I’d never heard of American writer John Fante before being recommended this book, The Road to Los Angeles by Emma and Guy of Bookaroundthecorner and His Futile Preoccupations under their Merry Christmas Humbook scheme. I had no idea what to expect but knew that John Fante has attracted attention as a significant American writer of the 1930s era.
In The Road to Los Angeles we read a first person account of a year or two in the life of aspiring writer Arturo Bandini, a young man still living with his mother and younger sister and trying to support them by working at menial jobs for minuscule wages.
Bandini seems to have a touch of ego-mania, believing he is called to higher things but full of frustrations of all types – sexual, professional, familial and also with a hefty does of status-anxiety. He believes he is a gifted writer in the making although as the book opens this seems to be more aspiration than reality and it is only towards the end of the book that he finally gushes out a vast sprawling novel which seems to be an example of the “angry young man” genre.
I found Bandini to be a pretty unappealing character. Vivid bursts of verbal abuse, largely targeted at innocent bystanders, reveal him to be racist, sexist and full of contempt for almost everyone he encounters. He is seems to be without friends and almost completely alienated from his family. No doubt this comes from his sense of bewilderment that he, a great writer, has to work for 25 cents an hour in a canning factory and use a broom-cupboard as his study.