On this day in 1983, author, screenwriter, and idol of Charles Bukowski, John Fante, died of complications due to diabetes. He was 74 years old.
Oddly enough, there are quite a few people out there who have never heard of Mr. Fante.
By far, Fante’s most recognizable work is, his semi autobiographical novel Ask the Dusk, published in 1939. It is the third book in a series, referred to now as “The Bandini Quartet”, as it follows the story of it’s protagonist Arturo Bandini. If you’ve never read the book or seen the film adaptation… we suggest you pick it up this week. Especially if you have any interest at all in Great Depression-era stories or “old L.A.” settings. It is a treat, and those of you who are familiar with Charles Bukowski already know how much the novel influenced him.
“I was a young man, starving and drinking and trying to be a writer… 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, craft and form, and it was read and it was taught and it was ingested and it was passed on. It was a comfortable contrivance, a very slick and careful Word-Culture… one day I pulled a book down and opened it, and there it was…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”
Bukowski certainly sums up how we feel too.
Although Fante’s stories were not originally wildly popular, many of his books saw a resurgence of interest upon their republication in the 1980s.
We highly recommend Dago Red , Fante’s only collection of short stories, published in 1940. The stories follow the maturation of one of Fante’s prominent characters, Jimmy Toscana, and wonderfully encapsulate what coming of age stories are all about.
Some of his screenwriting credits include Full of Life, Jeanne Eagels, My Man and I, The reluctant Saint, Something for a Lonely Man, My Six Loves, and Walk on the Wild Side.
For us, Fante’s work is such a fun read because it’s character driven and so very real. You begin reading his stories and thinking ‘I know someone just like Bandini’, you finish his stories with the realization that you are Bandini.
Today, take a minute to remember John Fante and perhaps, try your hand at creating your own alter-ego. What makes you a unique character and what about the time and place you’re living in make your alter-ego stand out as someone worth writing about? Find your inner-Bandini!
Write on in peace, Mr. Fante!
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