“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. ┬áDuring 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.