Why Charles Bukowski Was the Absolute Best

Chapter 12. Page 32, of my copy.

Bukowski’s Post Office is a landmark novel for many, the perfect kind of paperback to toss in your sack for a train, a Chunnel, or the overnights spent on the back bench of your Toyota. It gives comfort to the lonely and hope to the hopeless, because that’s precisely what Bukowski – and his alter-ego Henry Chinaski – was. He was lonely and he was hopeless, and he found humour in it, although I’m sure there was a lot of pain there.

The best laugh at pain, after all. The worst write about it. It’s fair to say Bukowski could easily qualify for either, sometimes at once.

On that page, however, he proves his brilliance. Many of us couldn’t care less for God, or his temples. The rest of us, apparently, love God and nothing else.

Still, it would be too easy – too amateur – to simply state that, get angry, and call it a day. Instead of rifling off at Jesus Christ – whom I can safely say a man as cynical and introspective as Charles Bukowski didn’t give a damn about – the writer instead dismisses him, and quite casually.

Dismissing someone casually is much more insulting than dismissing them obviously, anyway, isn’t it?

Many have lined up to yell at religious figures. They’ve written essays and they’ve held debates that only serve to bolster the supporters of either side, and they’ve hosted shows on HBO.

But, it’s Bukowski who knows how to really drive the nail through the argument (pun completely intended).

On Page 32 of Post Office, Bukowski begins writing about a man named Nekalayla, who it seems is either a religious fellow or not even mortal at all.

“Nekalayla claimed he had once been walking through the desert when he met Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ told him everything. They sat on a rock together and J.C. laid it on him. Now he was passing the secrets on to those who could afford it. He also held a service every Sunday. His help, who were also his followers, rang in and out on timeclocks.”

That was a whole paragraph, but it’s that one abbreviation that stands out, quite violently, above the rest. J.C.

“J.C. laid it on him.”

Without even directly saying it, Bukowski has managed to completely slaughter someone who he as no time for, and he proves he has no time for him by literally spending no time on him.

“J.C.”

That’s all he needed. He didn’t need to insult the man – the Messiah, to some – or call him names. He didn’t try to prove magic didn’t exist and he didn’t claim the manger wasn’t made from organic products. He didn’t get political about it, or theological.

He simply treated Jesus like he was no more than one of us, and we all no there’s nothing that would drive him crazier… than that.

That’s how you write. That’s why we read.

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