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Ask the Dust

Ask the Dust

4.1 24
by John Fante

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Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the twentieth-century American novel. It is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young 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


Ask the Dust is a virtuoso performance by an influential master of the twentieth-century American novel. It is the story of Arturo Bandini, a young 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.

Editorial Reviews

Gale Research
Ask the Dust sold only a few copies when first published, partly because its publisher, Stackpole, was involved in expensive litigation that year and could not afford to give the book a proper advertising budget. But Ask the Dust was the Fante book "around which a cult has formed," as Warga explained. And Pleasants noted that "Carey McWilliams, Charles Bukowski and [Robert] Towne think it one of the greatest novels published in America." The book's cult popularity led in 1980 to its reprinting by Black Sparrow Press, an event which finally brought it to the attention of a much larger audience. Fante was happy with the acclaim his book belatedly received. "What pleases me most," he told Warga, "is to be hearing from so many people and to know the damn thing has stood up to the test of time."
Christopher Tayler
Hyperbole aside, both of Fante's early novels are excellent—especially Ask the Dust, which does indeed make good on at least some of the comparisons of Fante [writers such as] Dostoevsky, Kunt Hamsun, Hemingway, Thomas Wolfe, Steinbeck, William Saroyan and Nathanial West...Ask the Dust is often praised as the great Los Angeles novel, but its interests in more than parochial.
London Review of Books

Product Details

Canongate Books
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Read an Excerpt

Ask the Dust

By John Fante

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 John Fante
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060822554

Chapter One

One night I was sitting on the bed in my hotel room on Bunker Hill, down in the very middle of Los Angeles. It was an important night in my life, because I had to make a decision about the hotel. Either I paid up or I got out. that was what the note said, the note the landlady had put under my door. A great problem, deserving acute attention. I solved it by turning out the lights and going to bed.

In the morning I awoke, decided that I should do more physical exercise, and began at once. I did several bending exercises. Then I washed my teeth, tasted blood, saw pink on the toothbrush, remembered the advertisements, and decided to go out and get some coffee.

I went to the restaurant where I always went to the restaurant and I sat down on the stool before the long counter and ordered coffee. It tasted pretty much like coffee, but it wasn't worth the nickel. Sitting there I smoked a couple of cigarets, read the box scores of the American League games, scrupulously avoided the box scores of National League games, and noted with satisfaction that Joe DiMaggio was still a credit to the Italian people, because he was leading the league in batting.

A great hitter, that DiMaggio. I walked out of the restaurant, stood before an imaginary pitcher, and swatted ahome run over the fence. Then I walked down the street toward Angel's Flight, wondering what I would do that day. But there was nothing to do, and so I decided to walk around the town.

I walked down Olive Street past a dirty yellow apartment house that was still wet like a blotter from last night's fog, and I thought of my friends Ethie and Carl, who were from Detroit and had lived there, and I remembered the night Carl hit Ethie because she was going to have a baby, and he didn't want a baby. But they had the baby and that's all there was to that. And I remembered the inside of that apartment, how it smelled of mice and dust, and the old women who sat in the lobby on hot afternoons, and the old woman with the pretty legs. Then there was the elevator man, a broken man from Milwaukee, who seemed to sneer every time you called your floor, as though you were such a fool for choosing that particular floor, the elevator man who always had a tray of sandwiches in the elevator, and a pulp magazine.

Then I went down the hill on Olive Street, past the horrible frame houses reeking with murder stories, and on down Olive to the Philharmonic Auditorium, and I remembered how I'd gone there with Helen to listen to the Don Cossack Choral Group, and how I got bored and we had a fight because of it, and I remembered what Helen wore that day -- a white dress, and how it made me sing at the loins when I touched it. Oh that Helen -- but not here.

And so I was down on Fifth and Olive, where the big street cars chewed your ears with their noise, and the smell of gasoline made the sight of the palm trees seem sad, and the black pavement still wet from the fog of the night before.

