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Kenny_Shovel
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I wasn't sure where to post this. Here will do I suppose.

 

Fante grew up the son of poor Italian immigrant parents in 1920’s and 30’s America, an upbringing that was to feature greatly in his writing. Despite the objection of his rather overbearing father, Fante left home and headed to Los Angeles as soon as he could to begin a career as a writer, and, like others with similar dreams, the brilliance of his work didn’t make getting published and building a readership any easier. Eventually Fante drifted into writing screenplays for Hollywood, work he considered ‘hack’; but the money was good and the work was far easier than the backbreaking toil of the world he’d come from.

Fante kept writing novels, novellas and short stories outside of his nine to five occupation in ‘the dream factory’ but it seemed that his was to be an overlooked talent, remembered by only a few. Fortunately, someone who hadn’t forgotten his work, and the effect it had on him, was the cult American poet Charles Bukowski, who never failed to mention him as an influence. Through Bukowski, people found Fante, and slowly, late on in his life, recognition came his way, until now, where he is considered an important figure in 20th Century American literature.

 

But for all this, Fante is not for everyone. His work is rooted deep in the world he came from, and a harsh dog eat dog world it can sometimes seem. His protagonists often appear to be closely drawn on himself, and he never shies away from painting a less than flattering picture. For example, his alter-ego Arturo Bandini, the star of a number of his novels, is an arrogant self-centred man yet one you can’t walk away from, you’re having far to much fun observing him.

Now, the flawed hero is a familiar figure in literature, but one that in the hands of many writers comes across as an elaborate conceit, an extension of the author’s ego. Look at me, it seems to cry out, I can create a character, make him cross ethical and moral boundaries that would stop you in your tracks and yet I can still make you empathise with him. It’s a trick that can sometimes leave a sour taste in the mouth.

But with Fante it is different, he is not giving you characters with flaws, he is giving you flawed human beings. People taken from Fante’s own experiences as a poor second-generation Italian immigrant, a ‘dago’ that society looked down on. It would be easy to play this for sympathy, but Fante prefers the route of a more painful truth; that those who are having mud kicked in their face by people higher up the ladder sometimes turn round and do the same to those they consider below them.

 

The reality of the world portrayed in his work is not their only draw, as Fante was a master storyteller and one with a beautiful, clean, writing style.

I’m sure if you go though many of the classics on the ‘Big Read’ list you’ll find writers who are masters of prose; capable of curling language round every object in a room, every action taken, every emotion felt, until the whole scene seems to be laid out in front of you like a photograph. They are rightly lauded for their greatness. But there is another kind of greatness, writers who can describe a scene in 3 pages rather than 15 with no loss in clarity for the reader.

Fante does this with a seemingly effortless skill. You can read a scene and be left with a crystal clear image of what happened and yet you can’t understand how, as there seemed to be no prose, no description. So you go back, and re-read, and you see how beautifully economic scraps of information are dropped into the narrative; just enough to allow you to create the scene for yourself. Fante doesn’t need reams of prose to create an image in your mind, he does something far cleverer, he creates truthful situations that the readers own experiences can fill in; he has the genius of simplicity.

 

Now at this point I should probably recommend the best of his work to you, and if someone’s really interested I will. Far better though if you try and find one of his books in the library or a shop. If you can find one, and it may be a struggle, just open it up and read a few pages; his work is pretty consistent, so any few pages of any of his works should give you a flavour of his writing. If you don’t like it, no problem, there are plenty of other books for you, but if you do, then I’ve just cost you a fair bit of money, as you’ll end up buying everything of his you can find.

 

John Fante, my kind of writer.

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#1

4th October 2006, 11:17 PM

Kenny_Shovel

Member

 

Fante grew up the son of poor Italian immigrant parents in 1920's and 30's America, an upbringing that was to feature greatly in his writing. Despite the objection of his rather overbearing father, Fante left home and headed to Los Angeles as soon as he could to begin a career as a writer, and, like others with similar dreams, the brilliance of his work didn't make getting published and building a readership any easier. Eventually Fante drifted into writing screenplays for Hollywood, work he considered hack; but the money was good and the work was far easier than the backbreaking toil of the world he'd come from.

Fante kept writing novels, novellas and short stories outside of his nine to five occupation in the dream factory but it seemed that his was to be an overlooked talent, remembered by only a few. Fortunately, someone who hadn't forgotten his work, and the effect it had on him, was the cult American poet Charles Bukowski, who never failed to mention him as an influence. Through Bukowski, people found Fante, and slowly, late on in his life, recognition came his way, until now, where he is considered an important figure in 20th Century American literature.

 

But for all this, Fante is not for everyone. His work is rooted deep in the world he came from, and a harsh dog eat dog world it can sometimes seem. His protagonists often appear to be closely drawn on himself, and he never shies away from painting a less than flattering picture. For example, his alter-ego Arturo Bandini, the star of a number of his novels, is an arrogant self-centred man yet one you cant walk away from, youre having far to much fun observing him.

Now, the flawed hero is a familiar figure in literature, but one that in the hands of many writers comes across as an elaborate conceit, an extension of the authors ego. Look at me, it seems to cry out, I can create a character, make him cross ethical and moral boundaries that would stop you in your tracks and yet I can still make you empathise with him. Its a trick that can sometimes leave a sour taste in the mouth.

