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Ask the Dust is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young Italian-American writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Ask the Dust is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young Italian-American writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Bandini forever rejects the writer's life he fought so hard to attain.


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Ask the Dust is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young Italian-American writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Ask the Dust is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young Italian-American writer in 1930s Los Angeles who falls hard for the elusive, mocking, unstable Camilla Lopez, a Mexican waitress. Struggling to survive, he perseveres until, at last, his first novel is published. But the bright light of success is extinguished when Camilla has a nervous breakdown and disappears . . . and Bandini forever rejects the writer's life he fought so hard to attain.

30 review for Ask the Dust

  1. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    I remember when I was fourteen, reading Catcher in the Rye. I went downstairs and told my mom, "it's the weirdest thing, this guy is, like, reading my mind!" She said, "Matt, everyone thinks they're Holden Caulfield." God, adults can be so stupid sometimes. Obviously she didn't understand that this was something meaningful -- mystical, really -- that was happening to me. Or, to quote another influential poet of my youth, "parents just don't understand." Flash forward another fourteen years, the la I remember when I was fourteen, reading Catcher in the Rye. I went downstairs and told my mom, "it's the weirdest thing, this guy is, like, reading my mind!" She said, "Matt, everyone thinks they're Holden Caulfield." God, adults can be so stupid sometimes. Obviously she didn't understand that this was something meaningful -- mystical, really -- that was happening to me. Or, to quote another influential poet of my youth, "parents just don't understand." Flash forward another fourteen years, the last five or so of them being spent living in Los Angeles. Arturo Bandini, I know you too well! Living and dying with each minor victory and defeat... Fighting so often with the object of your affection to where eventually there's a perverse sort of pleasure to be found in it... Realizing that just because love might go unanswered, it doesn't make it any less real... and then of course all the dusty urban imagery that in sixty-five years has gone essentially unchanged and will likely continue to do so well into the future. It's the telltale sign of good, strong writing when you get the feeling that someone has been reading your mail (or email). To inspire this feeling from a distance of more than half a century is an even greater trick. I would recommend this book to, like, everyone.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    Arturo Bandini is young, penniless, naïve and inexperienced and he seems to be a hopeless dreamer but he has a purpose in life. He dreams to be a writer and he is set on achieving this goal by hook or by crook so he uses any possibility to write. My plight drove me to the typewriter. I sat before it, overwhelmed with grief for Arturo Bandini. Sometimes an idea floated harmlessly through the room. It was like a small white bird. It meant no ill-will. It only wanted to help me, dear little bird. Bu Arturo Bandini is young, penniless, naïve and inexperienced and he seems to be a hopeless dreamer but he has a purpose in life. He dreams to be a writer and he is set on achieving this goal by hook or by crook so he uses any possibility to write. My plight drove me to the typewriter. I sat before it, overwhelmed with grief for Arturo Bandini. Sometimes an idea floated harmlessly through the room. It was like a small white bird. It meant no ill-will. It only wanted to help me, dear little bird. But I would strike at it, hammer it out across die keyboard, and it would die on my hands. John Fante knows how to tell his tale right and he writes both very convincingly and captivatingly. Ask the Dust is a love story… Of sort. Its title suggests it to be sad and it is. A knock on the window. Someone was knocking on the window of that house obscured by heavy vines. I turned and found the window, saw a head; the flash of teeth, the black hair, the leer, the gesturing long fingers. What was that thunder in my belly? And how shall I prevent that paralysis of thought, and that inundation of blood making my senses reel? But I want this! I shall die without it! So I’m coming you woman in the window; you fascinate me, you kill me dead with delight and shudder and joy, and here I come, up these rickety stairs. Hopes of youth… Desires of youth… Failures of youth… But you’re young and right ahead there seems to be an abyss of time… Some use this time to reach their aims and some use it to destroy their lives.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    John Fante was Bukowski's god, and "either you adore him or you've never heard of him." Writing that's raw, swolen, true, and moving from a macro view of paragraph by paragraph, tectonic plates, words that are so organic, you never think about the words, they're tendons and muscles and joins that are by themselves ordinary yet Fante's voice is bold, heroic, cowardly, greedy, broken, blindingly joyful, I would follow him anywhere. It's rare that I buy a copy of a book I've already read, if I didn John Fante was Bukowski's god, and "either you adore him or you've never heard of him." Writing that's raw, swolen, true, and moving from a macro view of paragraph by paragraph, tectonic plates, words that are so organic, you never think about the words, they're tendons and muscles and joins that are by themselves ordinary yet Fante's voice is bold, heroic, cowardly, greedy, broken, blindingly joyful, I would follow him anywhere. It's rare that I buy a copy of a book I've already read, if I didn't own it to begin with. I needed to own Ask the Dust. The intro by Bukowski is terrific, too.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Joe Valdez

