Ask the Dust

I’m having a hard time placing this in the hardboiled/noir context. It seems a bit of an anomaly, especially coming after Red Harvest. I see some connections. The first person narration is something of a noir trope, but Fante hardly uses it in the same manner. Speaking of tropes, it might be interesting to look at how the works we’re reading connect to film noir tropes. Even though we’re primarily looking at novels rather than film, there are commonalities.

Arturo Bandini’s a bit of a loony, and the point of view puts us inside his head. That and the LA locale relate to some of Ellroy’s work, particularly White Jazz. An interesting thing about the point of view is that it shows us the character’s perception of situations rather than the “reality,” which might be quite different. Is Bandini a great writer, or just a crazy guy with a high opinion of himself? Maybe Hackmuth publishes anything.

In the edition I have, Bukowski’s preface says, “Each line had its own energy and was followed by another like it…. The humor and the pain were intermixed with superb simplicity.” That could apply to Hemingway and Hammett as well. As the novel progresses maybe it will become more clear to me.

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3 Responses to Ask the Dust

  1. Jim Groom says:

    I actually think Ask the Dust is more of an LA novel than a noir novel. I do think it is hardboiled in different ways, but for me the novel sets up the LA condition during the 30s beautifully for James M. Caine’s Mildred Pierce. The moments of beauty in which he imagines the dust and the human condition as all of one. LA is always on the verge of being be eaten up again by the desert it sprung from. Fante for me is the spirit of Los Angeles that Ellroy builds from, he is in many ways the bridge between Hammett and Ellroy, but he isn’t a hardboiled crime writer, his crimes are perverse crimes of the heart.

    Placing fante in the syllabus was very much a part of arguing for Fante as a figure who contextualizes LA during the depression better than most Gangster films or novels could, and what’s more placing the idea of the characters in a seedy backdrop that the noir takes places around. These are the characters it happens to, it just doesn’t happen in this novel. What happens is Bandini dreams, the 1933 Long Beach quake hits, and he gets a book published. Bandini is the forgotten man of noir, he is the everyman of mechanized culture and like Camilla he goes crazy as a result. Sarah Clay had the same question about Fante as a murder mystery/noir and I have to say you are both right, but at the asme time you both make the connections for me that I am searching for to make the argument. Thanks you 🙂

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  3. Pingback: Hardboiled: Ask the Dust Discussion (Part 1) | bavatuesdays

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