Ask the Dust

51rzASp2pqLAsk the Dust is the most popular novel of Italian-American author John Fante, first published in 1939 and set during the Great Depression-era in Los Angeles. It is one of a series of novels featuring the character Arturo Bandini as Fante’s alter ego, a young Italian-American from Colorado struggling to make it as a writer in Los Angeles.

I am twenty, I have reached the age of reason, I am about to wander the streets below, seeking a woman. Is my soul already smirched, should I turn back, does an angel watch over me, do the prayers of my mother allay my fears, do the prayers of my mother annoy me?

Ask the Dust 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.

I was twenty then. What the hell, I used to say, take your time, Bandini. You got ten years to write a book, so take it easy, get out and learn about life, walk the streets. That’s your trouble: your ignorance of life.

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