Tuesday, March 14, 2006

each man kills the thing he loves

It's looking like the time spent seeing the film version of Ask the Dust would be better served reading this Salon profile of John Fante:

Fante was never truly in fashion, though for a time in the late '30s and '40s he seemed nearly fashionable. The barbaric yawp of Arturo Bandini was the uncommitted conscience of immigrant America, one that practically went unremarked on in mainstream American literature. Bandini is a seething mass of contradictions, an Italian chauvinist who looked for Joe DiMaggio's name in the sports pages every morning and was at the same time insecure about having a name that ended in a vowel. "Do you like your name?" his Mexican girlfriend, Camilla, taunts him in "Ask the Dust." "Don't you wish it was Johnson, or Williams, or something?" 'No,' says Bandini, he is satisfied with his real name. But he is lying and she knows it. 'No, you're not. I know.'" Typical of Fante's work, the relationship between Arturo and Camilla seethes with resentment on both sides; Arturo, a step up on the ladder of ethnic assimilation, doesn't hesitate to browbeat her with racial slurs when provoked -- and she doesn't hesitate to sling "Dago" at him in return. Modern readers may be appalled at the bitterness of these exchanges, but it's almost refreshing to hark back to a time when people said what was on their minds, however narrow those minds may have been.