Factotum by Charles Bukowski

One of Charles Bukowski’s best, this beer-soaked, deliciously degenerate novel follows the wanderings of aspiring writer Henry Chinaski across World War II-era America. Deferred from military service, Chinaski travels from city to city, moving listlessly from one odd job to another, always needing money but never badly enough to keep a job. His day-to-day existence spirals into an endless litany of pathetic whores, sordid rooms, dreary embraces, and drunken brawls, as he makes his bitter, brilliant way from one drink to the next.

Charles Bukowski’s posthumous legend continues to grow. Factotum is a masterfully vivid evocation of slow-paced, low-life urbanity and alcoholism, and an excellent introduction to the fictional world of Charles Bukowski.


[I ARRIVED in New Orleans in the rain at 5 o’clock in the morning]


(Virgin Books, 5 February 2009, first published 1975, paperback, 163 pages, borrowed from my library)




This is my first time reading the author. If Factotum is similar to his other books it will likely be my last.

Despite all the praise heaped on this book and the fact Bukowski is considered a brilliant, distinctive writer, this little novella didn’t go much for me. The best thing is that it’s so short. I couldn’t have stuck with Chinaski for another couple of hundred pages. I really don’t get the big deal about Factotum. Did I miss something? It’s not a terrible book but it’s not a great one either. There are some good moments but nothing special. I intensely disliked Chinaski. He’s an alcoholic wastrel and the author never develops enough sympathy for me to give a crap about him. Factotum is a novella about a waste of space. Okay. I read it now time to move onto something better.



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