I’ve written a piece for The Guardian about Dan Fante, a great writer and friend.
Dan Fante, who died on November 23rd aged 71 was one of the American literary underground’s most significant writers. The author, poet and playwright may not have had the mainstream awards and accolades, yet his worldwide influence was apparent in younger generations of writers inspired by his unflinching depiction of his – and modern American – life.
Fante came to writing late. The son of writer John Fante, he grew up in LA before struggling with addiction for many years. During this time he accrued a colourful CV, from beginning his occupational career as a carnival barker at a boardwalk fun-fair alongside “midgets, perverts, obsessed gamblers – wild people” to earning $500 per day as “an alkie-cokehead telemarketer”. There remained something of the salesman in his work: he was passionate, persuasive and had the gift of the gab.
The legacy of a dysfunctional relationship with his father, and indeed Fante Sr’s literary reputation, loomed large over Dan’s early life. The similarly pugilistic John Fante had his own struggles with both alcohol and his writing career, finding a regular income screenwriting during Hollywood’s golden years with which to support his family. Though now considered as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century – his novel Ask The Dust is a bona fide classic – John Fante’s novels slipped into obscurity, only to find favour towards the end of his life thanks to the support of Charles Bukowksi. Father and son’s relationship was later explored in Dan Fante’s searing 2011 account Fante: A Memoir….