Archives for category: John Fante

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The lean days of determination. That was the word for it, determination: Arturo Bandini in front of his typewriter two full days in succession, determined to succeed; but it didn’t work, the longest siege of hard and fast determination in his life, and not one line done, only two words written over and over across the page, up and down, the same words: palm tree, palm tree, a battle to the death between the palm tree and me, and the palm tree won: see it out there swaying in the blue air, creaking sweetly in the blue air. The palm tree won after two fighting days, and I crawled out of the window and sat at the foot of the tree. Time passed, a moment or two, and I slept, little brown ants carousing in the hair on my legs.”

From Chapter 1 of Ask the Dust, a novel by John Fante first published in 1939 and reissued in 1980 by Black Sparrow Press with an introduction by Charles Bukowski. A Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition, released in 2006, is available at Amazon.com.

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Black Sparrow Press published Dreams of Bunker Hill in 1982, the year before John Fante passed away at age 74. During Fante’s final years, he suffered the debilitating effects of diabetes — losing both his vision and his legs to the disease. But despite the challenges and disappointments in his life — including frustrating years as a Hollywood screenwriter — Fante never lost that “animal gusto” (to use Raymond Chandler‘s expression) that allowed him to create great works of art.

Case in point is his final novel Dreams of Bunker HIll — a bookend to his masterpiece Ask the Dust — which explores the writing career of his fictional alter ego Arturo Bandini. Dreams of Bunker Hill is fresh, full of life, funny, and feels like the work of a young man — though a blind, septuagenarian Fante dictated the book to his wife Joyce, who transcribed his words into written form.

Image“The good days, the fat days, page upon page of manuscript; prosperous days, something to say…the pages mounted and I was happy. Fabulous days, the rent paid, still fifty dollars in my wallet, nothing to do all day and night but write and think of writing; ah, such sweet days, to see it grow, to worry for it, myself, my book, my words, maybe important, maybe timeless, but mine nevertheless, the indomitable Arturo Bandini, already deep into his first novel. “

From Chapter Sixteen of Ask the Dust a novel by John Fante, originally published in 1939.

April 8, 2014 marked the 105th anniversary of the birth of John Fante, author of Ask the Dust, the novel that Charles Bukowski said showed him how to write prose. The Sad Flower in the Sand is a jazzy, moody one-hour documentary from 2001 — directed by Jan Louter — that explores Fante’s life through his words and comments from significant people in his life, including screenwriter Robert Towne, author Stephen Cooper, wife Joyce Fante, and sons Dan Fante and Jim Fante.

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THE LUCK OF THE WORD (Excerpt)
Poem by Charles Bukowski

throughout the years
I have gotten letters
from men
who say
that reading my
books 
has helped them
get through,
go on.
this is high praise 
indeed
and I know what
they mean;
my nerve to go 
on was helped
by reading
Fante, Dostoevsky,
Lawrence, Celine, Hamsun
and others…
a good book
can make an almost
impossible
existence,
livable
for the reader
and
the writer.

***
“The Luck of the Word” appears in Charles Bukowski’s collection Betting on the Muse: Poems & Stories.

Illustration: “Mr. Chinaski as seen by The Art Warriors” (theartwarriors.com) ALL RIGHTS RESERVED — featured in the Silver Birch Press Bukowski Anthology (2013).

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The good days, the fat days, page upon page of manuscript; prosperous days, something to say…the pages mounted and I was happy. Fabulous days, the rent paid, still fifty dollars in my wallet, nothing to do all day and night but write and think of writing; ah, such sweet days, to see it grow, to worry for it, myself, my book, my words, maybe important, maybe timeless, but mine nevertheless, the indomitable Arturo Bandini, already deep into his first novel. “

From Chapter Sixteen of Ask the Dust a novel by John Fante, originally published in 1939.

Photo: Vintage notecard found on Flickr.

