Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowksi

A novel written in an autobiographical style, beginning with the earliest memories of a young boy. It swings wildly from humor to intense suffering. Henry's natural elan is beaten out of him (literally) and he develops a deep self-hatred and despair, numbing his pain through alcohol and constant violence towards anyone he starts to develop friendship with. It's a brutal story. Graduating from high school during the Depression, he fails to find employment and spends a spell failing in college. The novel ends with the attack on Pearl Harbor and I'm left wondering whether he has the strength to find any joy or purpose in life. The process of Henry's disillusionment and alienation is lovingly spelled out in incident after incident until he ends up completely detached from society, without any ambitions, unable to visualize any valid life for himself, any connection between himself and others that's not based on fraud.

Engrossing. Valuable.

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