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Ask the Dust

(Book #3 in the The Saga of Arturo Bandini Series)

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Book Overview

Los Angeles in the 1930s. Installed in a sordid hotel in the slums, the young writer's apprentice Arturo Bandini fights for the hard survival, while he dreams of triumph after having managed to... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Stunning. Absolutley stunning.

Truly a work of art, this book is! Nothing more I should say. Buy it! You won't regret it!

They Don't Write Them Like This Anymore

In ASK THE DUST, Los Angeles in the late Depression years is not glamorous. The city is always at the mercy of the heat and dust of the desert that grabs its skirts. The people who actually embody the success everyone dreams of are will-o-wisps at the edge of one scene. The denizens have come to town from elsewhere in search of fortune and fame. It is a "have not" world of strangers at the mercy of grim residential hotel landladies. From the intersection of Bunker Hill and Hill Street, Fante's protagonist Arturo Bandini lets go a cri de coeur that scorches the pages of the book. Arturo's dream is to find fortune as a writer; he's going to show everyone back home in Colorado. He's going to show everyone, period. He's on his way, having successfully published a short story that he waves under everyone's nose. His passion and anger form a positive charge that is locked in an embrace with the equally weighty force of Camilla Lopez, a Mexican barmaid whose life is spiraling downward. To say more is to spoil the characters' suspenseful tango. Fante lays out their story in the pulsing beat of Arturo's voice. He makes high use of symbolism. Every word is honest, every sentence beautifully crafted. He muscles challenging themes. The title says to ask questions, and by the end you know which ones to ask as you stand with Arturo looking out at the vast desert. I understand that this is one in a quartet of novels featuring Arturo Bandini. This volume is highly self-possessed and does not rely on the existence of the others to be understood or appreciated, but I'm sufficiently intrigued to want to read them all.

"The smell of the gasoline made the palmtrees seem sad."

I haven't read this book in ten years now and that sentence still sticks in my mind. A good friend of mine happened to mail me a copy when I had hit bottom emotionally due to a failed relationship. I vividly recall starting to read--(I skipped the Introduction because I feel they interfere with reader interpretation of the text)--and stopping to check the copyright date. I couldn't believe it was 1940, it all seemed so fresh. ASK THE DUST made me want to write. Well, not exactly true, Dos Passos' THE BIG MONEY did that. Rather, ATD taught me not to be afraid of my emotions when writing, at exposing myself, no matter how embarrassing and humiliating the outcome. I internalized that and use it to this day. I'm always walking by my bookcase and pulling out my Stackpole first-edition, opening it, reading a few sentences and experiencing depressing-yet-strangely-comforting memories of those late nights with Fante. Weird how we often find things like this at the exact point when we need to.

A True American Classic

Twelve years ago I read an article in the Los Angeles Times in which America's most successful fiction writers were asked to name their top-ten favorite works of 20th Century American fiction. John Fante's "Ask the Dust" was the only title to appear on every author's top-ten list in that article. Since then, I've read "Ask the Dust" twice, as well as every other book by Mr. Fante. Ironically, "Ask the Dust" was published six years before J.D. Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye" and the similarities between Holden Caulfield and Arturo Bandini are uncanny. The difference is that Arturo is even more impulsive than Holden, if that's possible, and wholly American. You'll want to console Arturo and slap him silly at the same time! Unfortunately, John Fante didn't live to see the latest revival of his work, but Black Sparrow Press has made him a literary star. You will laugh outloud and embrace this book! I promise.

One of a kind.

Having not expected much from this title, I took this book from my father's shelf, and started reading it. When reading it, I understood: Fante's writing is cristaline, sharp as a knife, and human, something humanity lacks these days. Getting deeper into the plot, you cant stay indifferent to the young Bandini, his struggle to exist, combined with his love to writting, and you can (you do!) smell something of L.A's mid 30's, and of the soul of a unique young man, wanting to be himself.
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