This book lingered on my mind for weeks. So it must good. It's the story of Arturo Bandini, a young would-be writer who comes to Los Angeles to make it as a writer, but discovers poverty and loneliness instead. That is, until he encounters Camilla Lopez, a Mexican-American waitress.
What makes this romance interesting is, like all great love stories, it is doomed.
In fact, there is quite of bit of friction and nastiness right from the beginning between these so-called lovers. And ultimately it is one-sided, with Arturo sadly learning a grand lesson in humility. (We've all been there.) We see the character arc from self-absorbed ego-driven writer (with delusions of grandeur) to self-sacrificing and responsible human being. This is a tragic tale, with Camilla's decline and Arturo's helplessness underscored. The ending is brilliant. I literally fell into a stunned silence at the end.
My only small complaint is that John Fante doesn't to know much about the main narcotic alluded to in the book: Marijuana. It's almost comical how little he knows about it ("Reefer Madness" might be his main reference and source of information); yet this aside, ASK THE DUST remains a powerful book, a haunting one. One I would recommend, especially to writers.