Ask The Dust

If anything, this book makes me hunger for a re-read of Nathanael West. Like most people, I was turned onto this book by Charles Bukowski’s glowing recommendation. Fante has a clear, direct style of writing that complement’s Bukowski’s own. But I wasn’t particularly drawn into the story– Arturo Bandini, the struggling writer from Colorado, ensconced in a hotel in LA, fighting dust storms and hunger pains (with oranges), asking his mother for money during the lean times, extravagantly spending money when he receives cash for a story accepted at a magazine. Writing long letters to his editor, Hackmuth, lending money to his neighbors at the hotel, falling for Camilla Lopez, the waitress at the dive he frequents, his inability to be aroused by her attentions. Shrivelled Vera & the earthquake in Long Beach. Hellfrick the drunk meat eater, who kills a calf in the valley to cook back at Bunker Hill hotel. Sammy the bartender whose illness drives him into the desert where he begins to write horrible stories. The story ends when Bandini drives out to Sammy’s in search of Camilla, and throws an autographed copy of his book near where she vanished.
Sidenote– this frequently happens with me, connections between books I’m reading at the same time or have just finished: I was reading both this and Absalom, Absalom concurrently, and Fante makes a comment in the first chapter, “Do you think, Mr. Hackmuth, that I write as well as William Faulkner?”

auth=Fante, John