Thursday, May 11, 2006

Ask The Dust, by John Fante

(pb; 1939)


An impulsive, profligate, impoverished twenty-year old writer (Arturo Bandini) falls for a waitress (Camilla Lopez) in a local L.A. diner, and embarks on a stormy love-hate affair with her. Camilla’s crazy, in love with a bartender named Sammy, and is a major pothead (or “hophead,” as Arturo calls her).

The Depression Era story is told from the first-person perspective of Arturo, whose stream-of-consciousness writing is initially charming, with semi-quirky details fleshing out the flow. About the middle of the 165-page novel, the charm wears thin (Arturo is often foolish), but the immediacy of the writing never flags. Arturo, like Camilla, is an aimless soul in a big world.

Other lost souls populate Ask The Dust, as well: Sammy, the object of Camilla’s affection, abandons bartending for writing in the desert; Mr. Hellfrick, Arturo’s neighbor, has a fondness for gin and meat that compels him to commit a strange murder; Vera Rivken, a scarred lonely madwoman briefly finds succor in Arturo’s company.

Despair and uncertainty dominates Arturo’s story (largely because of his poverty and inexperience), but there’s joy, too. Arturo is a roller-coaster of emotions ranging from wild highs to hateful lows, much of it aimed at Camilla who, initially, seems smarter than him.

This is a good read, if you can get past Arturo’s crazy-quilt behavior. Arturo’s not always likeable, but he’s always lively, like the other characters seen here.


Ask The Dust, the film, was released stateside on March 17, 2006. Colin Farrell played Arturo Bandini. Salma Hayek played Camilla Lopez. Donald Sutherland played Mr. Hellfrick. Idina Menzel played Vera Rivken.

The film was written and directed by Robert Towne.

1 comment:

johnee said...

great book, good blurb

"Wait Until Spring, Bandini" good too.

john e

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