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Friday, October 5, 2012

"Fante", reality bites of literature and alcohol

Fante: A Family's Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving
Dan Fante

I have no idea why I am crazy and angry and edged-out most of the time and why alcohol and painkiller pills and Xanax-type stuff are the only things that help to keep me remotely calm. I have no idea why I experience life as pointless and screwed and I know that most people don't pour a cup of bourbon into their milk and oatmeal in the morning. That's just how it is. 
Dan Fante, "86'd"

Four sentences to define a life of self-destruction that, surprisingly, becomes also a story of surveillance and passion for literature. Dan Fante's biography is an unusual one, because mixes his own, suicidal life, with the story of his ancestors and, in particular his father, the great writer John Fante. The tale is terrible, ill-fated and full of booze, but there's also space for redemption and change.

With that trademark's straightforward way of writing, Fante's memoirs are darker than a black hole. And the parallel lines between father and son are always present. The frustration and bliss, and if you allow me to say it, their self-condemnation, as it was always fate had dictated for them. But the paths taken are very different. John sold himself to Hollywood, so he could pay the bills, form a family that he didn't take much care of, and life comfortably but in anger. A man of his time (40-50s) with a gifted prose that, ironically, only was recognised (Bukowski you are next in line of my readings) when he was approaching his (cruel and suffering) death. On the contrary, Dan never seemed to find his own way, a blistering road to nowhere and incredible suffering, until redemption and literature settled him down.

The fragmented structure, shifting between father and son (biggest part of the book) is hyper-addictive. A number of chapters, paragraphs, sentences, are memorable, deeply affecting (in a shocking or a touching, emotional way) and the tension of a life constantly looking to the horizon from the edge of the cliff is always palpable. You might not like the Fante's as persons after reading their story, but the level of exposure, the absolute lack of pretensions of presenting himself (or his father) as some sort of hero that "came back from the dark side", reveals a gigantic human heart, with all their contradictions, miseries and hunger for living.

I have some minor complaints, though. I would have loved some more chapters devoted to John Fante and his writings, as well as their relation with Hollywood. Also, a bit more on his mother,  Joyce, who is clear plays a pivotal role but is too blurred in the biography in my opinion, would have been necessary. I became a bit exhausted with Dan's recurrent cycles of self-destruction, to be honest, and its hard to me to understand how he finally defeated his addiction. I don't believe in miracles.  

But as I said before, there's no self-pity, victimisation, apologies, excuses or preaching here. So take it or leave it, because that's the way it is. And as everything coming from Fante's (both father and son) prose, I sincerely recommend you to grab it. These are monstrous reality bites, a reality that hurts a lot. But you might even win the fight, if you try.

SCORE: 7,5/ 10

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