An author flips through the Rolodex of words in his or her brain to string together sentences and calls that an accomplishment; a writer forgoes impressive-sounding diction in favor of stories, terms and expressions that leap off pages. Anyone can become the former, but writers are made—born from a need to exorcise their demons on paper to silence the voices inside their heads. Among contemporary word-slingers, LA-bred, Arizona-based Dan Fante sits atop that mountain.
Son of the literary world's best-kept secret, John Fante, Dan Fante tells gritty accounts of drug and alcohol abuse; dating every sort of woman except the good kind, motel living; the emotional pains of rehab and turbulent family relationships. It's a life the now-sober Fante knows well. His father was a novelist-turned-screenwriter who played golf and drank to kill the feeling that he sold himself out for Hollywood, a sentiment the younger Fante alludes to often. It wasn't until Charles Bukowski claimed John Fante as his god that the elder Fante found notoriety.
Since the elder Fante's death in 1983, his 1939 novel Ask the Dust has become a must-read that spawned a horrible film adaptation starring Irishman Colin Farrell as the Italian-American protagonist Arturo Bandini. Similar to a style championed by his father, Knut Hamsun and Bukowski, Dan Fante creates reality-based fiction through the use of an alter ego named Bruno Dante. Dante appears in the novels Chump Change, Mooch and Spitting Off Tall Buildings and the play Don Giovanni, which fictionalizes a family gathering during his father's final days.
One of the most resonating scenes in Ask the Dust strikes close to home—taking place during the 1933 Long Beach earthquake that destroyed a large portion of the city. Also on the bill is Don Giovanni publisher Rob Woodard, whose novel Heaping Stones falls in the Fante/Bukowski vein by depicting a dejected 38-year-old Long Beach man whose attitude picks up after a romantic affair with an 18-year-old co-worker.
Dan Fante and Rob Woodard at Open, 2226 E. Fourth St., Long Beach, (562) 499-6736; www.thestoryofopen.com. Fri., 8:30 p.m. Free. All ages.