Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
Son of novelist and screenwriter John Fante, and grandson to an Italian immigrant from Abruzzo, Dan Fante (Spitting off Tall Buildings) fashions a frank, hard-hitting memoir about the curse that they all shared: heavy drinking. Fleeing a blighted existence as a poor farmer in his village in the Apennines mountains, Nick Fante got to America in 1901 and eked out a living as a stonemason in Denver, frittering away his pay on alcohol and gambling, though dazzling his children with his storytelling skills; his eldest son, John, inherited his father's gloominess and temper, as well as weakness for alcohol, and turned the family narrative proclivity into spinning out gritty stories for H.L. Mencken's The American Mercury. Writing for Hollywood paid bigger, and for 45 years, married to Stanford graduate Joyce Smart, living in Malibu, and raising four children, he tossed off screenplays while torturously neglecting his own work. His awkward second son, Dan, born in 1944, was ill-favored, dyslexic, overweight, and perennially anxious living under an angry, "volcanic" father. He developed a rich inner fantasy life, his education largely street smarts, and worked at odd jobs like driving a cab in New York City and boozing heavily until the mid-1980s. Indeed, he didn't attempt a first novel until his father was dead from complications of diabetes, and, at age 47, Dan Fante dug out his dad's old Smith-Corona portable. His anecdotal, spare narrative is full of fine, pointed writing and searing memories. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review
A tell-all of a turbulent, alcohol-infused life recounted by the son of a literary icon.In his memoir, Dan Fante (86'd, 2009, etc.)the black-sheep son of writer John Fantedescribes an unhappy childhood under the eye of his brooding father. After a few initial successes as a writer, John soon found himself sacrificing his art for a paycheck, writing one failed novel after another while supporting his family as a screenwriter. His son describes the seedy underbelly of the Los Angeles writing scene, recalling a father whose drinking, gambling and fury cast a long shadow over the family home. When the author became old enough to leave home, he began his adult life as a carny, surrounding himself with "dopers and drinkers, a dwarf, and a couple part-time hooker." His downward spiral continued, and after further failings as a cab driver, vacuum-cleaner salesmen, street peddler, special investigator and part owner of a limousine service, Fante at long last found his true calling in his father's profession. Yet beneath the writer's struggles to subsist were his even greater struggles with alcoholism. "Booze was my first love," he writes; on least two occasions, he attempted to detox by locking himself in motel rooms until the snake and insect hallucinations died down. But these remained temporary fixes. At the end of his life, John Fante asked his son to read over a manuscript. When the novice writer remarked that the work might not find a wide audience, the seasoned author explained, "If what I write is good, then people will read it. That's why literature exists. An author puts his heart and his guts on the page." It is a lesson Dan never forgot, and one that served him well in his own writing future.A vivid cautionary tale of a family's struggles with words, rage and the bottle.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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