Today is the centennial of John Fante’s birth. The author of Ask the Dust, Dago Red and Wait Until Spring, Bandini was born in Denver, Colorado, April 8th, 1909. But along with the likes of Raymond Chandler (born in Chicago, raised in England – his first novel, The Big Sleep, published the same year as Ask the Dust, 1939), Charles Bukowski (born in Andernach, Germany, raised in Baltimore) and James Ellroy (actually born in L.A., raised in El Monte), Fante helped create the literary vision of Los Angeles. John Fante just may be the quintessential L.A. writer, if not its literary patron saint.
Here are some snippets from his novels:
“I took the steps down Angel's Flight to Hill Street: a hundred and forty steps, with tight fists, frightened of no man, but scared of the Third Street Tunnel, scared to walk through it—claustrophobia. Scared of high places, too, and of blood, and of earthquakes; otherwise, quite fearless, excepting death, except the fear I'll scream in a crowd, except the fear of appendicitis, except the fear of heart trouble . . . Otherwise, quite fearless.”
"We talked, she and I. She asked
about my work and it was a pretense, she was not interested in my work. And when I answered, it was a pretense. I was not interested in my work either. There was only one thing that interested us, and she knew it. She had made it plain by her coming."
"I have wanted women whose very shoes are worth all I have ever possessed."
"So fuck you, Los Angeles, fuck your palm trees, and your highassed women, and your fancy streets, for I am going home, back to Colorado, back to the best damned town in the USA -- Boulder, Colorado."
"It was a bad one, the Winter of 1933. Wading home that night through flames of snow, my toes burning, my ears on fire, the snow swirling around me like a flock of angry nuns, I stopped dead in my tracks. The time had come to take stock. Fair weather or foul, certain forces in the world were at work trying to destroy me."
"Los Angeles, give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved you so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town!”
“ ‘Arturo,' she said. 'W
hy do we fight all the time?'
I didn't know. I said something about temperaments, but she shook her head and crossed her knees, and a sense of her fine thighs being lifted lay heavily in my mind, thick suffocating sensation, warm lush desire to take them in my hands. Every move she made, the soft turn of her neck, the large breasts swelling under the smock, her fine hands upon the bed, the fingers spread out, these things disturbed me, a sweet painful heaviness dragging me into stupor. Then the sound of her voice, restrained, hinting of mockery, a voice that talked to my blood and bones.”
“When the last had been destroyed the pieces blanketed the surface of the water, and the water was invisible beneath. Sadly I stirred it up. The water was a blackish color of fading ink. It was finished. The show was over. I was glad I had made this bold step and put them away all at once. I congratulated myself for having the strength of purpose, such ability to see a job through to the end. In the face of sentimentality I had gone ruthlessly forward. I was a hero, and my deed was sneered at. I stood up and looked at them before I pulled the plug. Little pieces of departed love.”
“Come down out of the skies, you God, come on down and I'll hammer your face all over the city of Los Angeles, you miserable unpardonable prankster.”