Factotum by Charles Bukowski (1975) (read in 2015)
Published by marco on
Disclaimer: these are notes I took while reading this book. They include citations I found interesting or enlightening or particularly well-written. In some cases, I’ve pointed out which of these applies to which citation; in others, I have not. Any benefit you gain from reading these notes is purely incidental to the purpose they serve of reminding me what I once read. Please see Wikipedia for a summary if I’ve failed to provide one sufficient for your purposes. If my notes serve to trigger an interest in this book, then I’m happy for you.
Henry Chinaski is a variously employed, alcoholic drifter living in America in the 1940s. He’s been rejected from the draft, so he’s left in a country that doesn’t really want him for anything else, that was already suspicious of people who didn’t yearn for the two-kids/white-picket-fence/steady-job dream. He’s willing to work, but doesn’t like to do the same thing for long, doesn’t like authority, and likes to booze and whore and write. He continues to try to publish, but is continually rejected by the only publishing house he considers worthy. He gets involved with Laura and Jan at different times, who have varyingly detrimental effects on his life.
“The problem, as it was in those days during the war, was overtime. Those in control always preferred to overwork a few men continually, instead of hiring more people so everyone might work less. You gave the boss eight hours, and he always asked for more. He never sent you home after six hours, for example. You might have time to think.”
“The myth of the starving artist was a hoax. Once you realized that everything was a hoax you got wise and began to bleed and burn your fellow man. I’d build an empire upon the broken bodies and lives of helpless men, women, and children—”
“It was true that I didn’t have much ambition, but there ought to be a place for people without ambition, I mean a better place than the one usually reserved. How in the hell could a man enjoy being awakened at 6:30 a.m. by an alarm clock, leap out of bed, dress, force-feed, shit, piss, brush teeth and hair, and fight traffic to get to a place where essentially you made lots of money for somebody else and were asked to be grateful for the opportunity to do so?”
“I always started a job with the feeling that I’d soon quit or be fired, and this gave me a relaxed manner that was mistaken for intelligence or some secret power.”