    Here goes my 200th book report since joining Goodreads. And my introduction to the fiction of John Fante is Ask the Dust, his 1939 novel considered by some scholars and educators to be one of the best works of fiction set in the Great Depression and the best set in Los Angeles. Superlatives like those could work against the book's vitality, which is palpable. Fante's narrator--destitute twenty year old boy Arturo Bandini struggling against hunger, wanting and creative resistance--lacks the worldl Here goes my 200th book report since joining Goodreads. And my introduction to the fiction of John Fante is Ask the Dust, his 1939 novel considered by some scholars and educators to be one of the best works of fiction set in the Great Depression and the best set in Los Angeles. Superlatives like those could work against the book's vitality, which is palpable. Fante's narrator--destitute twenty year old boy Arturo Bandini struggling against hunger, wanting and creative resistance--lacks the worldliness of John Steinbeck's Depression-era men and would've done well to read The Grapes of Wrath and grow up. His story is as bare as a cupboard, but Fante's language and the atmosphere he conjures are breathtaking. I was passing the doorman of the Biltmore, and I hated him at once, with his yellow braids and six feet of height and all that dignity, and now a black automobile drove to the curb, and a man got out. He looked rich, and then a woman got out, and she was beautiful, her fur was silver fox, and she was a song across the sidewalk and inside the swinging doors, and I thought oh boy for a little of that, just a day and night of that, and she was a dream as I walked along, her perfume still in the wet morning air. Then a great deal of time passed as I stood in front of a pipe shop and looked, and the whole world faded except that window and I stood and smoked them all, and saw myself a great author with that natty Italian briar, and a cane, stepping out of a big black car, and she was there too, proud as hell of me, the lady in the silver fox fur. We registered and then we had cocktails and then we danced awhile, and then we had another cocktail and I recited some lines of Sanskrit, and the world was so wonderful, because every two minutes some gorgeous one gazed at me, the great author, and nothing would do but I had to autograph her menu, and the silver fox girl was very jealous. In reality, Arturo (or Arthur, depending on how prejudiced the person he's introducing himself to is towards Italians) is five months off the bus from Boulder, Colorado, chasing dreams of becoming the Great Writer he knows himself to be. He checks in to a room in the Alta Loma Hotel in Bunker Hill, in the center of downtown Los Angeles, with little more than one-hundred fifty dollars in his pocket and big dreams in his head. Arturo carried two suitcases, one full of copies of a literary magazine edited by his hero J.C. Hackmuth, who has published a short story Arturo wrote titled The Little Dog Laughed. No one in the hotel seems to care, too busy eroding by sun, hunger or dust. Down to his last nickel, Arturo makes his way to Spring Street and a bar called the Columbia Buffet. He becomes fixated on a Mexican waitress named Camilla Lopez who serves him the worst cup of coffee he's ever tasted. Their romance hardly blossoms along the lines of mutual respect; Arturo projects his own self-loathing onto Camilla, who in return is often angry that the vigorous writer cannot be the man she loves, bartender Sammy Wiggins, who longs to publish western stories but is ailing from tuberculosis. Arturo is pursued by a desperate older woman named Vera Rivkin who becomes the inspiration for his first novel. Wanting to celebrate his success with Camilla, fate steps in. So this is where she lived! I smelled it, touched it with my fingers, walked through it with my feet. It was as I had imagined. This was her home. Blindfolded I could have acknowledged the place, for her odor possessed it, her fevered, lost existence proclaimed it as part of a hopeless scheme. An apartment on Temple Street, an apartment in Los Angeles. She belonged to the rolling hills, the wide deserts, the high mountains, she would ruin any apartment, she would lay havoc upon any such little prison as this. It was so, ever in my imagination, ever a part of my scheming and thinking about her. This was her home, her ruin, her scattered dream. The writing in Ask the Dust is so intoxicating, so filled with ardor and longing--whether it's righteous or completely misplaced by our boy narrator--that I couldn't help but fall under its spell. With little more than his imagination and a typewriter, Fante sketches Depression-era Los Angeles as vividly as the three greatest L.A. movies--Chinatown (1974), Blade Runner (1982) and L.A. Confidential (1997)--were able to do with an army of visual artists. Fante also knows the tempests brewing under the skin of both the aspiring artist and the amorous, socially awkward male--often one and the same--and conveys the life and times of both demographics memorably. Ask the Dust comes up short of complete satisfaction due to a couple of things. There's the length, which I'd peg at 50,000 words, nearly novella length. This is accounting for the threadbare nature of the story, the unwillingness of Fante/Bandini to really explore Camilla, Sammy, Vera, or anyone else in Los Angeles. This is a book about a boy's angst first and a city second, with characters further down the list. There's also disconnection between Arutro and Camilla where a novelist like Steinbeck might've developed a connection. The target demographic for Fante might be budding (male) authors or those with an interest in historic Los Angeles. These are my demographics. One of the novel's fans was Robert Towne, the Academy Award winning screenwriter of Chinatown who called Ask the Dust the greatest novel ever written about Los Angeles. In 2006, a long-simmering film version adapted and directed by Towne was released. Starring Colin Farrell as Arturo Bandini, Salma Hayek as Camilla and Idina Menzel as Vera, it suffered a fate similar to Billy Bob Thornton's 1999 adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses as a sober love story mismatched with idealistic imagery. It is in Fante's book where his descriptions thrive. I didn't ask any questions. Everything I wanted to know was written in tortured phrases across the desolation of her face.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Ashleigh

    This book was beautifully depressing. I read it because Charles Bukowski loved John Fante so much and I was not let down. The story had a depressed swagger that was believable even though it was about a time mostly remembered for glamor. This book was beautifully depressing. I read it because Charles Bukowski loved John Fante so much and I was not let down. The story had a depressed swagger that was believable even though it was about a time mostly remembered for glamor.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    Struggling writer Arturo Bandini (Great name!) arrived in 1930's Los Angeles to make it Big, but ends up in a crummy hotel on Bunker Hill where he spends most of his time dreaming the days away whilst surviving on a diet of oranges and cheap drink, the town is gripped by poverty and every time he sits at his typewriter the lack of ideas is paramount. But the publication of a short story which leads to some much needed cash brings Bandini some joy, where it's a case of spend! spend! spend! New cl Struggling writer Arturo Bandini (Great name!) arrived in 1930's Los Angeles to make it Big, but ends up in a crummy hotel on Bunker Hill where he spends most of his time dreaming the days away whilst surviving on a diet of oranges and cheap drink, the town is gripped by poverty and every time he sits at his typewriter the lack of ideas is paramount. But the publication of a short story which leads to some much needed cash brings Bandini some joy, where it's a case of spend! spend! spend! New clothes, cigars, fine food, and nights out: indulgent excess! But the high life does not last, and it's while at a diner that he is drawn to Camilla Lopez, a waitress with hidden troubles of her own, and so begins a love/hate relationship that always seemed doomed from the start. Arturo Bandini is such a great creation and on first impressions Henry Chinaski springs to mind, although there are some similarities here with Bukowski, Fante writes more from the heart with a tenderness that overall makes this more of a moving read than the Chinaski novels. It reminded me a little of Nathaniel West's brilliant 'The Day of the Locust' in terms of the hopes and dreams of those trying to make a name for themselves in the City of Angels. Great stuff!

  7. 4 out of 5

    E.

    I'm giving it three but it really deserves 3.5. I started off tearing into this book with the momentum I tore through Bukowski, which isn't to say that I love Bukowski, I don't, but I tore through his works. It's easy shit to tear through. So I read the overwhelmingly positive Bukowski introduction and I'm off and running. I have a strange fasination with early 20th century LA. I couldn't say why. I have lived in San Francisco the majority of my life and been to LA 3-4 times. I couldn't care less I'm giving it three but it really deserves 3.5. I started off tearing into this book with the momentum I tore through Bukowski, which isn't to say that I love Bukowski, I don't, but I tore through his works. It's easy shit to tear through. So I read the overwhelmingly positive Bukowski introduction and I'm off and running. I have a strange fasination with early 20th century LA. I couldn't say why. I have lived in San Francisco the majority of my life and been to LA 3-4 times. I couldn't care less about modern LA, it's something about private eyes and coniving starlets with loose morals in gang run speak easys that gets me going. Wait, that's Raymond Chandler.... Anyways, I like the time period. I also like Antonio Bandini's general insanity. He's a complex guy. A mess but a complex guy. The writing starts out interesting but decent and by about a hundred pages I didn't care so much anymore. The book was destined to sit on the side of my bed with the other 10 books I'm half way through and will finish sometime before 2010. Then on a random Saturday afternoon, camping in the Redwoods, about half way through my second 22 of Lagunitas Mother IPA I locked in. Every word was resonating. Bandini was speaking God's truth. I was there with him, with her, in the desert. Bandini takes it, but man can he dish it out. I tore through the rest of that novel that Saturday afternoon. And in it's finishing pages when the small plastic cup of IPA was gone and the whiskey was burning strong I closed Ask the Dust with a bang and threw that fucker into the desert. Bandini!

