Tony's Reviews > Ask the Dust

Ask the Dust by John Fante
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Oct 08, 11

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction-mainstream
Read in October, 2011

ASK THE DUST. (1939). John Fante. ****.
I hadn’t heard of this author before, but a friend recommended this book and I gave it a try. I was almost put off when I saw that this edition had a preface by Charles Bukowski, a writer I usually can’t abide, who praised the author to high heaven. In spite of this, I read the book and was pleasantly surprised, though I can’t tell you why – exactly. It’s the story of a young man, an Italian-American from Boulder, CO, now living in LA. He went to the coast to become a writer. His name was Arturo Bandini and he had one successful short story to his credit. By the time he got to LA he had no money and no prospects. He lived close to the edge. With one of his last nickels, he stopped in a diner and had a cup of coffee and felt strongly attracted to the waitress, a Mexican-American named Camilla. They start a love/hate relationship that mostly consists of trading insults back and forth. He wants to possess her sexually, but finds when he has the opportunity – she almost throws hersef at him when they are swimming at Long Beach – he can’t perform. His strict upbringing as a Catholic gets in the way. This, obviously bothers him because he has never yet had sex. That’s quickly remedied, however, when he meets another woman – older and somewhat crazy – who had seen him sitting by the window at the diner. She had just left her husband and was looking for sex. It wasn’t likely she would be satisfied, however, since she had deformities that apparently disgusted her husband and had him turn away from her. Anyway...the book goes on and on like this, with our encountering a series of strange characters with odd tics in their characters who interact with our hero. This is all narrated by Bandini as if he were talking to his buddies at the local bar. There is no real plot, but you can’t stop yourself from reading on. I’m not sure why. Recommended.
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