Like many great writers before him, Charles Bukowski mined his own life for material. Much of his poetry, short stories, essays and novels come from his own experience.
This is especially true of his novels, all of which center around Bukowski’s alter-ego protagonist Henry Chinaski save one, his final novel, 1994′s Pulp.
Bukowski started writing Ham on Rye after his publisher at Black Sparrow, John Martin, suggested he tackle the one part of his life he hadn’t written much about: his childhood.
The novel, which is Bukowski’s fourth, does just that, chronicling Chinaski’s life from childhood all the way up to his early twenties.
Here are the top 10 Charles Bukowski quotes from the novel Ham on Rye. The book is filled with sad, bold, funny, profound and unexpected moments, and hopefully these selected lines give an accurate depiction of the work as a whole.
Charles Bukowski Ham on Rye Quotes
“All a guy needed was a chance. Somebody was always controlling who got a chance and who didn’t.”
“So, that’s what they wanted: lies. Beautiful lies. That’s what they needed. People were fools. It was going to be easy for me.”
“They experimented on the poor and if that worked they used the treatment on the rich. And if it didn’t work, there would still be more poor left over to experiment upon.”
“Gathered around me were the weak instead of the strong, the ugly instead of the beautiful, the losers instead of the winners. It looked like it was my destiny to travel in their company through life. That didn’t bother me so much as the fact that I seemed irresistible to these dull idiot fellows. I was like a turd that drew flies instead of like a flower that butterflies and bees desired.”
“You can forgive a fool because he only runs in one direction and doesn’t deceive anybody. It’s the deceivers who make you feel bad.”
“There would never be a way for me to live comfortably with people. Maybe I’d become a monk. I’d pretend to believe in God and live in a cubicle, play an organ and stay drunk on wine.”
“The parents of rich kids tended to be more patriotic because they had more to lose if the country went under. The poor parents were far less patriotic, and then often professed their patriotism only because it was expected or because it was the way they had been raised.”
“The problem was you had to keep choosing between one evil or another, and no matter what you chose, they slice a little bit more off you, until there was nothing left. At the age of 25 most people were finished. A while god-damned nation of assholes driving automobiles, eating, having babies, doing everything in the worst way possible, like voting for the presidential candidate who reminded them most of themselves.”
“’Every time I see you you have a drink in your hand. You can that protecting yourself?’
‘It’s the best way I know. Without drink I would have long ago cut my god-damned throat.’
‘Nothing’s bullshit that works. The Pershing Square preachers have their God. I have the blood of my god!’
I raised my glass and drained it.
‘You’re just hiding from reality,’ Becker said.
‘You’ll never be a writer if you hide from reality.’
‘What are you talking about? That’s what writers do!’”
“You needed love, but not the kind of love most people used and were used up by.”