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    And I answer, the sea is back there, back in the reservoir of memory. The sea is a myth. There never was a sea. But there was a sea! I tell you I was born on the seashore! I bathed in the waters of the sea! It gave me food and it gave me peace, and its fascinating distances fed my dreams! No, Arturo, there never was a sea. You dream and you wish, but you go on through the wasteland. You will never see the sea again. It was a myth you once believed. But, I have to smile, for the salt of the sea i And I answer, the sea is back there, back in the reservoir of memory. The sea is a myth. There never was a sea. But there was a sea! I tell you I was born on the seashore! I bathed in the waters of the sea! It gave me food and it gave me peace, and its fascinating distances fed my dreams! No, Arturo, there never was a sea. You dream and you wish, but you go on through the wasteland. You will never see the sea again. It was a myth you once believed. But, I have to smile, for the salt of the sea is in my blood, and there may be ten thousand roads over the land, but they shall never confuse me, for my heart's blood will ever return to its beautiful source. The glorious face of the greatest editor, J.C. Hackmuth, a God of magazine publishers, gazes benevolently on the castawayed writer. Arturo Bandini, writer of the greatest story told. The Little Dog Laughed. Not about a dog, what stunning prose. He will autograph it for you. Here, take two and three with love. Tear and hunger stained pages and his prostrate body in signed (a puppy love school girl wouldn't flourish the name combinations so well) IOUs. They'll sell, some day, one day bright blind. It hurt me when he peeled off two dollars, three and eight. Fifteen and fifty cents loaned to a man who was so not good for it. Remember the lean days, Arturo! Oranges for breakfast, lunch and no dinner. I liked about Fante how I felt sorry for the charitable Japanese fruit dealer when Arturo bypasses his stall to blow an unexpected windfall (weeell, a deadbeat returns fifteen cents so he can get it adds up later) on two dozen cookies. I hated Arturo as he hated himself, waiting for him. A hazy Japanese fruit seller with blunted edges of charity, waiting on him in unreality. He's also unreal in world goes on without you. I wanted to hold his hand blind leading the blindfolded. He hurts me because he is too damned dumb. He would give it all away just in case some other dumb asshole might be thinking about him what he's thinking about himself. If they are thinking about him, laughing at him. I bet he could get afraid of going out in public with a smile on his face lest some jerk sees him and decides to turn it upside down. I liked a whole lot how Fante held this self aware/unself awareness of Arturo like it was just the weather. He is always greatest writer in the world voice-over in the aftermath of the kicked dog tail under tow. In his blind spot he's a part time racist. Dear great Hackmuth, they called me all kinds of names when I was coming up. All the bad ones, you can't imagine. I hate him as he licks his wounded on her. The dancing Mexican, his Mayan princess. Camilla the poor waitress in the center of his virgin's fixation. Arturo is youngish, I guess, but the more he lied the longer he grew in the tooth. They don't allow your kind in my hotel. I guess there was an upper hand change somewhere in the fists and fits. It's too sad as she's covered in his useless writer's glamour. That's what stuck to me, how no good he was on her terms and his own terms were pity and hate. It could have been worse. He could have stayed in the writer's block motel with Barton Fink. His neighbor murders veal on a blood soaked binge. His neighbor lets it all hang out in a filthy bathrobe. No heads in boxes. Every cloud. It was funny when he's sunk to his knees in lowest moment prayers to God for blessing of stolen milk. It was buttermilk! The homesick "Memphis Kid" signs his I gotta get out of here and go home where friends are friends out of Fort Worth, Texas. Home becomes home when they had to leave it and Los Angeles (or wherever) picks up the same old wander lust bowl. Okay, I'm not so sure I buy the letting down of I'm the star of the movie and what can they do for me that settles on the two women he manages to bang (by not running out of the room). I wouldn't change anything about Ask the Dust, it's just this nagging wonder about what is going to happen if he writes a great book, anyway. There's a shut up silence in him for Vera and Camilla and I wish it had had nothing to do with him in my gut, though I know it wouldn't be Arturo Bandini if he didn't ruin it and start talking again. Of course he has to autograph his book, a gesture for the wind. Hackmuth is a mere man (I never met him. Maybe such a Godsend is out of my sights). Maybe he wanted to remember her where he liked himself, wild beach hair blowing ancient temptress. I was there and he couldn't get it up and it was to the ground and snarling echoes of cruel thoughts from where they are wherever people are before they are born. (Fante was pretty perfect in the phoenix ashes of shame and ego I could hardly stand it. )Wherever people go when they die, that's where Camilla is. I guess he loved her in between.... I liked that it felt real all this damned pretense. It is a lot of work to be Arturo every day. It was strangely kind of innocent, and I didn't mean it hurt. I wouldn't change a thing since the book about him didn't just read like some book about something....

  9. 5 out of 5

    Imogen

    Fuck this book. "I acted like a racist douchebag toward a girl I like/hate because I've experienced racism myself, and then I sexually assualted her. Later, I felt sad she was gone forever." Arturo Bandini writes charmingly, and the setting and (non)plot are super inviting, but Jesus Christ, I expected so much more from a press (Black Sparrow) that's supposed to be cool and an author with such an old-timey mystique. Fuck this.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alex V.

