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This review is taken from PN Review 69, Volume 16 Number 1, September - October 1989.

THE ODYSSEY OF A WOP John Fante, Wait Until Spring, Bandini (Panther) £2.50
John Fante, Ask the Dust (Panther) £2.50
John Fante, Dreams from Bunker Hill (Panther) £2.50
John Fante, The Wine of Youth (Paladin) £3.50
John Fante, West of Rome (Black Sparrow Press) $20.00, $10.00 pb.

There are two main themes in John Fante's stories: his Italian-American childhood and his experience as a writer. Both themes are really aspects of the much larger one of the American dream. His stories about childhood are about the dream being dreamt; his stories about writing are about the dream coming true. They are not about art as such, but success.

The son of an immigrant from Abruzzi, Fante was born in Colorado in 1909 and educated at a Jesuit boarding-school. Success as an author came to him early and his short stories appeared in some of the most well-known literary magazines of the 1930s, such as the American Mercury, Esquire and Harper's Bazaar. His stories all have the same accessible, self-consciously rugged quality that characterizes so much middle-brow American fiction; it is writing that wears its democratic heart on its sleeve, proudly vernacular in tone, and yet also highly mannered, so hard does the author try to avoid any suggestion of the 'literary'.

Written when the Depression was at its most severe, these early stories were popular because they provided a mainly urban readership with a nostalgic vision of a community united in the face of adversity. Fante is the Norman Rockwell of the American short story. The 'little Italy' of his fiction is a world of decent poverty and old-fashioned respect for family and Church. His women are either pure and suffering madonnas, or sirens like Coletta in 'A Wife for Dino Rossi' ...

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