In a 1972 letter, Carey McWilliams, the writer/culture critic, remarked on John Fante's great appetite and capacity for living. Fante, marvelled McWilliams, had been blessed with the ability to 'enjoy...life about as much as anyone I have ever known.' Brimming as copiously as any of his classic tales with a generous, compassionate sense of humor, wild enthusiasm, disarming candor--and, above all, with sheer high-spirited, unconcealed and unquenchable human feeling--these letters capture the patented Fante vitality in its natural state.
The Fante saga opens here in 1932, the year the 23-year-old Immigrant bricklayer's son and struggling neophyte writer, then working as an L.A. busboy, breaks into literature by placing a short story in Mencken's AMERICAN MERCURY; and stretches through 45 years of obscure toil in fiction--and considerable success in a second career as a screenwriter--to a suitably Fante-esque bittersweet/happy ending, when the ailing writer, by now diabetic, blind, and a double amputee, finds vindication as an author, proudly seeing his long-neglected novels and stories of Italian-American life find a publisher and a wide readership at last.
The open, funny, affectionate and direct John Fante here takes us right into the midst of his difficulties with the opposite sex (including the artist's model he recast as the waitress Camilla in his masterpiece ASK THE DUST), his constant financial worries and career ups and downs. To his friend McWilliams, who introduced him to the Hollywood script-writing trade--and shared his cynicism about it--he frankly reveals his private misgivings about the strains of life in Hollywood, and about his own ceaseless battle to retain integrity as a writer there.