John Fante’s 100th birthday


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Today is the 100th anniversary of John Fante’s birth. A child of Italian immigrants, he was born in Colorado and, like many of us, got to Los Angeles as fast as he could.

It was here that he wrote ‘Ask the Dust’ and other novels featuring his literary alter ego, Arturo Bandini, a difficult yet beloved character.


Fante’s son Dan, who is also an author, says there was a connection between the character and the man. His father ‘was pretty much Arturo Bandini, only more intense.’

In an essay for the L.A. Times, Stephen Cooper, the author of ‘Full of Life: The Biography of John Fante,’ writes:

In Fante’s hands, the landscape of greater Los Angeles -- from Pershing Square to the Santa Monica beach to Long Beach to the San Fernando Valley to Central Avenue and finally to the Mojave -- became a three-dimensional character. Never before had the city been seen with such a penetrating, panoramic eye.

Fante’s vision of Los Angeles will soon be available to researchers locally; his archives have been donated to the UCLA Library, it was announced Tuesday. The collection includes manuscripts, notes and many letters -- he corresponded with H.L Mencken, Charles Bukowski, William Saroyan and John Steinbeck.

Although Fante’s books were out of print for decades, his revived literary legacy seems here to stay; this fall, HarperPerennial will release a deluxe edition of ‘Ask the Dust.’ Because his passion -- especially for the city of Los Angeles -- is irresistible:

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.

-- Carolyn Kellogg