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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 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.

Topics: California, Writing, Writers, Love Story, Heartbreaking, Los Angeles, Semi-Autobiographical, and Great Depression

Published: HarperCollins on
ISBN: 9780062013002
List price: $9.99
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Amazing book and writer. Recommend highly!more
Great writermore
This book was devastating--the incisive prose haunted me every time I put the book down. Most authors are complete jerks as people and yet we need them-- I think this book is about that.more
Quite simply one of the best love stories I have ever read! Even though I found the protagonist faulty and ridiculous, it's those sort of traits along with Fante's ability to turn mundane prose into poetry that makes a reader like myself become smitten with the character. I would classify it as "A Love Story for Men" or for women who find themselves more interested in whiskey than in cosmos.
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Reviews

Amazing book and writer. Recommend highly!more
Great writermore
This book was devastating--the incisive prose haunted me every time I put the book down. Most authors are complete jerks as people and yet we need them-- I think this book is about that.more
Quite simply one of the best love stories I have ever read! Even though I found the protagonist faulty and ridiculous, it's those sort of traits along with Fante's ability to turn mundane prose into poetry that makes a reader like myself become smitten with the character. I would classify it as "A Love Story for Men" or for women who find themselves more interested in whiskey than in cosmos.
more
My Jewish Book Group read "Day of the Locust" (Nathanael West was Jewish)and I was looking for more L.A. classics. A review of that book in the L.A. Times mentioned two other Los Angeles books published in 1939, "Ask the Dust" and "The Big Sleep;" I hadn't read either one. So after finishing "Day of the Locust," I moved on to "Ask the Dust." John Fante could not be more different from Nathanael West and the two books are extremely dissimilar. I love them both, but "Ask the Dust" has something special -- a rare and fascinating glimpse into the life of a Latina in 1930's L.A. Camilla Lopez is infinitely more interesting than the male protagonist, Arturo Bandini, and her life is tragic. Arturo Bandini is a published short-story writer and would-be novelist, who has come to the Boyle Heights neighborhood of L.A. The year is 1933, although Fante never states this fact. It is revealed by Arturo being in Long Beach during a major earthquake; that earthquake occurred on March 10, 1933, at 5:55 p.m. Arturo lives in a cheap hotel, writing all day and wandering dowtown L.A. He meets Camilla in a cafe where she is a waitress. Arturo is immature, rude, and racist. He is attracted to Camilla but like a 10-year-old expresses his attraction through insults. The book actually has very little plot, but it has gorgeous, evocative prose, and it offers a glimpse into a lost world. It makes writing and publishing fiction look oddly easy, but it's autobiographical and told in the first-person; maybe when you are as good as Bandini/Fante that's how it works. I had the impression before I read the book that Camilla and Arturo fall in love, but that's not exactly what happens. They fall into a relationship; they are sexually attracted to one another, but I wouldn't call it love. The book is relatively short and I was somewhat blind-sided by Camilla's rapid descent and the book's shocking, unsettling ending. Arturo has continued to pursue Camilla, wanting a more normal romantic relationship with her, but she is a drug addict and he is delusional about the possibility of a normal life with her. I found myself comparing "Ask the Dust" with "Day of the Locust." The two books share few similarities. However, both books explore the seamier side of life in Depression-era L.A. and feature a cast of characters you wouldn't want to know.more
How is it that I never heard of quintessential Los Angeles author John Fante until now? St. Fante, the doomed Catholic romantic who presaged Kerouac as the steady-eyed chronicler among the invisible underclass of his generation. El Fante, the true spirit of LA, sitting up nights that refuse to cool down and typing madly in a white undershirt while his ashtray blooms and the smell of flowers on the hot wind makes the whole city smell like a funeral. Fante the bulldog—Bukowski before Bukowski had thought of it, or had given in to it—his spirit resilient against cops, and beautiful/crazy Mexican girls, and poverty. I mean, what the hell were they teaching us in school? If I had my way, I’d have kids read this book over and over. This is life: mad, frantic, desperate, and ecstatic. Neglect to read this at your own peril.more
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