    Ask the Dust is about as good a book as has ever been written. I say book, instead of novel because I'm not sure it is a novel. Same with story, not sure there is much of a story here either. Instead, it is a hotwired connection to the mind of Arturo Bandini, the manic writer manifested in this and two other books Fante wrote. It might be a shambles of a story, a bust as a novel, but it's a motherfucker of a book. It's been said that Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a collection of all things in the wo Ask the Dust is about as good a book as has ever been written. I say book, instead of novel because I'm not sure it is a novel. Same with story, not sure there is much of a story here either. Instead, it is a hotwired connection to the mind of Arturo Bandini, the manic writer manifested in this and two other books Fante wrote. It might be a shambles of a story, a bust as a novel, but it's a motherfucker of a book. It's been said that Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a collection of all things in the world at that moment, half of them in Ireland, half of those in Dublin, half of those on Joyce's street, half of those in his house and so on and so forth until you reach either infinity or negation, depending on which way you traverse the graph. In Ask the Dust, Bandini feels everything whether in proximity or imagined but it all channels through this one man in a frightening rush, and this man, ill equipped to survive even without the encumbering of being the universe's conduit, is ravaged by the unending spurt of life. Bandini possibly experiences nothing, no one - they are figments in his narrative. I've considered the possibility that this book actually takes place with a catatonic Bandini sitting in that dour Bunker Hill apartment, his synapses sparking out like burnt fuses, manufacturing this wild life of devastating failures punctuated by successes. I've also considered that Bandini is Fante, a juvenile, but often dead-on assumption among writers who only write a few books all about writers. None of it matters though. Arturo Bandini is the greatest. Muhammad Ali took ego lessons from Bandini. He is a shrieking lunatic mostly because it is possible that he is the only living person all earth, that the rest of us are either dull shades or occasional fellow lost souls. Reading Ask the Dust makes you want to go raving mad for just a while, so you can get the taste of blood in your mouth, so you can hear what it sounds like when you howl like a wolf. I think its the third time I've read this over the past decade, but the first time as a writer myself, and Bandini's anguish and longing to be read and to be loved and whatever pathetic impulses and personality defects that compel a person to Make Things of Spiritual Value only serve to underscore and expose the frightening longing we all have to exist.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

    I picked this up for a buck last week. Fante's such an easy read that I should have been finished that night, but I can't even seem to feign an interest in fiction lately. Well, maybe that's not entirely true. Maybe brain is still convalescing from all the Texas, drugs, and alcohol that I consumed last weekend. I'm astonished that I'm even capable of reading my e-mails lately. An example of Fante's ostensible solipsism. "War in Europe, a speech by Hitler, trouble in Poland, these were the topics I picked this up for a buck last week. Fante's such an easy read that I should have been finished that night, but I can't even seem to feign an interest in fiction lately. Well, maybe that's not entirely true. Maybe brain is still convalescing from all the Texas, drugs, and alcohol that I consumed last weekend. I'm astonished that I'm even capable of reading my e-mails lately. An example of Fante's ostensible solipsism. "War in Europe, a speech by Hitler, trouble in Poland, these were the topics of the day. What piffle! You warmongers, you old folks in the lobby of the Alta Loma Hotel, here is the news, here: this little paper with all the fancy legal writing, my book! To hell with that Hitler, this is more important than Hitler, this is about my book. It won't shake the world, it won't kill a soul, it won't fire a gun, ah, but you'll remember the book. The story of Vera Rivken, a slice out of life." Indeed, he makes such a charming argument. World War II, bah! Bandini's aimless adventures; far more important. Books such as Ask the Dust seem to fall into the "hey, listen-to-me-becoming-a-great-writer" category. I've never really understood how any of these guys were published. I chalk it up to the historical period. Maybe the idea of the struggling writer trying to make a name for himself in Los Angeles appealed to the sympathies of the difficult times in which these books were written. Honestly, I see nothing more than a nuanced journal kept by someone who thinks that they are becoming a great writer. There isn't really anything more to Ask the Dust than a few banal observations about the human condition, a masochistic relationship with a bar waitress, and an appalling amount of exclamation points. I've often heard Bukowski compared to Fante. Fante's influence on Bukowski is chronologically accurate, but it's unfair to Bukowski to say that Fante is superior in some way. They're both awful writers. They're both assholes too. The only difference is that Fante paints a portrait of his alter-ego as this altruistic, Catholic saint, whereas Bukowski drowns himself in booze-soaked, self deprecation. At least Bukowski was honest, and funny. Anyway, I don't even know why I really care that much. Maybe I just can't stand needless arguments about which piece of crap is better.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Sánchez Keighley

    I started reading this book knowing little more about it than that it was one of Bukowski's favourites. And I can certainly see how Hank's own style might have fed off of certain elements of Fante's prose. But boy oh boy, I didn't know I was diving into a love story; what's more, one that would pull at my guts, my blood, my hair, my teeth and - yes -, by the very end, also my heartstrings. That ending was superb. The protagonist, Arturo Bandini, is a lot of fun to ready about. A young and passion I started reading this book knowing little more about it than that it was one of Bukowski's favourites. And I can certainly see how Hank's own style might have fed off of certain elements of Fante's prose. But boy oh boy, I didn't know I was diving into a love story; what's more, one that would pull at my guts, my blood, my hair, my teeth and - yes -, by the very end, also my heartstrings. That ending was superb. The protagonist, Arturo Bandini, is a lot of fun to ready about. A young and passionate wannabe writer whose cringe-inducing delusions of grandeur often reminded me of Rupert Pupkin, from Scorcese's The King of Comedy. It's hard to pull off a nuanced character we can all laugh at and deeply relate to at the same time. He strikes an almost perfect balance between Holden Caulfield, for relatability, and Ignatius Reilly, for despicability. All in all, a great read that takes the black rotten understuff of the everyman's psyche and rejoices in framing it as human and beautiful. Short, funny, ugly and poetic. I'd read more of Fante's ugly understuff any day.

