Ask the Dust - John Fante, Charles Bukowski I became aware of this awhile back -- curious to me that Fante's not more well-known. I snatched a copy up for fifty cents when I went to return a library book and found that their used book sale was opening up fifteen minutes later. Even after working retail on the Main Line for three years, I still found myself shocked and appalled by the number of people banging on the door at five til and the amount of pushing and shoving once I got inside.

Lesson: the Main Line even ruins fifty cent book sales.


This is something of a cult classic, I suppose. Beloved in particular by Bukowski fans, it's also reminiscent of other writers of the era -- I saw some shades of Steinbeck in there, but maybe that's just me? The story follows Arturo Bandini, a writer hoping to make it big in 1930s LA. Delusions of grandeur, cynicism, and possibility rule Bandini's psyche - he is attracted to a waitress named Camilla and pursues her by insulting her shoes, her Mexican heritage. He leaves copies of his sole published short story in chairs at restaurants, hoping someone will read it. He squanders an entire paycheck in a matter of hours. And yet, he never stops dreaming of the day that he truly Makes It -- until reality sets in in the form of Camilla's breakdown. Fante writes in prose that is simultaneously strightforward and dripping with symbolism. Bandini is not a hero you root for, yet he is somehow compelling. While the story itself is not one that truly draws me in, I can understand and appreciate the power of this book for so many.