There are few writers that I love so completely that just thinking about them makes my heart beat faster and my spirits lift. John Fante is one of them, with the easy way his words flow past me in a stream, making everything around me brighter, as if the sun shone out of the pages. Ask the Dust was the first of his works that I encountered, and I love it as much for his writing as I do for the introduction by Charles Bukowski, who, if you've been reading this blog from the beginning, you all know I love beyond any kind of reason. Fante is different, an altogether different kind of love, and Ask the Dust is like a long drive on a sunny day with someone you love, when you have all the time in the world to talk about anything and everything, and you do. And I was in love. So I kept reading.
Months went by, months where I went back to other writers I have loved and new writers that I would love, but sometimes when I'm in a bookstore and I have money burning a hole in my pocket, or I am up late wandering the internet and I have a coupon in my email I buy something new from a favorite writer. Which is how I wound up with another book by John Fante, Wait Until Spring, Bandini. You are sent back in time, away from the sunlight streets of Los Angeles and the dreams of the struggling young writer Arturo Bandini seen in Ask the Dust. Here we see Arturo as a child, with his brothers Federico and August, his parents Svevo and Maria. It begins with Svevo Bandini walking along in the cold of winter in Rocklin, Colorado, bitterly cursing the white snow and dreaming of the California sun. Cursing his gentle, pious wife, who spends all her time praying and fingering her rosary, its beads as white as the snow outside, cursing his sons and his lack of money.
The stories of each person's struggle are intertwined, Arturo dreaming of the girl in his class, Rosa, his first love, Maria praying for her husband and her children, coping with the bitter shame of being poor, and Svevo momentarily wooed away from his wife and family by a wealthy widow who hires him to work on her house, seduced by the warmth and comfort of soft beds and good wine and heated rooms. I have loved the way Fante uses words from the opening words of Ask the Dust and it has stayed with me all this time, and will continue to do so as long as I have memory at my disposal; if I forget everything else I will remember the rhythm of his words, the feel of them against my mind like the cold wind against my cheek, remember a man and his son walking home together, thinking aloud of the spring that is just ahead, around the corner, as soon as the winter snows melt away...