Monday, November 24, 2008

A Break with Bukowski

Since I was traveling last week - and attending a Smashing Pumpkins concert on Friday, and a Marquette basketball game on Saturday - I had no time to read Infinite Jest (so I'm still 526 pages in ). But, on the plane to and from Boston, I did manage to plow through a book called Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski.

I'd never read Bukowski before, but I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a short, quick coming-of-age tale about a boy (supposedly Bukowski's alter ego - Henry Chinaski) growing up in Los Angeles during the Great Depression. Chinaski grows increasingly mean and misanthropic, constantly getting in fights (including with his father) and drinking himself stupid. The novel ends on the day the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor, and now-20-year-old Chinaski is getting beat in an arcade boxing game by a nine-year old kid - clearly a metaphor for how difficult and broken Chinaski (Bukowski) feels life is.

Bukowski's minimalist prose couldn't be in more contrast to DFW's literary acrobatics. So, Ham on Rye was a nice way to sort of relax and take a break from Infinite Jest. But now it's back to actually having to concentrate very intensely on the prose, instead of just flying through it. Almost half way there....

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