A review of Ham on Rye, by Charles Bukowski
Masculinity is hilarious. Men are expected to kick ass and fuck anything that moves, as long as your peers approve of those whose asses are to be kicked, or that the housing for the orifice you seek to penetrate meets their requirements. In other words, dudes are fucking stupid. We covet the approval of other dudes when other dudes do little to nothing for us.
“GET ALL THE PUSSY!” is their battle song. But make sure the girl is sexy enough so that your buddies don’t rag you over fucking some troglodyte.
“KICK ALL THE ASS,” they cry! And when you don’t, you’re a pussy. Because all men want pussy more than they wish to be one.
“BEAT IT UP!” they scream. Because sometimes the line between sex and violence is blurred for men. But sex is just as important as violence and requires the same amount of masculinity to achieve. SO ONWARD WAYWARD COCK!
Fuck off. It’s silly. The only thing required of you to “BE A MAN!” is that you have a penis. That’s it. You only need one thing to be a woman. Guess what that is? You guessed it. A vagina.
And because it’s bound to come up, I’m not here to debate gender identity. If you identify as something other than the sex you were born, I respect that. I’m talking about the prerequisites for gender status. Or, if you will, the absurdity of gender expectations.
I was called a “sissy” and a “faggot” a lot when I was younger because I’d only fight to protect myself. I wouldn’t instigate a fight over words, or to defend my honor. Because of this, my masculinity was always in question. Years later, I got married and had two kids. Guess there was never anything wrong with my “masculinity”. My parts work just fine.
I said all that to say this: I love this fucking book. It pokes fun at every aspect of masculinity and the absurdity of manhood. I find it funny beyond belief that Bukowski’s character Henry Chinaski (allegedly an alias for himself, and this book a fictionalized auto-biography of his own life) would point out the posteriors of men just as much as he pointed out boobs and vaginas (or, in his words, “cunts”). He also used words like “pretty” and “beautiful” to describe men in the book. Everything about this novel challenges gender norms and that’s probably what I dug most about it.
The book is vulgar and its crudeness speaks to the theme. You’ll read about everything from old people fucking to guys jacking off dogs to teenage boys looking up through bleachers to scope out a bared vagina. Bukowski pulls no punches. He pours water into the male psyche to find all the holes and short circuit the machinery.
I dug every page of this novel. It is thought provoking and laugh-out-loud funny. Any book that pulls that off gets all the stars from yours truly.
In summation: This novel is, simply put, brilliant. It works as both parody and serious literature. If you think never the twain could meet, I suggest you read this book and look past the simple language to see the bigger message. Bukowski had Vonnegut-level skills, yo.
Final Judgment: Sings, “NOW YOU’RE A MAN, A MAN MAN MAN!”
See you tomorrow,
Pic of the Day
Oh, the horror!