Ham on Rye: An Excerpt

I read all the books by D. H. And they led to others. To H. D., the poetess. And Huxley, the youngest of the Huxleys, Lawrence’s friend. It all came rushing at me. One book led to the next. Dos Passos came along. Not too good, really, but good enough. His trilogy, about the U.S.A., took longer than a day to read. Dreiser didn’t work for me. Sherwood Anderson did.

And then along came Hemingway. What a thrill! He knew how to lay down a line. It was a joy. Words weren’t dull, words were things that could make your mind hum. If you read them and let yourself feel the magic, you could live without pain, with hope, no matter what happened to you.

But back at home…
“LIGHTS OUT!” my father would scream.

“All right, that’s enough of those god-damned books! Lights out!”

To me, these men who had come into my life from nowhere were my only chance. They were the only voices that spoke to me.

“All right,” I would say.

Then I took the reading lamp, crawled under the blanket, pulled the pillow under there, and read each new book, propping it against the pillow, under the quilt. It got very hot, the lamp got hot, and I had trouble breathing. I would lift the quilt for air.

“What’s that? Do I see a light? Henry, are your lights out?”

I would quickly lower the quilt again and wait until I heard my father snoring.
Turgenev was a very serious fellow but he could make me laugh because a truth first encountered can be very funny. When someone else’s truth is the same as your truth, and he seems to be saying it just for you, that’s great.

I read my books at night, like that, under the quilt with the overheated reading lamp. Reading all those good lines while suffocating. It was magic.

Page 154

Ham on Rye, Charles Henry Bukowski

17 thoughts on “Ham on Rye: An Excerpt

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  1. Nothing beats reading books at night under the covers! 😂❤️👌🏼 This brings back so many childhood memories, I think I’m going to read a book under the blanket this weekend just for fun! 😜


    1. I would read novels under the covers during exams for the fear of getting caught and getting a scolding by father. So, what did you read under the cover this weekend?


      1. Reading under the covers during the exams??? Such a daredevil! Started reading “A week in December” and it was fun! Used a real torch with batteries and not the one on my phone. Totally old school 😂👍🏼


        1. That’d have been damn much fun, eh? Reading under the torch – sounds like a topic I could blog about. I haven’t much heard nor read about AWID. How is it? Do tell. I look forward to putting it on the TBR, hopefully.


    1. It is rich with melancholic expressions of the protagonist’s life, which is semi-biographical and that’s what makes it all the more interesting. I love Bukowski and was saddened to know anything this deeply catastrophic could have happened to him.
      Have you read any of his works, Vishal?

      Liked by 1 person

“I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.” ― James A. Michener

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