  13. 4 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    Someone recently mentioned Ask the Dust on Goodreads. I don't remember who. But, uh, thank you, whoever you are. I appreciate the recommendation and I'm surprised, even with its flaws, that the novel isn't revered by the Bukowski Fan Club crowd. Ask the Dust functions as Arturo Bandini's (fictional) first person account of his rising and falling and rising (etc.) as a young Colorado writer new to California. Arturo wanders around Los Angeles, writes in his spartan hotel room, and makes a shitloa Someone recently mentioned Ask the Dust on Goodreads. I don't remember who. But, uh, thank you, whoever you are. I appreciate the recommendation and I'm surprised, even with its flaws, that the novel isn't revered by the Bukowski Fan Club crowd. Ask the Dust functions as Arturo Bandini's (fictional) first person account of his rising and falling and rising (etc.) as a young Colorado writer new to California. Arturo wanders around Los Angeles, writes in his spartan hotel room, and makes a shitload of bad decisions. Fante excels in his ability to track Bandini's thought process from feverish creativity to mild paranoia to lust and self-loathing to sincere but halfhearted stabs at returning to his childhood Catholicism. On any day Arturio lurches from puffed-up arrogance to stomach-acid despair. He spends too much time alone. His relationship with Camilla, a local waitress, becomes a case study in how two messed up people can both lift each other up and drag each other down. More of the latter. Fante writes with a muscular, lyrical style; his Los Angeles is both movie set and dusty, hopeless slum. He's more heady than Bukowski, crossing over into near-poetry especially when describing the city and desert. Bukowski readers will recognize Fante's influence within the first 100 words. Mr. Bukowski (in the edition I read, anyway) schools introduction-writers with his brief, direct articulation of his Fante admiration. If you can find an edition with the Bukowski introduction, get that one. Not the other one. The novel's last 20%, however, blunders into an almost Reefer Madnessesque portrayal of marijuana addiction. It's hilarious. Fante blow his momentum with an anti-drug cautionary tale complete with “cans” of pot, users who conventionally put towels under doors because apparently you can't smoke pot in an open room, and what can only be described as a crackhouse for pot smokers. A pothouse? Maybe pot was stronger in the thirties. I don't know. But until the last couple pages, when Arturo walks out into the desert alone (I don't think I'm spoiling anything, don't worry), the gritty, compelling monologue becomes a cardboard addict story. I couldn't help but consider if Fante, like Bandini, was sabotaging himself. That said, Ask the Dust is required reading for people into that whole drunk crazy writer thing. I very much liked the bulk of the book but I can't go beyond three stars because of the novel's disappointing swerve toward the end. I don't know much about the controversy Ms. Sanchez references below but I know Ms. Sanchez well enough to trust said controversy exists. This book was probably innovative for its time and deserves shelf-space next to the writers Fante influenced. I just wish the excellent Ask the Dust hadn't faltered near the finish line.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    ***KINDLE EDITION $1.99 TODAY, 23 JUNE 2014 I rated this 4 stars because, when I first read it in the early 1980s, it riveted me. I've taken a star off because after 30-plus years the chances are it's not going to get close to 5 stars, since I've read so very much more by now. Well, we shall see. I've Kindled it up, it's a short book (under 200pp), and I feel daring. ***KINDLE EDITION $1.99 TODAY, 23 JUNE 2014 I rated this 4 stars because, when I first read it in the early 1980s, it riveted me. I've taken a star off because after 30-plus years the chances are it's not going to get close to 5 stars, since I've read so very much more by now. Well, we shall see. I've Kindled it up, it's a short book (under 200pp), and I feel daring.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    In one way this reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, though not the good way. For me as for so many teens growing up, Holden Caulfield was all that. Imagine, then, my horror when I grew up to be an English teacher in a high school assigning the book of my dreams. Imagine, too, the horror I felt as 75% of my young readers were turned off by the book, considering HC to be a shallow whiner. A shall--, wha? That was a few decades back. Just a few years ago I dared to return to Salinger's magnum opus In one way this reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye, though not the good way. For me as for so many teens growing up, Holden Caulfield was all that. Imagine, then, my horror when I grew up to be an English teacher in a high school assigning the book of my dreams. Imagine, too, the horror I felt as 75% of my young readers were turned off by the book, considering HC to be a shallow whiner. A shall--, wha? That was a few decades back. Just a few years ago I dared to return to Salinger's magnum opus, risking everything, I thought, if time treated it poorly. But it didn't. And that pleased me no end (I'm a simple man). I thought the book achieved everything it set out to. I thought both Holden and his little sister Phoebe were great characters. I even liked the bit characters--Ackley, Stradlater, Jane Gallagher, etc. But back to Ask the Dust. Chaz Bukowski put me on to it. Even wrote an intro for it, circa 1979, complaining how anemic contemporary books were in those days, how nothing had any life like the pre-Revolution Russians. Until this book. Yikes. A tall order. Ask the Dust on a par with Tolstoy and Dostoevsky? Uh, no. But back to Salinger's book. I found my response to John Fante's novel somewhat akin to my students' reaction to Salinger's. The protagonist, Arturo Bandini, was 20 but immature for his days. Whiny, if whimsical. Deluded, if hopeful. A writer with all the wannabe writer dreams. It was mildly funny in the start, until it wasn't. The trouble is, Bandini seemed a bit of a crackpot. Over the edge. And then the girl he falls for, one Camilla, is almost a mirror image. A crackpot. Over the edge. His neighbor who cadges money off of him? Crackpot, check. Over the edge, check. The crazy older woman he'd never seen before who shows up at his door one night looking for love? Crackpot (natch). Over the edge (-urally). (But at least she was the source of writing ideas for young Bandini who, like every 20-year-old who wants to write, has an editor who publishes everything he mails in.) Don't get me wrong. It was an easy read and I never wanted to STOP. It was just, I don't know, a rather plotless thing begging me to fall in love with its characters (as all plotless books do), and I just couldn't fully deliver. So not bad and not great. Three points. All for you, Bukowski, because the character was as down and out as you played at being. That counts for something, maybe.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mike Puma

    An unreliable narrator, Arturo Bandini, relates his highest accomplishments (writing short stories and a novel) and his deepest failures (finding love). His piques of racism and misogyny are followed by moments of tenderness and compassion for the same woman. He’s a man hard to admire, yet equally hard to forget or not care about. For this reader, at least, he’s one who will have to be revisited, re-evaluated, through the pages of the author’s other volumes in the The Saga of Arturo Bandini sequ An unreliable narrator, Arturo Bandini, relates his highest accomplishments (writing short stories and a novel) and his deepest failures (finding love). His piques of racism and misogyny are followed by moments of tenderness and compassion for the same woman. He’s a man hard to admire, yet equally hard to forget or not care about. For this reader, at least, he’s one who will have to be revisited, re-evaluated, through the pages of the author’s other volumes in the The Saga of Arturo Bandini sequence. Bandini succeeds in the imagination where he hasn’t in his fictive life—one must know more about him. This novel put me in mind of Knut Hamsun’s Hunger and Italo Svevo’s Zeno’s Conscience. While Hamsun’s unnamed narrator is more horrific and more hungry, and Svevo’s narrator is more comic, the three share that out-of-place-in-the-world persona and their authors exploit them well in presenting unforgettable narratives and characters. Ask the Dust is bleak. It’s not a fun story. Fante’s Bandini earns his sympathy slowly. In that regard, Fante’s minimalism is akin to Cormac McCarthy, whose work I admire greatly. If forced to choose, I’d stick with McCarthy; since I don’t expect to face that choice, I’ll horde McCarthy, and take on more Fante as I stumble into them.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Magdalen

