Desperate in the hell of Los Angeles

il Centro
Cultura & Società
4 june 2000

Coming to the Italian bookstores "Agganci", Dan Fante's latest work
by Paolo Di Vincenzo

book cover Dan Fante, John's son, will be in Italy these days to promote his second book, "Mooch", translated by Matteo Sammartino for Marcos y Marcos under the title "Agganci". The book will be on sale (at 23,000 lire) in the next few days, il Centro was allowed to read exclusively a premiere copy.

Dan Fante, who came to Abruzzo, to Torricella Peligna, last year to visit the village from where his grandfather Nick left, is starting today in Brescia his personal "Italy Tour", though no stops in Abruzzo are scheduled. "Agganci" is another hard, brutal book (both for the language and the situations described), we might say in a perfect Fante style. Like his father John, Dan writes with great simplicity but extraordinary poignancy about the things he knows well: today's life in Los Angeles. Better still, it is a journey into today's American hell. Of course the style corresponds to the times, and is therefore more "colorful" than John's. In common with his father there is the great simplicity for the readers, directly correlated to the impossibility of leaving the story in the middle.

Just as in "Angeli a pezzi" ("Chump change", also published by Marcos y Marcos) where the story of Bruno Dante hurrying to his father Jonathan's deathbed, in "Agganci" the protagonist is still the same character. References to the (true) father are in large number. Some are open, as when he tells that he enters bookstores and asks whether they have books by "Jonathan Dante", others are more hidden but easily recognizable by affectionate Fante readers. In one case the title of one of the most beautiful of John Fante's books is quoted, "The Road to Los Angeles". Dante is again fighting the alcohol demon. It is not by chance that the book is dedicated to "my eldest brother Nicholas Joseph Fante, 1942-1997. Who died an alcoholic. Hit on the road like a dog " and, almost by now a quality symbol, the true life of the author or of other members of the family (as it happens in his father's production) is intertwined with the fictitious story.

Well, Bruno Dante lives by the day, desperately fighting alcohol and trying to push forward his job as a Hoover seller. Of course he is fired and, thanks to alcohol, or better, to the anonymous alcoholic association, finds another job in telemarketing. And a kind of miracle, a change, almost a catharsis, takes place: Bruno turns out to be a great seller; thanks to his company owner (a former alcoholic too), he succeeds in keeping away from the bottle and starts making money, a lot of money. In his office he meets a glamorous girl, a former model, crack addict, prostitute, of Mexican origin (here is another reference to John Fante's works, exactly to the character of Camilla Lopez, a Mexican too, for whom the protagonist of "Ask the Dust " has a troubled, non requited love).

The girl, Jimmi Valiente, through a number of ups and downs, will take him to hell. "Thanks" to her he will be fired and get back to the alcohol abyss, will attempt suicide and spend a "nice" night in prison. After reaching the bottom of the abyss, the hero will get another chance, again from his former boss. Bruno Dante will start moving again, will make other money again, until when, taken over by his love for Mexican beauty, will start seeing Jimmi again. But there is a surprise final, which probably points to a sequel.

English text edited by Albert Porreca