Factotum is Charles Bukowski’s second novel which was published in 1975. It follows the sorry life of Henry “Hank” Chinaski and his lowlights. Henry Chinaski has trouble holding a job for too long and often bounces from low-end jobs.
He does many gigs just to support his writing like working as a truck driver, dishwasher, mail carrier, and lift operator his biggest stint was working as a postal worker as a filing clerk for more than 10 years.
Factotum is the continuation of his Novel Post Office. He does low-end menial jobs that have sucked the life out of him. He’s trying to make it as a writer but is low on inspiration.
He tries to escape his low-end jobs through alcohol, women, and gambling and just can’t catch a break. He’s not too long in a certain job and just quits when the going gets tough.
No one is perfect but I think Charles Bukowski is the most secure person I’ve seen talking about his insecurities. He’s not trying to portray himself as larger than life in fact he does quite the opposite. It almost feels like he is putting himself down and his life is just a tragedy.
We are born we do a bunch of stupid shit and then we die. Well, Charles Bukowski did a lot of stupid shit that he’s not trying to hide he’s a flawed character like all of us who’s trying to make it as a writer.
Charles Bukowski dealt with a lot of rejection in his lifetime. He would send a ton of poems and stories to publishers, and he would get turned down more often than not. He was never discouraged though. Henry Chinaski does get his big break when his story gets published by Clay Gladmore.
Factotum by Charles Bukowski
Factotum is also a word that is frequently used to describe someone who has many different jobs. Henry Chinaski has worked quite a number of jobs where he was overworked and underpaid.
Factotum is 87 chapters long, and it feels like you are reading the personal diary of Mr. Henry Chinaski. There’s a common theme that’s present in all the chapters.
Henry Chinaski get’s a low-paying job, Henry Chinaski likes to have a drink, Henry Chinaski doesn’t like too much work and eventually, the job takes a toll on him and he either quits or gets fired and the cycle continues.
He’s just trying to do the bare minimum at his jobs to be able to afford rent, buy wine, get women and give his pipe dream writing a chance. It’s funny, it’s sad but it’s Charles Bukowski so you will read it.
You wouldn’t give Henry Chinaski the time of day if you met him because he’s a bum. He’s a degenerate. You might be reading this summary or you might even end up picking up the book because it’s Charles Bukowski a guy who made it through to the other side.
Factotum is an escape from reality. If you are feeling bad about yourself and if you have nothing going on in your life, then Henry Chinaski’s life would look like a nightmare to you. The man has nothing, but he’s trying to make it in this world.
You are looking at carnage from start to finish but it’s fun. Charles Bukowski’s books are not for the faint-hearted the language is very strong and the endings aren’t very happy so are the beginning and the middle. It’s just depressing really, and that’s what’s so engaging.
You keep waiting for the aha moment and you don’t get it. The characters in Factotum are basically everyday people who are going through tough times. The humor is witty and subtle. Henry Chinaski doesn’t really understand how funny he is. He can’t see his own sense of humor.
In the beginning of the book, Henry Chinaski works as a truck driver for 17 dollars a week and he finds out his colleague makes 19 dollars a week so speaks to his boss to get a raise. His boss tells him that he’s been here 2 years so Chinaski leaves to get a better job where he makes 12 dollars a week that just sets the stage right there.
Factotum 2005 Film
If you don’t want to go through the 87 chapters of madness you can catch the Factotum movie which is just an hour and a half. Matt Dillon does a good job of portraying Bukowski’s mannerisms but Bukowski wished he looked as good as Matt Dillon.
I found this film to be very entertaining. The story is original, nice, and very well acted. Matt Dillon did an outstanding job in the lead role. He is indeed a very talented actor and very handsome too. He is so manly and brings out Chinaski’s character so well in the film.
You can check out the film Factotum 2005 right here.