But with Fante it is different, he is not giving you characters with flaws, he is giving you flawed human beings. People taken from Fantes own experiences as a poor second-generation Italian immigrant, a 'dago' that society looked down on. It would be easy to play this for sympathy, but Fante prefers the route of a more painful truth; that those who are having mud kicked in their face by people higher up the ladder, sometimes turn round and do the same to those they consider below them.

 

The reality of the world portrayed in his work is not their only draw, as Fante was a master storyteller and one with a beautiful, clean, writing style.

I'm sure if you go though many of the classics you'll find writers who are masters of prose; capable of curling language round every object in a room, every action taken, every emotion felt, until the whole scene seems to be laid out in front of you like a photograph. They are rightly lauded for their greatness. But there is another kind of greatness, writers who can describe a scene in three pages rather than 15, with no loss in clarity for the reader.

Fante does this with a seemingly effortless skill. You can read a scene and be left with a crystal clear image of what happened and yet you can't understand how, as there seemed to be no prose, no description. So you go back, and re-read, and you see how beautifully economic scraps of information are dropped into the narrative; just enough to allow you to create the scene for yourself. Fante doesn't need reams of prose to create an image in your mind, he does something far cleverer, he creates truthful situations that the readers own experiences can fill in; he has the genius of simplicity.

 

Now at this point I should probably recommend the best of his work to you, and if someones really interested I will. Far better though if you try and find one of his books in the library or a shop. If you can find one, and it may be a struggle, just open it up and read a few pages; his work is pretty consistent, so any few pages from one of his works should give you a flavour of his writing. If you dont like it, no problem, there are plenty of other books for you, but if you do, then I've just cost you a fair bit of money, as you'll end up buying everything of his you can find.

 

John Fante, my kind of writer.

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#2

4th October 2006, 11:42 PM

pollyblue

Member

Fante

Ive read some Fante, recommended on my Amazon book list but actually i found him quite hard going and not that interesting, I prefer Charles Bukowski and Paul Auster...........

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#3

5th October 2006, 09:40 AM

Stewart

Resident

I've read one John Fante novel, as Kenny knows, and that was Wait Until Spring, Bandini. If I remember correctly, I gave it four whole stars, which places it in my category of better than good but lacking that one bit of sparkle to achieve the maximum stars. I keep on meaning to read the other three novels in the recently published The Bandini Quartet, but don't. I'm certainly seeing more of his novels coming back into print, or back on the shelves at least.

 

I don't recall much of the storyline from Wait Until Spring, Bandini, but the storyline wasn't what grabbed me. (As I recall it was just a guy, Svevo Bandini trying to make ends meet in Depression era America, with his dysfunctional family giving him grief, especially over an affair.) What hooked me was the style, the first two sentences gave the narrator a storyteller quality, as if you were listening to him rather than reading. Mix that storytelling style with hopeless realism and some excellent sentences exploring Bandini's mindset, and it was a fine concoction.

 

I see his son, Dan Fante, has some slim yellow volume published over here, called taxisucker, or something. I wasn't too interested in that.

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#4

6th October 2006, 04:46 PM

Kenny_Shovel

Member

:Originally Posted by pollyblue

Ive read some Fante, recommended on my Amazon book list but actually i found him quite hard going and not that interesting, I prefer Charles Bukowski and Paul Auster...........

 

Well, 'your mileage may differ'. Fante is not for everyone, no writer ever is I suppose. However I personally find him a very easy read, and I'm not sure even Bukowski would agree with your assessment that he was the superior writer, as he was a big Fante fan. His foreward to Fante's "Ask the Dust" is testiment to that.

:Originally Posted by Stewart

I've read one John Fante novel, as Kenny knows, and that was Wait Until Spring, Bandini. If I remember correctly, I gave it four whole stars, which places it in my category of better than good but lacking that one bit of sparkle to achieve the maximum stars.

I'd say that's fair comment. I personally don't regard Fante's novels, "Ask the Dust" apart, as being his very best work. I'd reserve that for his shorter pieces; novella's like "My Dog Stupid" and short stories like "A Wife for Dino Rossi".

 

I'd probably give most of his novels four stars as well. His writing style is what I love best, as the deceptively simple style and easy flow chimes very closely with what I look for in prose. He's the one writer above all others I know I can flip to any page of any book and start reading with granteed enjoyment.

Having said that, the missing fifth star in his novels, is for me, just that little bit more structure to the story. That may be the spark that you felt missing in 'Wait until the Spring...".

:Originally Posted by Stewart

I see his son, Dan Fante, has some slim yellow volume published over here, called taxisucker, or something. I wasn't too interested in that.

His son's writing is a mixture of his father and Buckowski, and comes across as a kind of American Irvine Welsh. Again he's not for everyone, but I enjoyed his three novels. The collection of short stories you mention is called "Corksucker (Cab Driver Stories From The L.A. Streets)". By co-incidence I bought this today in Foyles of London. Dark forces have once again dragged me there and removed the contents of my wallet.

If I get chance, I'll review Corksucker as and when.

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#5

29th October 2006, 02:20 AM

pollyblue

Member

Well, 'your mileage may differ'. Fante is not for everyone, no writer ever is I suppose. However I personally find him a very easy read, and I'm not sure even Bukowski would agree with your assessment that he was the superior writer, as he was a big Fante fan. His foreward to Fante's "Ask the Dust" is testiment to that.

 

 

I think that everyone moves on.....maybe im too young to appreciate Fante, I find him depressing, Bukowski i can relate to though, but i can understand why he found Fante an inspriation.......i still think Bukowski is better

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