want to be like him because he was able to escape all of the horse shit he was forced to take while growing up.

Probably the best lesson of Ham on Rye is choice. Henry choose to stand up from his bullies. He choose to take his father’s beating until he could not feel the pain anymore. He choose not to go the war because he has reasons. And most of all Henry Chinaski choose his path, the one that lead him to becoming Charles Bukowski.

I had to put it down every other chapter to prolong that indescribable feeling you get when you read a great book. He is funny. He is sad. He is all what he has become. You read a Charles Bukowski poem and you realize that there is a well that flows with creativity and wisdom resulting from years of struggle both external and internal. It is a well where you could look at, and find yourself behind its ripples.

The title Ham on Rye is an undisclosed riddle. Is it a nod to Catcher in the Rye? The tone is similar but Charles Bukowski is larger, whereas J.D. Salinger is all narcissism. Is it a reference to alcohol? The book sounds like an alcohol driven prose on its surface. But many say that it is pertaining to Bukowski’s favorite sandwich which is very fitting because the book seems like a good piece of his life.

She Blabbered On and On


The most uninteresting things in this world run like the longest hand of a clock.  You stare at them for an hour and they won’t go away. Sometimes you don’t stare at them, you feel them like a sharp knife with poisonous blade piercing through your existence and leaving a hole. The uninteresting things in this life steal your breath second by second.

She is alone.  She is always alone.

The people she sees they’re like the waves that kiss her feet only to leave seconds after. Why is life so full of goodbyes? If the world stays the same for every revolving of a clock, the world could have been a lot more easier to live in. No changes of hearts. The wind blows, we breathe. There will be no birth so that there will be no death, man only lives.

She wishes.  She is full of wishes.

She wishes she can paint how she feels about him like how Van Gogh painted the Paris skies. What she feels for him is beautiful and there is no great artist could ever express. Sometimes, she wants to kill herself for wanting him. No. She wants to kill that feeling. Shoot it with a bullet straight to its heart. That feeling is a viscous animal that needs to be silenced before it turns into a monster and eat her alive. To love is both a beauty and a curse.

She might be in love with him.

His comfort is the soft pillow she hugs at night. The four yellow corners of her room bear witness to the tears that were shed when the dreadful feeling was realized. He knocked on her door. She opened. But then he already left. Time screws everything up when it should have placed things in their right order.

She’s alone, wishing, loving and blabbering on and on.

Trapped by Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood (Book Review)


 

Never have I read a book that made me cry with its first page. You may say I havent read a lot, which in a sense is correct but I’m pretty confident I’ve read a great deal of tear-jerker.

Norwegian Wood is a collage of chronologically scattered order of memories about grief, lost love and confusion. The book opens with the protagonist, Watanabe on an airport hearing Norwegian Wood and reminiscing about his love Naoko. After that scene the chapters goes on to build up a growing love that could move imaginary mountains. Naoko is the air that keeps Watanabe breathing. But like the air he can’t hold her. Naoko is in a world where the death of her sister and her ex-boyfriend keeps her confined. She is trying to break free for Watanabe. On the otherhand, Watanabe is struggling in the real world where he sees nothing but the incomprehensible human behaviors. One afternoon, a free spirited girl named Midori walks into his life. Watanabe finds himself drawn to her. And it goes on as a poignant realization of whom he truly love. He must choose between the love he breathes and the love that could make him breathe.

The plot is a little bit flat with no depth on it but series of struggle building a climax that couldn’t be reached. You’ll get hooked leaving through the pages as it hypes up an event. Then the event happens but you’ve already read past it. It’s like experiencing the whole process and feeling the thrill after it. You’ll get that conclusion after reading the last page and you expect another chapter to extend the read and give you an actual ending. I hate it when that happens to a good book like this. Or maybe I am just hoping Murakami would end it all differently.

The theme is pretty ordinary, its how the author carries it, that makes it compelling. Watanabe sounds like a sexually aware Holden Caulfield trying to act like he is Nick Carraway. The Catcher in the Rye and The Great Gatsby references doesn’t help the similarities of some of the character to the two earlier books. If you’re a fan of both novels the “any friend of Gatsby is a friend of mine” comment is surely going to amuse you.

If compared to Beatles songs, Naoko would be Penny Lane and Midori would be Blackbird. Both songs are mentioned on the book. Maybe they are actually based on those beautiful songs.

Overall, the book is a reminder of anybody’s youth. Whether they are from the 60’s or 70’s, whether we listen to The Beatles or Jim Morrison, whether we read F. Scott Fitzgerald or Marx, we all could feel sympathy to a person who has loved deeply beyond his sanity could handle. Some of us might have even experienced it.

PS:

Yes, as you might have guessed it, I’m trying to reference the this blogs title to the song.