    While I was reading the book I was determined that I would rate it with a single star. Arturo was a misogynist , racist, arrogant and self-centered. The plot was rather boring. The narration after a certain point was becoming annoying(although there were some great scenes tbh). The characters were flat, irritating and I just couldn't relate to them or like them. I found myself detesting most of them. I only felt bad for Camilla.. But then the ending happened and it changed everything. I fin While I was reading the book I was determined that I would rate it with a single star. Arturo was a misogynist , racist, arrogant and self-centered. The plot was rather boring. The narration after a certain point was becoming annoying(although there were some great scenes tbh). The characters were flat, irritating and I just couldn't relate to them or like them. I found myself detesting most of them. I only felt bad for Camilla.. But then the ending happened and it changed everything. I finally could feel that Arturo trully cared about Camilla. He was taking care of her, he was trying to help her. That was -for me- a genuine character development. It wasn't just a love-hate relationship after all. And this is why I chose to give it 3,5 stars instead. It would be unfair to do otherwise. I am just glad that I didn't quit reading it due to the countless boring scenes..All in all it was a fine book..

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Holiday

    found Ask the Dust through Neil Strauss, who considers it one of his favorite books. I read it in one day, LOVED it and ordered all the others. I read each of these in one day as well. Bandini, the subject of the series, is a wonderful example of someone whose actual life is ruined by the fantasies in his head-every second he spends stuck up there is one he wastes and spoils in real life. He's too caught up and delusional to see that his problems are his fault, that he's vicious because he can' found Ask the Dust through Neil Strauss, who considers it one of his favorite books. I read it in one day, LOVED it and ordered all the others. I read each of these in one day as well. Bandini, the subject of the series, is a wonderful example of someone whose actual life is ruined by the fantasies in his head-every second he spends stuck up there is one he wastes and spoils in real life. He's too caught up and delusional to see that his problems are his fault, that he's vicious because he can't live up to the impossible expectations they create, and that he could have everything he wants if he calmed down and lived in reality for a second. But it works in the book because Fante is a beautiful writer and he portrays this neurosis-which also appears to be his own-so well. This is the series in order by my favorites: Ask the Dusk, Dreams from Bunker Hill, Wait Until Spring, Bandini and The Road to Los Angeles. (DO NOT watch the movie version of Ask to Dust, it is embarrassingly bad.) Of historical note: He tells a side of Los Angeles that most people don't know existed, a side that for some inexcusable reason has been completely forgotten. Somehow I ended up reading it while I was in Los Angeles on business, staying at the LA Athletic Club which is on Olive St where the book takes place and was open during the time the book is set. (In fact, in one of the opening paragraphs the main character walks right by the club.) Side recommendation: Fante's writing reminds me a lot of John Kennedy Toole's Neon Bible.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Lee

    I read this a long time ago...no idea what I'd make of it now, but I distantly recall it as being a solid ****...

  20. 4 out of 5

    Ned

    A rare glimpse of the working poor of lost Los Angeles in the 1930s is transmuted through the self aggrandizing eyes of the young Arturo Bandini. But he is no ordinary soul, Arturo fancies himself a writer, but as a young man he worries his life experiences are limited. So he wanders, and watches, and dreams his fever dreams of achieving fame. This is a story about the life of an author, and the filters are off, revealing the naked ambition and nearly schizophrenic seesaws from self loathing to A rare glimpse of the working poor of lost Los Angeles in the 1930s is transmuted through the self aggrandizing eyes of the young Arturo Bandini. But he is no ordinary soul, Arturo fancies himself a writer, but as a young man he worries his life experiences are limited. So he wanders, and watches, and dreams his fever dreams of achieving fame. This is a story about the life of an author, and the filters are off, revealing the naked ambition and nearly schizophrenic seesaws from self loathing to fantasies of grandeur. His mysterious east coast “agent” is a key character, but never appears onstage, only in the form of letters and the odd check that finally arrives when Arturo gets a story published. Up till then, the nearly broke writer has been scrounging fruit from sympathetic grocers and smoking cheap tobacco rolled in tissue. The descriptions of the hot, barren landscape and the misplaced peoples searching California for the lost promised land is exquisite, and makes this an excellent record (I feel fiction improves our understanding of history – but the buffs argue with me). Arturo’s sexuality is confounded by his inability to perform when he meets the love of his life working in a bar, the strangely beautiful yet confounded latina Camilla. The books takes off from this relationship, which entwines with Arturo’s writerly ambitions and successes. Worked into this odd stew is the discovery of “hopheads” and the bizarre smoking of that strange herb along the alleyways of the American Dream. Remarkable what was really going on in 1930’s america, while Europe was roiling through its tumult. This is a love story, conflicted and shredded by the rapidly deteriorating physical and mental state of the beloved. This was the third in an excellent and coherent series of the child in Colorado moving west and finding work and then, in this one, professional success. It is an immigrant story (Italian) and the attendant struggles required to melt into American society, albeit from the tattered fringes. Fante is a superb writer, and I finally understand why the late Charles Bukowski loved him so – there is no pretense, the protagonist is real and transparent about his pathetic failings and fantasies. It is poetic in scope, built up from the raw details of human bodies and in response to the oppression of culture. It is a true story of man, his anger and frustrations, hopes and dreams. The love story is tragic, but this is the American tale where many strive and most fail to hit the mark. Here are some samplings: Arturo sees clearly into the westward ho finale of failed California Dreamin’: (p 45)”…Smith and Jones and Parker, druggist, banker, baker, dust of Chicago and Cincinnati and Cleveland on their shoes, doomed to die in the sun, a few dollars in the bank, enough to subscribe to the Los Angeles times, enough to keep alive the illusion that this was paradise, that their little paper mache homes were castles. The uprooted ones, the empty sad folks, the old and the young folks, the folks from back home. These were my countrymen, these were the new Californians. With their bright polo shirts and sunglasses, they were in paradise, they belonged.” Arturo finds the pure essence of writing and the euphoria of hitting on another plain, almost like physical sensation: (p 106) “I tried it and it moved easily. But it was not thinking, not cogitation. It simply moved of its own accord, spurted out like blood. This was it. I had it at last. Here I go, leave me be, o boy do I love it, Oh god do I love you, and you Camilla, and you and you. Here I go and it feels so good, so sweet and warm and soft, delicious, delirious. Up the river and over the sea, this is you and this is me, big fat words, little fat words, big thin words, whee whee whee. Breathless, frantic, endless thing, going to be something big, going on and on, I hammered away for hours, until gradually it came upon me in the flesh, stole over me, haunted my bones, dripped from me, weakened me, blinded me. Camilla! I had to have that Camilla! I got up and walked out of the hotel and down Bunker Hill to the Columbia buffet.” Arturo “feels” the world around him, sees the fragility of man as weak to the vast power and indifference of nature: (p 120) “Here was the endlessly mute placidity of nature, indifferent to the great city; here was the desert beneath these streets, around these streets, waiting for the city to die, to cover it with timeless sand once more. There came over me a terrifying sense of understanding about the meaning and the pathetic destiny of men. The desert was always there, a patient white animal, waiting for men to die, for civilizations to flicker and pass into the darkness. Then men seemed brave to me, and I was proud to be numbered among them. All the evil of the world seemed not evil at all, but inevitable and good and part of that endless struggle to keep the desert down.” I’m going to read all the rest of Fante – happy there are a few remaining. Thanks Buk, RIP.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kid

