Tuesday, January 29, 2008


Ask the Dust, John Fante, Stackpole Sons, 1939, 165 pp

(According to Dan Fante, John's son, Stackpole Sons folded shortly after publishing Ask the Dust, because they were sued by Adolf Hitler for publishing Mein Kampf. Ha.)

Last year the movie version of Ask the Dust came out with big hoopla, though the reviews were terrible. I got interested in John Fante then and finally read the book. It is not great, but it is good. I was trying to put my finger on the style and decided that it reminds me of early John Steinbeck, such as Grapes of Wrath, The Wayward Bus, Cannery Row.

It is a story about a young writer struggling in Los Angeles in the 1930s. He is impassioned, poor, conflicted. Fante evokes the mood swings and the young man's breathless ventures into women and love. Camilla, the woman he falls for, is of Mexican descent, loves another man and really is quite a messed up girl.

What I liked was the contrast as Arturo Bandini, the writer, begins to have success but lives in an agony of unrequited love and unreleased sexual tension, amidst a seedy Los Angeles setting. Wow, I could just feel it and see it due to the writing and also thanks to having read lots of Raymond Chandler.

Then I saw the movie and although the plot was altered somewhat, it was a great film and for once did not violate the pictures I already had in my head from the book.

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