Ask the Dust (1939)

I first heard about John Fante and his alter-ego Arture Bandini on NPR. His son, Dan Fante, who has recently published another novel was being interviewed one evening about his life and his fathers. From memory, while trying to hold back tears, he recited this quotation from Ask the Dust:

"Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!"

I was already interested in the novel because of the way Dan Fante was describing his father's work when the interviewer on NPR mentioned that this novel had gone out of print, but when Mr. Charles Bukowski found out about this he immediately rectified the problem. In the Black Sparrow reprinting of the novel, Bukowski writes the introduction and states "Fante was my god." In the biography and letters published at the end of the novel  about Fante's life, there is also included a poem written by Bukowski about Fante's struggle with diabetes and loss of his legs.

I hate to admit that part of the reason I loved this book so much was because I have already devoured almost everything by Bukowski and I needed something new. Fante, like Bukowski, does write in a similar type of style, maybe a gritty realism, but truthful even when the truth is dirty. However Fante is more human and more naive, but also more relatable than Bukowski. He doesn't spend all day taking beershits and sleeping with women with nice legs and big butts and puking in pianos. Both authors also write in a picaresque style, however Fante's seems to have more of a central theme, or a few central themes. Being away from home and struggling to become the writer he knows he can be is an important theme that runs through the entire novel and even makes him question his religion and his ethnicity at times. But his neurotic relationship with Camilla also runs tangentially to these themes. Here lies another difference, Fante writes women better than Bukowski.

It was later made into a film with Selma Hayek playing Camilla. Nothing against Hayek but I don't think the movie would live up to the novel.

Transcript of the interview that I heard on NPR.

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