Alex V. Cook's review
Ask the Dust is about as good a book as has ever been written. I say book, instead of novel because I'm not sure it is a novel. Same with story, not sure there is much of a story here either. Instead, it is a hotwired connection to the mind of Arturo Bandini, the manic writer manifested in this and two other books Fante wrote. It might be a shambles of a story, a bust as a novel, but it's a motherfucker of a book.
It's been said that Joyce's Finnegan's Wake is a collection of all things in the world at that moment, half of them in Ireland, half of those in Dublin, half of those on Joyce's street, half of those in his house and so on and so forth until you reach either infinity or negation, depending on which way you traverse the graph.
In Ask the Dust, Bandini feels everything whether in proximity or imagined but it all channels through this one man in a frightening rush, and this man, ill equipped to survive even without the encumbering of being the universe's conduit, is ravaged by the unending spurt of life. Bandini possibly experiences nothing, no one - they are figments in his narrative. I've considered the possibility that this book actually takes place with a catatonic Bandini sitting in that dour Bunker Hill apartment, his synapses sparking out like burnt fuses, manufacturing this wild life of devastating failures punctuated by successes. I've also considered that Bandini is Fante, a juvenile, but often dead-on assumption among writers who only write a few books all about writers.
None of it matters though. Arturo Bandini is the greatest. Muhammad Ali took ego lessons from Bandini. He is a shrieking lunatic mostly because it is possible that he is the only living person all earth, that the rest of us are either dull shades or occasional fellow lost souls. Reading Ask the Dust makes you want to go raving mad for just a while, so you can get the taste of blood in your mouth, so you can hear what it sounds like when you howl like a wolf. I think its the third time I've read this over the past decade, but the first time as a writer myself, and Bandini's anguish and longing to be read and to be loved and whatever pathetic impulses and personality defects that compel a person to Make Things of Spiritual Value only serve to underscore and expose the frightening longing we all have to exist.
xposted at goodreads