So now I was in front of the Biltmore Hotel, walking along the line of yellow cabs, with all the cab drivers asleep except the driver near the main door, and I wondered about these fellows and their fund of information, and I remembered the time Ross and I got an address from one of them, how he leered salaciously and then took us to Temple Street, of all places, and whom did we see but two very unattractive ones, and Ross went all the way, but I sat in the parlor and played the phonograph and was scared and lonely.

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 a 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 from 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.

Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.


Excerpted from Ask the Dust by John Fante Copyright © 2006 by John Fante. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John Fante began writing in 1929 and published his first short story in 1932. His first novel, Wait Until Spring, Bandini, was published in 1938 and was the first of his Arturo Bandini series of novels, which also include The Road to Los Angeles and Ask the Dust. A prolific screenwriter, he was stricken with diabetes in 1955. Complications from the disease brought about his blindness in 1978 and, within two years, the amputation of both legs. He continued to write by dictation to his wife, Joyce, and published Dreams from Bunker Hill, the final installment of the Arturo Bandini series, in 1982. He died on May 8, 1983, at the age of seventy-four.

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Ask the Dust 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Ronald_De_La_O More than 1 year ago
After being out of print for so long, I searched old bookstore for any of Fante's books, having been told of him by others. These are important works and I am thrilled that they are finally available to a new audience. Bandini is a great character with an interesting story arc throughout the series, I won't spoil it by describing it any more than that, you need to experience the life for yourself.Then read Dan Fante, his son and a great author not to be missed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I don't even know what to write. My roommate thinks I'm insane from laughing out loud at this book time after time. It will grab you by the face and make you chew until you've digested every word. I was reading some article on Bukowski that cross referenced this book, so I had to pick it up. I just picked up 'The Road to Los Angeles' and it's already got me. Arturo Bandini, lover, poet, madman. You gotta check this guy out.
Regina-SmartA More than 1 year ago
From dust to dust, I guess you can say. This is really a sad love story about a man who thinks the most important thing in life is being a famous writer. Then he meets a waitress, and we realize that deep down, more than anything else, he really wants love. But the woman he loves is a junkie, and that's the tragedy. He'll never have the real thing that would give his life meaning. I love this book. The sad ending. The style of writing. Of course I found this book through reading Charles Bukowski and he mentions this title. Great book. Recommended. I just came off reading another novel about drug abusers, Permanent Obscurity. Weird, but this book was the perfect follow up. If you like Charles Bukowski or Richard Perez, you'll really like this.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had to read this for my english class so initially I wasn't interested. After reading it I can say I really enjoyed it and I will be buying the other books about Arturo Bandini.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Don't see why it is so highly rated by some though.
David Yu More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Fante's characters are starving during the depression, but so is his story. It adds up to little, and his people are unattractive and unbalanced. Best read as a historical curiosity.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Compared to 'The Road to Los Angeles,' this book was mediocre. I like Bandinni, but the book was rather a bore. The waitress bored me, the earthquake bored me and so on. 'The Road to Los Angeles,' which I believe was his first book, kicked some serious Bandinni.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Took a recommendation from Charles B.. He was spot on. Fante is the real deal
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I purchased this book based on a review on the National Public Radio web site. It certainly is everything that the review promised. It¿s well written. The setting, characters and situations really draw you in. My problem is with the protagonist. Arturo Bandini is an adolescent, self destructive, misogynist, doofus. Maybe Bandini finds enlightenment and escapes his pathetic, pointless way of life in the end. But Fante provides no basis for the reader to care about the protagonist one way or the other. And, I don¿t. I wished him luck and stopped reading around chapter five.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Oh what a treat our little Fante provides for us with this mis-en-scene slice of life from early twentieth century Los Angeles. This was one of Bukowski's favorites and how delightful! Such a shame Jean Genet was lounging round those catwalks in Aix-en-provence or he would have blown his little load getting his greedy hands on this stuff. Then of course, Burroughs may have sufficed. Oh my land, oh my land! What a queer little sultry thing Fante has done here- though generally he has little coutere.