"CONSIDERED HIS BEST WORK… A CULT CLASSIC": JOHN FANTE'S ASK THE DUST, 1939—A LOVELY COPY
FANTE, John. Ask the Dust. New York: Stackpole Sons, (1939). Octavo, original beige cloth, original dust jacket. $9800.
First edition of Fante's second novel, considered the quintessential novel of Los Angeles, highly praised by prominent Angeleno writers Charles Bukowski ("Fante was my god") and Robert Towne, who wrote and directed the 2006 film adaptation. The novel's unsparing depiction of the "desperate and often resigned attitude of its inhabitants, who traveled from all over the United States with dreams of making it in Hollywood" is also a remarkable portrait of the city in the grips of the Great Depression. An uncommonly lovely copy in the original dust jacket.
Often called the quintessential Los Angeles novel, Ask the Dust "is considered [Fante's] best work and is a cult classic" (ANB). In this autobiographical novel, Fante's young alter ego Arturo Bandini moves to the once glamorous Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles, "To write a love story, to learn about life" (page 19). "Fante's accuracy in recreating the atmosphere of Bunker Hill is particularly celebrated, because the neighborhood of the 1930s no longer exists. He captured the desperate and often resigned attitude of its inhabitants, who traveled from all over the United States with dreams of making it in Hollywood" (ANB). "The experience that [the aspiring young writer] Bandini meets with is the story of the novel. It is not particularly new or important, but it is at least very well told. There are two ways of telling it: through the character of this boastful Bandini himself, and through the realistic setting in Los Angeles. Both are equally well done, but the California locale, so carefully particularized in every detail of street, beach, and outlying desert, is very effective" (Peter Monro Jack, New York Times, 1939).
Poet and noted Angeleno Charles Bukowski's prominent role in rescuing this novel from obscurity strengthens its Los Angeles literary bona fides. Legend has it that in the late 1970s Bukowski came across Ask the Dust by chance in a Los Angeles public library. Reading the book proved a revelation, and he took it to his publisher John Martin at Black Sparrow Press and insisted that Martin reissue the long out-of-print novel. This led to a deserved resurgence in the popularity of the novel and a reconsideration of Fante's work as whole. In his Introduction to the 1980 Black Sparrow Press edition, Bukowski wrote, "The lines rolled easily across the page, there was a flow. Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it. The very substance of each line gave the page a form, a feeling of something carved into it. And here, at last, was a man who was not afraid of emotion. The humor and the pain were intermixed with a superb simplicity. The beginning of that book was a wild and enormous miracle to me."
Text clean, cloth with the mildest hint of discoloration to the front cover, about-fine. Scarce original dust jacket with shallow creasing at spine ends and minuscule rubs to corners, mild toning to rear panel only, front panel and spine bright and crisp, near-fine. Uncommon and desirable in this condition.