This year marks the 70th anniversary of the publication of Ask the Dust, by John Fante. Today it’s widely regarded as a classic of American. Ask the Dust [John Fante] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the. Rob Sternberg on the pleasures of rereading John Fante.

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How Ask the Dust nearly missed greatness

It’s not often that someone grabs you by the lapels and tells you that you must, absolutely must read a particular book. Not in my experience anyway. Usually my askk recommendations come with their fair share of disclaimers and qualifications, the sort of hedging we all engage in simply because we know that one person’s dog-eared treasure is another’s doorstop.

But lapel-grabbing is what a friend recently did to me, and what I’m doing to you now, hoisting you up so only your toes graze the ground, and if your collar rips, dusy be it—hear me now, goddamnit: You must, absolutely must read Ask the Dust. John Fante himself would have seized your hair by the roots and repeated the mantra until your eyes goggled, fnate you happened to be alive inwhen the publication of Ask the Dust went virtually unnoticed.

Fante had the singular bad luck of being published by Stackpole Sons when the company was being sued for its unauthorized publication of Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The Grapes of WrathThe Big Sleepand The Day of the Locust were also published that year—tough competition for any novel, especially one released by an obscure publisher on the verge of bankruptcy—and while Steinbeck, Chandler, and West received literary accolades, Fante went on to languish in relative obscurity for forty-odd years, squandering his talent writing hack screenplays.


Ask the Dust (The Saga of Arthur Bandini, #3) by John Fante

In duat, Black Sparrow Press brought Ask the Dust back into print, and the year-old author at last achieved some measure of the recognition that was his due. By then, Fante’s diabetes had taken its toll, and he was confined to a wheelchair, blind and legless.

Fante writes from his wounds, his fiction hewing closely to the facts of his own life. Ask the Dust —considered by many including fantw to be his masterpiece—is the third in his quartet of books about Arturo Bandini, a second-generation Italian immigrant who flees his childhood home in Colorado for the gilded streets of Los Angeles, where he lives in squalor as a struggling writer.

Fante’s hand-to-mouth existence during the Depression is vividly described through the eyes of Bandini, staving off hunger in dut sordid hotel room with a nickel-bags of oranges.

We meet a cast of desperate characters, among them Hellfrick, a drunk in the adjacent room who steals a live calf to sate his rabid desire for meat, and Camilla Lopez, the impoverished Mexican waitress Bandini pines after with a passion verging on madness, who repeatedly spurns his advances unless he insults the dirty huraches on her feet. He is given to febrile rants and arias of grief, often switching from first-person to second to a self-aggrandizing third within the space of a page, sometimes a paragraph.

Here I am, folks. Take a look at a great writer!


Notice my eyes, folks. The eyes of a great writer.

Notice my jaw, folks. The jaw of a great writer. For all his arrogance, Bandini is an endearing buffoon, and his confessional outpourings are shot through with black humor. Fajte Bandini walking the streets of downtown LA:. The prose has the immediacy and colloquial fluency of the Beats, whom Fante prefigured by over a decade.


John Fante: Ask The Dust | shigekuni.

The humor and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. Fante’s biography is the stuff of literary legend, the kind of story that makes you weep at the injustice of it all. It’s some consolation to know that Fante was buoyed by the attention his work at last received, and spent the last few years of his life dictating a novel to his wife.

Read them in order, or begin with Ask the Dustas I did, then devour the other three. Rebecca Donner is the autor of the novel Dudt Terrace.

Her book reviews have been published in The Believer and People. Ask the Dust by John Fante -Rebecca Donner It’s not often that someone grabs you by the lapels and tells you that you must, absolutely must read fate particular book.

Here’s Te walking the streets of downtown LA: I took the steps down Angel’s Flight to Hill Street: Scared of high places, too, and of blood, and of earthquakes; otherwise, quite fearless, excepting death, except the fear I’ll scream in a crowd, except the fear of appendicitis, except the fear of heart trouble.