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“The lean days of determination. That was the word for it, determination: Arturo Bandini in front of his typewriter two full days in succession, determined to succeed; but it didn’t work, the longest siege of hard and fast determination in his life, and not one line done, only two words written over and over across the page, up and down, the same words: palm tree, palm tree, a battle to the death between the palm tree and me, and the palm tree won: see it out there swaying in the blue air, creaking sweetly in the blue air. The palm tree won after two fighting days, and I crawled out of the window and sat at the foot of the tree. Time passed, a moment or two, and I slept, little brown ants carousing in the hair on my legs.”

From Chapter 1 of Ask the Dust, a novel by JOHN FANTE first published in 1939 and reissued in 1980 by Black Sparrow Press with an introduction by Charles Bukowski. A Harper Perennial Modern Classics edition was released in 2006.

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contemporary literature, one (excerpt)
by Charles Bukowski

…I saw some newspapers
on the floor
I was out of writing
paper
had long ago hocked 
my typewriter
I noticed that 
each page of the
newspaper had a wide white
margin around the 
edge
I had a pencil
stub
I picked up a 
newspaper and with
the pencil stub
I began to write words 
on the edge
sitting in the doorway
freezing in the moonlight
so that I could
see 
I wrote in pencil 
on all the edges 
of all the newspapers 
in that shack…

Illustration: “Charles Bukowski” by Jeremy Hara (ALL RIGHTS RESERVED). If you aren’t familiar with Jeremy Hara’s ouevre, he draws on U.S. currency — and has created clever portraits of iconic figures in American arts and letters, including Andy Warhol, R. Crumb, Kurt Vonnegut, and Mark Twain. For more about Jeremy Hara, visit his blog.

Note: Find “contemporary literature, one” in Charles Bukowski‘s Dangling in the Tournefortia (1981), a collection of poetry he dedicated to his writing idol John Fante.

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“Please God, please Knut Hamsun, don’t desert me now.” JOHN FANTE, Dreams of Bunker Hill

Black Sparrow Press published Dreams of Bunker Hill in 1982, the year before John Fante passed away at age 74.  During Fante’s final years, he suffered the debilitating effects of diabetes — losing both his vision and his legs to the disease. But despite the challenges and disappointments in his life — including frustrating years as a Hollywood screenwriter — Fante never lost that “animal gusto” (to use Raymond Chandler‘s expression) that allowed him to create great works of art.

Case in point is his final novel Dreams of Bunker HIll — a bookend to his masterpiece Ask the Dust — which explores the writing career of his fictional alter ego Arturo Bandini. Dreams of Bunker Hill is fresh, full of life, funny, and feels like the work of a young man — though a blind, septuagenarian Fante dictated the book to his wife Joyce, who transcribed his words into written form. How Fante was able to envision a book he couldn’t outline or see has always inspired and amazed me.

What I love about Fante’s novels is that they seem a total revelation — even if you’ve read them before. They are always there, waiting to be enjoyed.

In the final pages of Dreams from Bunker HIll, Fante calls on his idol, Knut Hamsun, to help him write his novel — and Hamsun didn’t let him down.

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At the Charles Bukowski tribute in downtown Los Angeles on June 30th, Dan Fante — novelist/poet son of writing legend John Fante — was a highlight of the event as a reader, raconteur, and poet. Dan explained that the venue held personal meaning for him — because from the building’s terrace he could view Angel’s Flight, the funicular memorialized in his father’s masterpiece Ask the Dust. Dan also shared other favorite nearby locations he’d visited with his father — including Pershing Square — and reminded the audience, “We are on Bunker Hill,” the site of hotel featured in Ask the Dust. Visit Dan’s official website here.

Another standout performer was Chiwan Choi, who read Bukowski’s poem “Twins,” which Bukowski wrote about his father’s death, along with an original poem about his father. Find out more about this brilliant poet here.

The evening ended with a touching version of “Danny Boy” by actor Harry Dean Stanton, who opened with a harmonica solo and sang with uber soul.