I hadn’t heard about this book before my friend recommended it to me. Ask the Dust is about a young writer, Arturo Bandini, who moves to Los Angeles in the 1930s. He desperately tries to become a famous writer after having published one story, ‘The Little Dog Laughs’. He is poor and struggling – but then he meets Camilla Lopez. Camilla is a waitress in a cafe where Arturo goes to spend his last 5 cents. He insults her but then can’t forget her and slowly, they get to know each other – through various hurtful scenes.
The book follows Arturo’s struggles. He has no money and has nothing to eat for a while but oranges. He steals meat to survive. He struggles with his writing and write long letters to his editor and his mother, asking both for help. And he tries to establish something with Camilla.
Unfortunately, this book really didn’t do much for me. I didn’t care about any of the characters – except Camilla’s dogWillie. Arturo is insecure but shows it by behaving very badly and inconsiderate towards Camilla – not that she behaves much better than him. Their relationship is constantly shifting, they fight and make up. Sometimes Arturo is the one in charge, sometimes Camilla is. Ultimately, neither of them really gets each other with dire consequences as a result.
I can’t really put my finger on what’s wrong with it. Except that nothing in it really spoke to me. I didn’t care whether Arturo made it or not, I didn’t like how he acted towards Camilla and I thought she was annoying as well. It didn’t make a huge impression on me either. Nothing really stands out from it.
At the same time, there’s something about it that makes me think that I might have missed something. That there is something there that I’m just not seeing. If someone can tell me what it is, I’ll be grateful!
- Title: Ask the Dust
- Author: John Fante
- Publisher: Harper Perennial
- Year: 2006 (originally 1939)
- Pages: 165 page
- Stars: 2 out of 5 stars
NB: I read this book in 2011 – I’m just a bit late in writing the review.