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Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Dreams from Bunker Hill", Hollywood vs John Fante

Dreams from Bunker Hill- John Fante

The great John Fante again folks. This time with one of the Arturo Bandini's quartet, the stories of his impulsive and passionate alter ego, and the last book Fante's wrote. Well, technically (and as his son Dan confirmed us on a special presentation he gave in Barcelona this spring) it was dictated to his wife Joyce, as Fante's was struggling with the increasing problems (blindness, lack of mobility) consequence of the diabetes that finally took him away. To think this little wonder was orally transmitted makes me shiver. How can a suffering mind have the clarity of creating such a joyful and absorbing piece? Such a masterful work of concision (barely 150 pages), a triumph of style without losing the trademark of his prose: injecting an incomparable burst of life to every sentence.

This is the fourth book I have read from Fante's, and "Dreams from Bunker Hill" might be the one that has pleased me the most. Like on "West of Rome", particularly on "My Dog Stupid", I enjoyed the less raw version of his alter egos. Bandini looks more like a younger version of Henry Molise than the aggressive Arturo of the earlier chapters of his saga, and the sense of humour, with that little hint of melancholia, permeates a character and the story, provoking a much warmer and closer feeling with reader. Hey, don't get me wrong. Fante's prose still make you feel like being involved on a boxing match in which you have zero choices to win. By the time you are beginning to catch your breath, you are on the ground, completely knock-out by his style: nervous, without reservations or artifices. A relentless attack.

Narrated from the distance maturity gives, this looks like a version of  "The Day of the Locust" from Nathanael West. Arturo Bandini tries to be succesful, or at least make a decent living in L.A., as a Hollywood scriptwriter. But very soon the reader will acknowledge his fate is to become amusingly (for us) frustrated by the cinema industry. A collection of disasters, involving fights, gorgeous women, ridiculous movie plots (a wonder of structure and lucidity these pages in particular), star fanatics living in a parallel world, and a lot of eccentrics people. Its an intense and vital satire of Hollywood, in which biles has been left aside, replaced by irony and humour.

Not enough to convince you to read it? Then let me add the book includes, offers two little, different short stories inside it, and both are excellent, entering a territory where autobiography and slight fantasy met: one with an impossible but very moving love story. The other one with an Italian wrestler. They would have been amazing tales on their own.

And one last highlight before concluding the review. Why Fante deserves all that late recognition and praise?You'll find the answer on the last paragraphs/page of chapter nine, where he reveals how he got "trapped" with writing. How lucky we are he did. Do yourself a favour: read Fante.

SCORE: 8/10

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