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Friday, August 5, 2011

"Chump Change", John & Dan Fante: father to son

Chump Change- Dan Fante

We believe that dying is hard, but dying is not important. What is difficult is to live as everything dies around us.

After making a post about U2 songs that served me as an excuse to go back to some personal favourites from the Irish band, I finished this book. And I can't help thinking how much it reminds me to their tune "Dirty Day" from Zooropa.

"Chump Change" is the first book translated into Spanish of Dan Fante, the son of John Fante, the fantastic American writer, who was completely neglected on his time, long forgotten and surprisingly (thanks to writers like Bukowski who praised his work) recovered and recognized as he deserved only recently. This first book of his son doesn't hide a bit its nature (replacing Fante with Dante): an homage to the lost father, an a gut-wrenching tale of redemption.

Entertainment might be an option for some, but to be called real literature, to me it has to grab you. Literally. I do believe that John Fante would agree with me. And I bet his son does too, 'cause "Chump Change" doesn't need more than a couple of pages to have you diving in the story. From starters, you might want to surface, because what you under the dark waters is freaking scary, but at the same time you know you will keep reading. Even more knowing the story is real.

A big part of the impact of the book resides on how Dan Fante's writes. It could be defined as minimalism, but his prose seems effortless while at the same time is so powerful and clear. Think on his father, or on Bukowski, and you'll be close. Think on the so-called "dirty realism". But on the roughest, merciless version of it. Fante's talent to put into words this monstrous drunk nightmare is mesmerizing. Smell the booze, breath Los Angeles. Or better said, feel his suffocation in L.A.

Yet what makes the book stand-out is the ability of Fante of being compelling despite being so unbelievably raw. "Chump Change" doesn't create an heroic literary alter-ego, but a coward, one that might prefer self-destruction instead of confronting its fears. A very human coward, one that is scared of death, and that is afraid of, and going back to U2's "Dirty Day", "hold onto something so tight/You've already lost it". But time doesn't give second chances. John Dante's time is running out, and Bruno, the son, despite the bitterness, the failure and the disappointment they both shared ("there's no blood thicker than ink"), will have one last opportunity of showing his feelings and start life again. I would only add four more words to this: chapter 17, real emotion. Quoting U2 one last time:

A work that's never done
Father to son

Superb book

SCORE: 8/10

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