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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

"Mooch", Appetite for (Self)-Destruction

Mooch- Dan Fante

It's my third "encounter" with Dan Fante, so I can't say I didn't know what to expect. Maybe it's the fact I read Milan Kundera's utterly forgettable "Laughable Loves" before and the contrast was so extreme. In what regards to tone, theme and style, "Mooch" is familiar territory and there's little to be surprised... but it's so simple: reading Dan Fante is such a blast!

It's the black hole again. The kamikaze, suicidal tendencies. The feeling of supreme desperation and the need to hold on something too tight... you already lost it. Fante doesn't write, he punches the reader, he beats you and leaves you breathless, wondering for some relief, some little mercy and hope for his character Bruno Dante (too real alter-ego), and make no mistake, also for you, as you’ll find yourself scared to turn the page and find there's more real horror awaiting you.

In “Mooch” though, it seems there's a little light at the end of the long and dark-crazy tunnel. First there's a salesman job at Orbit Computer Supplies, nothing remotely similar to a position you would dream of, but still a place to get stable and earn some money. Fante depicts the job with a medical precision, but don’t think on Bukowski here, this is not “Post Office”. Orbit is frightening, his work colleagues are frightening and the twelve-step program is always there. But for a while, Bruno really seems he could be capable to succeed. He's sober, he's good at it, and he falls in love. Well, kind of. Is that love? Another insane addiction? Masochism? Or just another way to push him towards self-destruction? Jimmi is perennial attraction and also the road to perdition. Bruno flirts with disaster. Then he lets the disaster come in. And the gates of hell are wide open again.

As it happened with “Chump Change” or “Fante: A Family’s legacy of…” the terrible, ill-fated turns into a surveillance tale. It doesn’t have a redeeming quality this time, because is Bruno who is finally trying to get in control of his life, there’s a change, tortuous and full of struggles, but a change. The world “built” around him is shaky and explosive, and, as the reader can expect, fails him. Nevertheless, Bruno will probably manage. The "Chump Change" coward who preferred self-destruction instead of confronting its fears is now gone, replaced by someone brave enough to try living. I’m very dubious to call it a positive, or just a hopeful ending, but at least “Mooch” leaves you, at least wanting to believe, a future could exist for Dante.

As the story, Dan Fante’s prose take no prisoners. You are in, or you are out. It’s straightforward, rough, crystal clear and powerful. If you read Fante, you’ll be there, right in the middle of a suffocating L.A., and you probably get hurt. Like his father John Fante (I see the reasons of “Mooch” being compared with “Ask the Dust”) his prose will grab you as very few writers can. I strongly recommend you to read Dan Fante. Dare you to read him.

SCORE: 7,5/10

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