First published in 1975, Factotum is a picaresque describing Bukowski (as Henry Chinaski ) during his drifting drunken days, bouncing from job to job. Although he never stood in front of discount stores holding cardboard signs, at that point in his life Bukowski was more or less a member of the "will work for food" set. He had legion of differnet jobs, but never seemed to hold on to any single career for long. (In Post Office, however, he admits to staying with the Postal Service for over ten years.) This humorous, incredibly honest book is one of Bukowski's most fascinating works.

The short excerpt below is Chapter 43 of Factotum.


I was too sick one morning to get up at 4:30 a.m. -- or according to our clock 7:27 and one half. I shut off the alarm and went back to sleep. A couple of hours later there was a loud noise in the hall. "What the hell is it?" asked Jan.

I got out of bed. I slept in my shorts. The shorts were stained--we wiped with newspapers that we crumpled and softened with our hands--and I often didn't get all of it cleaned off. My shorts were also ragged and had cigarette burns in them where the hot ashes had fallen in my lap.

I went to the door and opened it. There was thick smoke in the hall. Firemen in large metal helmets with numbers on them. Firemen dragging long thick hoses. Firemen dressed in asbestos. Firemen with axes. The noise and confusion was incredible. I closed the door.

"What is it?" asked Jan.

"It's the fire department."

"Oh," she said. She pulled the covers up over her head, rolled on her side. I got in beside her and slept.

Excerpts from Factotum Copyright 1975 by Charles Bukowski and reprinted with the permission of Black Sparrow Press.

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