(Harper Perennial)Bruno Dante is a limousine driver. He also inhales beer, whiskey, wine, Xanax, Vicodin, cocaine and any other mind-change substance that he can get in his mouth or nose. He'd stick stuff in his ear, too, if he could.
His vocabulary is that of a truckdriver, sailor or wino. He has a girlfriend named Stinky. Despite being a professional vulgarian, he seems to have a thing about smells. The doctor who tends him in the hospital --- after another lady friend decorates his weenie with Krazy Glue --- has B.O. (we are told). The Krazy Glue does real damage, perhaps the only funny thing in the book, if you are into that kind of humor.
Despite his name, Dante is no Dante, and this certainly is not the Divine Comedy. It is more a sourpuss Charles Bukowski without the wry, an inelegant Henry Miller without the superb language, a clueless Raymond Chandler without a clue. It is most certainly not his father --- the great John Fante --- who, for years, endeared himself to us with books like Dago Red, Ask the Dust and Full of Life. In one of the first issues of RALPH, we reported that this novel was
written with a style as spare and as lovely as the streamlined moderne architecture of its day.
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We've complained about Dan Fante before, in our review of Chump Change. We wrote that it was like
picking up an already-opened soft drink and after the first slug, realizing far too late that someone has dumped a half-smoked cigarette in it, or, better, a roach. There's boozing and stealing cars and boozing and picking up whores and boozing and attempted suicides and boozing and fighting with the family and snorting coke and blacking out on smarmy motel rooms and upchuck and dog-shit in the back seat and trashing cars and putting unmentionable things in women's purses.
Our bitching about Chump Change didn't help. Fante Junior is still an impossible trashmouth, this is his eighth book, and it is still impossible to get it to the trashheap where it belongs. As we said of the previous volume, "I read it at a sitting. It's probably not unlike being at the scene of a massive freeway pile-up, or maybe witness to a drive-by shooting. [It's only] after it's all over you want to know everything --- how it happened, why it happened, who got hurt, and, in the heap of bodies over there ... if there are any who survived."--- Lolita Lark