A SAD FLOWER IN THE SAND



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07/22/2008
Misako Miyagawa

For the uninitiated, Fante's work will have you bouncing off the walls... leave you breathless for the comic, cruel, incomparable beauty and insanity of life... and set you reeling and ecstatic for feelings you'd thought you'd lost, never had, or (if a brave soul be yours) have never left you. For "quiver” assured, keep Fante's prose by your side and know that they never will. As a documentary, Jan Louter's film is a lovely surprise. It conveys Fante's artistry in shades aptly haunting and surreal, suggestive of life forces -- both within the man and in the curves and crevices of an elusive Los Angeles of yesterday and still today. Thank you, Jan Louter, for aiming your lens where light falls brighter for the dark, and for giving space – as do Fante's words -- to the angels of madness against the fiends of muted life. (And a special thank you to Professor Stephen Cooper, Fante scholar and biographer, for introducing Fante's work to me, among countless other grateful students and readers now and to come.)

It remains an incomprehensibility that the best of Fante's work -- after some three-quarters of a century -- has yet to be widely embraced for the literary landmarks that they are. He is among our country's greatest, most innovative and courageous of writers, one who dared speak from places within that few to none did in his time, have done today, or will ever do tomorrow. And this in a style (with respectful nod to Knut Hamsun and his novel "Hunger"), and with such singular command of voice, that even his most fevered admirers are left speechless, dumbfounded to describe the rapturous fullness of feat and wonder that suffuses his emotions and words in print. Such is the evocative power of Fante's gifts that they come to speak for aspects of our most intimate selves, the fury of dreams and shadow demons that few touch closely enough to let out.

Ahead of his time, Fante's work also gives frenetic, angry, painfully hilarious, and wrenchingly honest voice to the immigrant experience in the U.S., to the pull of dual-cultural identity, and what it means to struggle to become whole by no one's definition but one's own. Yet this not as polemic, but rather as stalking, restless poetry, one that is wounded and wrestled and lived with in the psyche and flesh of the sublime everyday. This, alone, would be enough to keep Fante's words alive in the hearts and memories of generations firmly rooted in America and, too, of those who have yet to here arrive.

But such powerful threads are no more or less the primary focus in Fante's work than anything else to be found and treasured in the overall canvas that is his -- each strand of which is but part of a larger human whole. As with any writer of genuine distinction and merit, it is, first and foremost, Fante's mastery of prose – at once deliciously rich and deceptively simple -- that marks his work for the ages, the full panoply of his vision and feeling for life, the risks taken to shape raw, unbridled emotion into matchless prose and, above all, of getting it right, and getting it right on the page. May anyone who dares to feel and live truly find, and find home in, John Fante's words. And, in so doing, dare to feel and live truly, and with beauty, all the more.

12/21/06
Joseph Cada
Jacksonville, FL.

I enjoyed the documentary "A sad flower in the sand". I like the fact the he wrote something about the life of Filipino immigrants. I am just wondering if I could get the book " little brown man". He knew what we felt being discriminated in this racist, fascist American Society. Are all men created equal in this country? or all just white men? The constitution of the U.S. had a lot of white guilt. Well,back in the 40's,Hollywood just wanted the all white American society. John Fante was a revolutionary writer and I love it!!! I'm going to get all of his works!!!

12/19/06
david peterson
portland,oregon

I have also lived in Los Angeles, and forgive me, but I felt it was the armpit of America. Everyone is obsessed by the consumer culture, and the belief that "theirs" is coming any day now. However, I will go again now that I am middle aged and attempt to see it through Fante's eyes. I was looking for Raymond Chandler's L.A. the last time.

12/19/06
New York, New York

I found the documentary interesting and evocative of the discrimination of the era, but it left me with numerous questions about Fante's life, and indeed, I'm not convinced of his greatness (although I will try to look at "Ask the Dusk").

I don't usually have to do so much background reading (this is my fourth website) to get the basics about the life of the doc subject.

12/19/06
kyle fitzpatrick
philadelphia pa

I truly appreciated the film on so many levels. The first being that the book Ask The Dust is the, as described in such elequant ways, first novel to speak to my heart. Although feeling that Fante's prose as something I would like to keep to secretly to myself,I am hopeful that he may gain more recognition in contomparary America literature as one of the greats. He remains my most loved and reread writer. The film failed to discuss my absolute favorite of his writings which is Brotherhood of the Grape which is the first and possibly the last book to make me wheep. Thank you again to the film makers and i hope i may obtain a copy of the film.

12/13/06
Jim McKenna
Calgary, Alberta
I don't know if I've every viewed a film as hypnotic as A Sad Flower In The Dust ('hypnotic' best describes it, though it was much more than just that).

12/13/06
Peter Richardson
San Anselmo, California

Thanks so much for "A Sad Flower in the Sand." I have a special interest in the material. I teach a course at San Francisco State University called California Culture, and my reading list includes "Ask the Dust." I also wrote a biography (American Prophet) of Carey McWilliams, Fante's best friend and Robert Towne's inspiration for the "Chinatown" screenplay. Finally, I'm a big fan of both Stephen Cooper and his biography of Fante (Full of Life), which I referred to liberally in my work.

For all these reasons, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. I would add one observation to it. By emphasizing Ask the Dust's bleak aspects, the film may have underplayed the novel's comic ones. Much of the humor comes from the juxtaposition of Bandini's squalor with his soaring literary, financial, and sexual aspirations. Happily, some of that humor is reflected in Bukowski's preface to the Black Sparrow edition, which is included in the film.

Thanks again for an absorbing work on an important and undervalued Americ an author.

12/13/06
Stephen Young

One of the best and most interesting sections of any website I've seen in a long time . I have lived in Los Angeles in the past and I will live there again . At last , here is something about the unattainable sad wonder of the place ,..the teeming life of it ,,, the creative possibility of it . All the information , all the people written about in these articles are rare - and all jewels in todays seemingly soul less America .


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