Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Fante's Sad Flower?

Last night PBS aired "A Sad Flower in the Sand," a documentary about John Fante and Ask the Dust. What a pleasure to come upon. It includes interviews with family members (including Fante's late wife Joyce), Robert Towne, and Fante biographer Stephen Cooper, whose book I've praised here and elsewhere. Steve alerted me to this documentary some time ago--it was made in 2001--but I'd never seen it until last night.

As the title indicates, the film emphasizes the bleak aspects of Ask the Dust, but I think it underplays the comic effects Fante produced by juxtaposing that bleakness and squalor with his protagonist's soaring literary, financial, and sexual aspirations. But those comic effects are perfectly reflected in Charles Bukowski's 1979 preface to the Black Sparrow Press edition, which is included in the film.

The film also includes several references to Carey McWilliams, Fante's best friend. Steve even reads Fante's evocative book inscriptions to Esther Blaisdell, McWilliams's girlfriend during that time. I was happy to see that connection, since Fante is a big part of my McWilliams bio--almost a kind of foil.

Very highly recommended. Here's the link:

http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/sadflowerinthesand/

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