Simultaneously comic and poignant, Ham on Rye is a novel that studies three influences that had a huge impact on the artist's life and work:
1.) His father's cruelty
2.) His severe, disfiguring acne
3.) His early experiences with alcohol
Throughout his art a sense of being an outcast is felt, a sense of alienation, and a distinct rugged individualism. In Ham on Rye Bukowski analyzes his early life and tells the story of how Bukowski became Bukowski.
Chapter Twenty of Ham on Rye describes young Henry Chinaski as he encounters cruelty among his friends, among the adults in the neighborhood, and at home as well.
Later, in Chapter Fifty One of Ham on Rye we find Henry as a failing young college student and fledgling alcoholic writer.