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. The story of the hard-living L.A. writer as we know it was born in the early s with John Fante. The novelist, best known for his novel. Rob Sternberg on the pleasures of rereading John Fante.
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Charles Bukowski was a huge fan of the writer John Fante. I was a young man, starving and drinking and trying to be a writer.
I did most of my reading at the downtown L. Public Library, and nothing that I read related to me or to the streets or to the people about me.
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It seemed as if everybody was playing word-tricks, that those who said almost nothing at all were considered excellent writers. Their writing was an admixture of subtlety, rust and form, and it was read and it was taught and it was ingested and it was passed on. It was comfortable contrivance, a very slick and careful Word-Culture. One had to go back to the pre-Revolution writers of Russia to find any gamble, any passion.
There were exceptions but those exceptions were so few that reading them was quickly done, and you were left staring at ojhn and rows jlhn exceedingly dull books. I pulled book after book from the shelves.
I tried other rooms in the library. The section on Religion was just a vast bog — to me. I got into Philosophy. I found a couple of bitter Germans who cheered me for a while, then that was over.
I tried Mathematics but upper Math was just like Religion: What I needed seemed to be absent everywhere. I found some books on Surgery and I liked the books on Surgery: I particularly liked and memorized the operation of the mesocolon.
Then I johb out of Surgery and I was back in the big room with the novelists and short story writers. When I had enough cheap wine to drink I never went to the library.
A library was a good place to be when you had nothing to drink or to eat, and the landlady was looking for you and for the back rent money.
In the library at least you had the use of the toilet facilities. I saw quite a number of other fqnte in there, most of them asleep on top of their books.
Charles Bukowski Introduction to the John Fante Novel Ask the Dust – Bukowski Quotes
I kept on walking around the big room, pulling the books off the shelves, reading a few lines, a few pages, then putting them back. Thr one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was. Thhe stood for a moment, reading. Then like a man who had found gold in the city dump, I carried the book to a table. The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it.
And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humor and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me. I had a library card. I checked the book out, took it to my room, climbed into my bed and read it, and I knew long before I had finished that here was a man who had evolved a distinct way of writing. The book was Ask the Dust and the author was John Fante. He was to be a lifetime influence on my writing.
They were of the same order, written of and from the gut and the heart.
Ask the Dust – Wikipedia
Yes, Fante had a mighty effect upon me. Not long after reading these books I began living with a woman. I am Bandini, Arturo Bandini! Almost every day I walked by and I thought, hhe that the window Camilla crawled through?
And, is that the hotel door? Is that the lobby? Through other circumstances, I finally met the author this year.
Ask the Dust
There is much more to the story of John Fante. It is a story of terrible luck and a terrible fate and of a rare and natural courage.
But let me say that the way of his words and the way of his way are the same: Subscribe to our YouTube Channel.