Time is running out for fans of the late Charles Bukowski who were hoping to gather 10,000 signatures and have the U.S. Postal Service issue a postage stamp in his honor.
The online petition kindly reminds the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee that Bukowski is the Post Office’s second most popular former employee, after Benjamin Franklin.
In fact, the petition language describes Bukowski’s novel, “Post Office,” as a “wry portrait of the inner workings of the service where he was employed through age 49.” (Insert laugh track here). That’s kind of like calling “Apocalypse Now” a touching melodrama about U.S. foreign policy.
The drive will end March 1, and to date nearly 800 supporters have signed the petition. Eight hundred? Eight hundred is a pretty paltry number considering that Bukowski enjoys international fame, a plethora of imitators, and has several profiles and fan pages on Facebook that total over 150,000 fans. Even Hank Chinaski, his alter ego and the protagonist of “Post Office,” has a profile.
It’s kind of hard to say what Bukowski would think of such an effort. Whatever has been said about his choosing the bars, degenerates and flophouses of Los Angeles as the fodder for his writings, he was not without culture or gratitude. He just had a unique way of showing it.
He was also one of the first authors that I felt really spoke for me, or at least that part of me that felt like a “congenital loser trapped in a dead-end profession from which he can derive no personal satisfaction, yet possessed of enough self-awareness to recognize the absurdity of his situation,” as one book reviewer rightly describes Bukowski’s literary pathos. (Note to my current employer: I speak of a time when I cleaned toilets for a living).
At this point it seems reasonable to say the commemorative stamp will not happen. Which is a shame because I was envisioning R. Crumb would do the honors. What surprises me most is that the petition doesn’t seem to have gone viral. It could be that his fans are choosing to honor the man in a way that he could truly appreciate — with conduct that is unfit to print.