Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Fante: A Memoir
review copy provided by publisher
Description from Goodreads:
From Dan Fante, son of novelist John Fante, comes an exploration of his family’s legacy—one of boozing, passion, writing, and survival. Long before his father achieved literary recognition for Ask the Dust or The Road to Los Angeles, and before Dan had conceived his novels 86’d, Chump Change, and Mooch, their difficult relationship as father and son evolved in a household where love and literary artistry were often overshadowed by emotional violence. Fante is the story of Dan’s struggle to find his own voice amidst the madness of his family’s dark inheritance, a memoir of his escape from his own vices and his eventual return to Los Angeles to embrace the man—and the calling—that once had driven him away.
I have to admit that I think this book was pretty amazing. I don't know that I like Dan Fante very much, but I do like his writing. Fante's story is quite the wild ride and it is probably not for everyone, but the man can write. His tale recounts the stories of his grandfather's, father's and his own life story -- particularly the parts dealing with their heavy drinking, fighting, failed relationships, and his father's and his writing. The book jumps from generation to generation and relays how each generation affected the other.
According to his memoir, Dan was very much like his father in his raging moods, love of writing and love of booze. As seems to be the case in many families, the father/son or mother/daughter or whatever combination that are most alike also have the most antagonistic relationship. This was true for Dan Fante and his father John for many years. As he grew up and was able to see his father through adult eyes, Dan was able to appreciate and grow to love his father. This growing relationship between father and son was one of the nice things to read about in the book. Many of the stories told are disturbing and upsetting. Even with the darkness described by the author, I couldn't stop reading this book. I got the impression that he was telling things like they were -- no punches pulled. The book felt genuine and Fante is able to see himself as he really was and then relate that without excuses. How many of us are willing to be that honest with ourselves much less everyone else? Parts of the book are heartwarming, parts are disgusting, parts are just disturbing, but throughout I felt that I needed to find out how this story ended.
This is a story of a family, a father and son who were/are both writers. The tales of Hollywood screenwriters during John Fante's time were fascinating. Who doesn't love to hear stories about famous authors? Both Fantes' writing lives are detailed and this was also a major factor in my enjoyment of the book. I would recommend this book for anyone who loves literature and the writing process and the conflicts writers face everyday or just loves a good memoir.