November 20, 2011

A Book Review: Factotum

Charles Bukowski's Factotum (Kindle) is the story of a low-income, alcoholic transient whose companions are whores and jobs are menial. Sure, there's more to it: rejected from the WWII draft, aspiring writer, even a possible murder. Nonetheless, the series of events that transpire, which are loosely connected at best, ultimately rely on the elements in the first sentence.

Bonus points if you name the country.
Factotum was my first Bukowski novel. I caught a documentary on his life a few years back, so I had an idea of what to expect as far as subject matter, and understood the main character, Henry Chinaski, served as a semi-autobiographical character. Therein lies the key to this story's success. The matter of fact nature with which the most absurd events are described rings true only because of the intimate knowledge the author has of the subject matter. Even if I had the writing skills of a master, my version of this story would sound hollow and feel weightless.

Despite the seedy nature of Chinaski's life, his choices bring up an interesting point. He doesn't take work that would interfere with his writing, even though his drinking probably handicaps him more than anything. Despite the perpetual poverty in which he continues to live, he ultimately chooses to do so for the sake of following his chosen profession. In a society where people trudge through life with jobs they hate, I have to give credit to Chinaski for rejecting society's norm. He does so at many expenses, and is not necessarily happy (how do we define that adjective anyway?), but he's living his life.

Given the semi-autobiographical nature of this story, I'm left wondering if my path through life would make an interesting novel. The cliche answer suggests everyone has a story. Is it the one you want to tell, though?

I have to at least mention how I came to read this book. The recommendation came at 5:30 am in the house of a woman I had met twelve hours prior who owned an unexpectedly good book collection. We were drunk. Seems appropriate.

Purchase the paperback, Nook or Kindle version, or just go to your library.


  1. that does seem like a very cool book...however, the cliche seems inevitable. oh well.

  2. wow. I'd say, my story isn't that interesting as others :)

    thanks for dropping by at mines :)

    re your comment: I'm not really sure. I don't go to bars, but if I do, I don't pay much attention about their set up :)

    but I think some places in the Philippines..maybe not just in our city "Cagayan de Oro" :)

  3. Sounds interesting, certainly more interesting than the life I've lead so far.

  4. Nice post!
    Great blog.

  5. i dont know what country that is but from that PoV that bottle says "ass" haha

  6. @Tony Storm: Cass is a popular South Korean beer, which I assumed is a portmanteau of Can of Ass.


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