    I think there should be a "gave up" option. I am currently sick of this book and the overwrought narrator. I think I can guess why a maudlin alcoholic might find the pendulum swings between lust and disgust compelling but I don't know - I'm not in my 20s anymore. Did this particular down and out LA hack create a blueprint for the tortured artist type that I loath? Thank god for the weary and reserved language of Chandler. Bukowski loves this book and this writer - he apparently stumbled across t I think there should be a "gave up" option. I am currently sick of this book and the overwrought narrator. I think I can guess why a maudlin alcoholic might find the pendulum swings between lust and disgust compelling but I don't know - I'm not in my 20s anymore. Did this particular down and out LA hack create a blueprint for the tortured artist type that I loath? Thank god for the weary and reserved language of Chandler. Bukowski loves this book and this writer - he apparently stumbled across this book in his underwear and a greasy trench coat in the library when he was. . .um. . .drunk. I also think this book takes a massive cue from Hunger - which is also kind of annoying but at least has a few laughs. Put this is the injured reserve pile.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Like with so many other books a review on Goodreads prompted me to buy this book with the enigmatic title. Sadly the reviewer hasn't written anything in months, and is greatly missed. The book was sitting on my Kindle for quite a while, gathering the proverbial dust, before I finally decided to read it. None other than Charles Bukowski wrote a short introduction. It states "Fante was my god[sic]" and Bukowski came to this conclusion after reading Ask The Dust. He, Bukowski, later became Fante's Like with so many other books a review on Goodreads prompted me to buy this book with the enigmatic title. Sadly the reviewer hasn't written anything in months, and is greatly missed. The book was sitting on my Kindle for quite a while, gathering the proverbial dust, before I finally decided to read it. None other than Charles Bukowski wrote a short introduction. It states "Fante was my god[sic]" and Bukowski came to this conclusion after reading Ask The Dust. He, Bukowski, later became Fante's protégé of sorts, visiting him often in hospital prior to his death in 1983. Sometimes when I read a book I listen to some music that I think will fit the mood of the book. In this case, since the book is set in the late 1930s in Los Angeles, I thought maybe some West Coast Jazz from that era would be a good choice. This turned out to be a great idea. I actually found a piece that matches my feelings about the story almost exactly: Charles Mingus's "A Colloquial Dream" from the 1962 album "Tijuana Moods". If you want a 10 minute musical summary of this book, listen to this tune. It's most likely out there somewhere on the net. Another review, from the time the book was first published, compared Ask The Dust with J.W.Goethe's Sorrows of Young Werther. Since I haven't read Werther yet, I can neither confirm, nor deny this, but from the blurb I think it's a reasonable statement. For me though, the protagonist, Arturo Brandini, shares not only a few character traits with Holden Caulfield from The Catcher In The Rye. I would go so far as to say both book are pretty much equivalent in terms of affection or rejection. That is, if you love the Catcher you must read Ask The Durst, and if you don't then stay away from this book. Arturo Brandini, of Italian ancestry, is a young writer who dreams about being famous. He moved from Colorado to Los Angeles, and is living there as a tenant in Bunker Hill. His only work published so far is a short story in some magazine, so he suffers permanent financial difficulties. This is also because he cannot handle money very well. As soon as he gets some he gives it away for "nothing". One day he meets a young Mexican woman, Camille, and is soon entangled in a kind of love & hate triangle with her and another man. Later, another woman, Vera, also plays an important part, so I guess it's more like a rectangle. Arturo is ambitious, but naive. He's talented (as a writer), but still unsteady (as a person). He wants to belong, but it seems he still has quite some way to go. I don't know how much of Fante is in Brandini. A lot, probably. For some reason that escapes me, the secondary characters have some funny sounding names that all begin with the letter H: Hellfrick (the neighbor), Hackmuth (the great editor), and Hargraves (the landlady). All of these characters are real as life (with the exception of Very maybe, with whom I couldn't find a real connection). The beauty of the prose I can not emphasize enough. It is poetic with but with some sharp edges, it's reflective and at the same time very direct. The author seamlessly switches back and forth between first person, third person, and second person narrative, and you don't even recognize it at first. Very impressive. The final character I like to mention is Los Angeles itself. To me parts of the story read like a kind of praise for this city and its people, from a time when smoking joints was still a big deal (even for the protagonist), and smoking cigarettes was not. (Los Angeles, Bunker Hill, 1939; Photo by William Reagh, used w/out permission) I gladly add this book to the list of great modern American literature, and will remember Arturo Bandini for a long time. Needless to say that I'm going to read the other three books of the so-called Brandini-Quartet by John Fante. PS: Interesting tidbit: The original publisher's (Stackpole) plans to back Ask The Dust heavily failed after loosing a copyright infringement case against Adolf Hitler! Apparently Hilter's "Mein Kampf" had been published by Stackpole in an unauthorized edition. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kasa Cotugno

    This book begins with a wonderful introduction by Charles Burkowski, a perfect way to begin this account of Los Angeles in the late 1930s. It is an example of why reading books by authors living the scene are so evocative. Fante's words sum up perfectly the sun drenched unmet promise of LA, and his protagonist is a complex and not always likable character. Recommended to me by a friend whose opinion matters.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    I read this in tandem with a friend who hated the novel. Quite the contrary, I really liked it, the everyday struggle is sprinkled with lyricism. I agree that often this glitter is misogynistic and racist. Fante succeeds here. There is no need to rationalize for his characters' biases and imperfections. This is a gritty novel of mixed fortunes.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Darren

