Dreams from Bunker Hill continues the saga of the Boulder-born son of a brickie, Arturo Bandini.  Bandini is high on Hollywood in this very late Fante. 

I’d forgotten how much I liked Arturo Bandini, how this ass-obsessed idiot bent on self-destruction makes me laugh out loud, and how he leaves me happily infused with a tinge of his own narcissistic grandiosity.  

How wonderful it would be sometimes to be as authentic as Bandini, to do exactly what you want to do, say what you want to say, and then vamoose.  I am glad he is only a paper character, though, since loving him would be emotional suicide.  He returns home in prodigal fashion to his devoted mother only to leave her again with no warning and no explanation when the going gets tough, as the going always gets: he declares his undying love in mawkish fashion quotes Yeats (“When you are old and grey and full of sleep”) to the absent and much older Mrs Brownell yet gets over his short-lived grief at her untimely death in a way that would have made Camus’s Meursault proud.  

I wondered if his grief – such as it was – was not so much that she had died, but that her death means that he cannot live out the next chapter in his soap-opera-of-a-life.  Which brings me to Fante.  He was in his early seventies when Dreams from Bunker Hill was published, and blind from diabetes.  He dictated the work to his wife.  I smiled when I imagined these dreams of a dying man, often sentimental and often erotic, enlivening the days of the elderly couple and Bandini’s dream-like life being sharp, pithy images of a life that the writer was never brave enough, or selfish enough, or poor enough to live.  And how many ways are there to describe a woman’s derriere?

Fante was hardly noticed during his lifetime until Charles Bukowski championed him.  Fante’s son blames his lack of recognition squarely on Hitler.  In 1939 when Fante’s second novel Ask the Dust was published, his publishers had spent all their publicity budget settling a case brought by Hitler when he discovered that they had published Mein Kampf without his permission.  As a result Ask the Dust sold hardly any copies and sunk almost without trace until Bukowski came across it in a library. 

Dreams from Bunker Hill ends with Bandini praying to Knut Hamsun.  Thus Fante acknowledges that Bandini has his roots in Hamsun’s Hunger.    

Wait Until Spring, Bandini

The Road to Los Angeles

Ask the Dust

Dreams from Bunker Hill

1933 Was a Bad Year

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