'If You Don't Gamble, You'll Never Win': The Importance of Risk in Charles Bukowski's Ham on Rye, Factotum, Post Office, Women, and Hollywood

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Franklin, Nathan Andrew
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Middle Tennessee State University
Charles Bukowski is well-known for his gritty portrayals of life as a barfly. Another common subject in his writings that deserves equal consideration is his love of gambling. The risk that gambling entails is a motif in his works, especially in the novels "Ham on Rye," "Factotum," "Post Office," "Women," and "Hollywood." Henry Chinaski, the protagonist in these novels who functions as Bukowski's alter-ego, finds risk essential to surviving in a world ruled by chance. In the novels, Chinaski's risks include living on skid-row, quitting numerous jobs, participating in drunken brawls, and roaming the country. The self-destructive risks teach him the importance of caution, and his disciplined horse betting in Hollywood reflects his belief in financial stability and self-preservation. This concept of cautious risk proves that Bukowski did not glorify a reckless lifestyle. Risk is vital to gaining experience, but in the same way a gambler should avoid the chance of a crippling debt, one must avoid the danger of an irrecoverable loss.
20th-century, Bukowski, Gambling, Los angeles, Novels, Semi-autobiographical