Ask the Dust
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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.
and we had some violent arguments, and often I would scream at her, “Don’t call me a son of a bitch! I am Bandini, Arturo Bandini!” Fante was my god and I knew that the gods should be left alone, one didn’t bang at their door. Yet I liked to guess about where he had lived on Angel’s Flight and I imagined it possible that he still lived there. Almost every day I walked by and I thought, is that the window Camilla crawled through? And, is that the hotel door? Is that the lobby? I never knew. 39
walls. It was a saloon where old men gathered, where the beer was cheap and smelled sour, where the past remained unaltered. I sat at one of the tables against the wall. I remember that I sat with my head in my hands. I heard her voice without looking up. I remember that she said, “Can I get you something?” and I said something about coffee with cream. I sat there until the cup was before me, a long time I sat like that, thinking of the hopelessness of my fate. It was very bad coffee. When the
was soft and warm. We sat facing the sea and talked of swimming. I showed her the first principles. She lay on her stomach, paddled her hands and kicked her feet. Sand sprinkled her face and she imitated me without enthusiasm. She sat up. “I don’t like learning to swim,” she said. We waded hand in hand into the water, our fronts caked with sand. It was cold, then just right. It was my first time in the ocean. I breasted the waves until my shoulders were under water, then I tried to swim. The
one thing; trying to see her was another. It was out of the question. I talked to people who knew. You had to be a relative of an inmate, and you had to prove it. You had to write for an appointment, and you came after they had investigated. You couldn’t write the inmates a letter, and you couldn’t send gifts. I didn’t go out to Del Maria. I was satisfied that I had done my best. She was insane, and it was none of my business. Besides, she loved Sammy. The days passed, the winter rains began.
“Fante,” a Poem by Charles Bukowski Related Reading (and Viewing) Have You Read? More by John Fante About the author Meet John Fante JOHN FANTE was born in Colorado in 1909. He attended parochial school in Boulder and a Jesuit boarding school (Regis High School) in Denver. He also attended the University of Colorado and Long Beach City College. Fante began writing in 1929 and published his first short story in The American Mercury in 1932. He published numerous stories in the Atlantic