I loved this part: “That fool. Even his punctuation was bad.” Way to emasculate your rival, Bandini!
It made me think of Eats, Shots and Leaves, the 2004 bestseller about a hardboiled panda on a crusade for correct punctuation. The quote says something about how people value things differently. Using language effectively is important to writers, while many people see criticism of punctuation as pedantic quibbling. Camilla thinks it’s great that Sammy is trying to be a writer, but cares not at all that Arturo is a published author.
In a comment on an earlier post, Groom pointed out the ashes to ashes, dust to dust nature of humanity, and of LA. I really only know California through the media. I come from the land of ice and snow (western NY) and spent most of my life in an area that’s borderline ghetto, so LA as seen through Hollywood product seems like a wealthy paradise. Fante shows a different side, where the real people live. California, dust and the Depression also make me think of Bound for Glory, the Woody Guthrie biopic where he leaves the OK Dust Bowl for the promised land of CA, only to find that you have to pay to get in and there isn’t any work anyway. So maybe that’s how Ask the Dust fits in with the hardboiled and the noir: They all show how life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns.
A review from the London Review of Books explains more about Fante, Bandini and Hackmuth. You have to register to get access to the full article, but it’s free. It’s cool because the added context gives the novel more layers of meaning.