A tell-all of a turbulent, alcohol-infused life recounted by the son of a literary icon.
In his memoir, Dan Fante (86’d, 2009, etc.)—the black-sheep son of writer John Fante—describes an unhappy childhood under the eye of his brooding father. After a few initial successes as a writer, John soon found himself sacrificing his art for a paycheck, writing one failed novel after another while supporting his family as a screenwriter. His son describes the seedy underbelly of the Los Angeles writing scene, recalling a father whose drinking, gambling and fury cast a long shadow over the family home. When the author became old enough to leave home, he began his adult life as a carny, surrounding himself with “dopers and drinkers, a dwarf, and a couple part-time hooker.” His downward spiral continued, and after further failings as a cab driver, vacuum-cleaner salesmen, street peddler, special investigator and part owner of a limousine service, Fante at long last found his true calling in his father’s profession. Yet beneath the writer's struggles to subsist were his even greater struggles with alcoholism. “Booze was my first love,” he writes; on least two occasions, he attempted to detox by locking himself in motel rooms until the snake and insect hallucinations died down. But these remained temporary fixes. At the end of his life, John Fante asked his son to read over a manuscript. When the novice writer remarked that the work might not find a wide audience, the seasoned author explained, “If what I write is good, then people will read it. That's why literature exists. An author puts his heart and his guts on the page.” It is a lesson Dan never forgot, and one that served him well in his own writing future.
A vivid cautionary tale of a family's struggles with words, rage and the bottle.