    So eventually I get around to Fante. Was it worth the wait? Well firstly, it's worth noting that the storyline amounts to very little and the character development is pretty minimal too. However, Fante's at times, almost stream of consciousness style prose and the depiction of the despair, anger, confusion and cruelty of the various characters is what makes it. Bandini, is an egotistical, delusional and obsessive character, but also essentially a sensitive and tortured soul. His pursuit of love i So eventually I get around to Fante. Was it worth the wait? Well firstly, it's worth noting that the storyline amounts to very little and the character development is pretty minimal too. However, Fante's at times, almost stream of consciousness style prose and the depiction of the despair, anger, confusion and cruelty of the various characters is what makes it. Bandini, is an egotistical, delusional and obsessive character, but also essentially a sensitive and tortured soul. His pursuit of love interest Camilla is doomed to failure, and his mysogynistic and egotistical ways prevent the reader from being sympathetic to his plight. Despite this, the evocative poetic language, and brooding atmospheric feel of the novel, are what make this book so special. Fante manages to condense into under 200 pages, what most writers fail to achieve in a lifetime.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Still

    Absolutely one of the greatest reads I've ever experienced. Bukowski (an acolyte of the author) wrote the preface. A poem Bukowski wrote inspired by the author is included at the end of the book. This is a funny yet wistful story about a struggling young writer who eventually achieves success and falls in love with a Mexican waitress... serious calamity ensues. Intense and beautiful. Recommended to all Charles Bukowski fans -truly a must-own.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    Arturo Bandini is by no means the most admirable of heroes: All he seems to want out of life is (1) to have bragging rights as a "great" American author and (2) to have messy affairs with women with whom he has a love/hate relationship. John Fante's Ask the Dust is still one of the best Los Angeles novels ever written. Its scenes in the now-demolished Bunker Hill neighborhood and its description of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake are priceless pictures of a bygone Southern California. One of the Arturo Bandini is by no means the most admirable of heroes: All he seems to want out of life is (1) to have bragging rights as a "great" American author and (2) to have messy affairs with women with whom he has a love/hate relationship. John Fante's Ask the Dust is still one of the best Los Angeles novels ever written. Its scenes in the now-demolished Bunker Hill neighborhood and its description of the 1933 Long Beach earthquake are priceless pictures of a bygone Southern California. One of the most interesting things about the novel is that the whole Hollywood scene is totally absent -- and that at a time when it was at its height. I finished reading the book today inside L.A.'s Central Library, which adjoins John Fante Square at the corner of 5th and Grand downtown. Then I went to eat lunch at the Grand Central Market, which stands at the foot of Bunker Hill's Angel's Flight funicular.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ms.pegasus

    The relentless intensity of Arthur Bandini's solipsism is almost unbearable. He is a promising writer, struggling through a creative dry spell. No doubt other writers will find this character entirely relateable. As merely a reader, however, I found it hard, even impossible to stay connected with this character. His moods oscillate violently between masochistic despondency and delusional grandiloquence; between testosterone fueled obsession and self-disgust. Bandini is brutally naked before the The relentless intensity of Arthur Bandini's solipsism is almost unbearable. He is a promising writer, struggling through a creative dry spell. No doubt other writers will find this character entirely relateable. As merely a reader, however, I found it hard, even impossible to stay connected with this character. His moods oscillate violently between masochistic despondency and delusional grandiloquence; between testosterone fueled obsession and self-disgust. Bandini is brutally naked before the reader. Every cruel impulse and hateful utterance is shamelessly exposed. And yet, that jaundiced eye comes up with startling images that made the time I spent with this book worthwhile. It is perhaps a cliché to imagine the palm tree as a metonym for Los Angeles. The trees line the roadways, forming an exotic corridor that beguiles thee visitor with promises of sensual pleasure and fecund desires. Bandini can both appreciate that image and yet turn it around: “Through that window I saw my first palm tree, not six feet away, and sure enough I thought of Palm Sunday and Egypt and Cleopatra, but the palm was blackened at its branches, stained by carbon monoxide oming out of the Third Street Tunnel, its crusted trunk choked with dust and sand that blew in from the Mohave and Santa Ana deserts.” (p.8) Author Fante creates an indelible image of Los Angeles in the Thirties. His emotions mirror the addictive power and tawdriness of the city itself, expressed with an unfiltered hyperbole. His writing, however, is a study in contrasts. The closing is a perfect bookend to the intense self-absorption of its opening: “Across the desolation lay a supreme indifference, the casualness of night and another day, and yet the secret intimacy of those hills, their silent consoling wonder, made death a thing of no great importance.” (p.193) This book was far outside my comfort zone.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Clinton

    I haven't read this book in almost a decade. However, every time I see the beaten-up, dusty volume on my shelf, almost hidden in its slenderness, nestled alphabetically against Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying", I look back fondly on it and the time of my life when I read it and adored it. When I was around 19, I, as most inebriated 19 year old boys who fancy themselves bohemians do, discovered Charles Bukowsi. I forget the exact quote, but not long after my discovery of Bukowsi, I heard a recording o I haven't read this book in almost a decade. However, every time I see the beaten-up, dusty volume on my shelf, almost hidden in its slenderness, nestled alphabetically against Faulkner's "As I Lay Dying", I look back fondly on it and the time of my life when I read it and adored it. When I was around 19, I, as most inebriated 19 year old boys who fancy themselves bohemians do, discovered Charles Bukowsi. I forget the exact quote, but not long after my discovery of Bukowsi, I heard a recording of him berating an audience of college students at a reading, telling them something to the effect of, "John Fante has more soul in his little finger than all of you f***ers combined". Needless to say, I was intrigued, and soon after I was lucky enough to find a used copy of "Ask the Dust" in a bookstore near my apartment. That same night, in the dingy lamplight of my tiny Omaha apartment, after several hours of reading and several cans of Old Style, I finished the book. This book is what Bukowski longed to write, and tried desperately but failed to emulate. At face value you get Fante, thinly veiled as Arturo Bandini, with all his blood, sweat, tears and balls chewed up and spat upon the pages of this book. "Ask the Dust" may not be your thing, but it is brutal, honest, lovely, pitiful, touching, funny, sad and despicable, often all at once, and if you do not at least find it to be these things, you are either wrong, or I do not remember it correctly.

  30. 5 out of 5

    julieta

    What is it about some people who you probably would hate, but end up loving? I just can't resist s JF's characters, Bandini! you have to love him, or hate him, but you can't resist him!! I am Arturo Bandini!!

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