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Don't Call Me Madame Sosostris, I'm Just a Writer: Interview With Dan Fante

by Anna Battista

Green emerald woods in the background. On the foreground a beautiful woman, dressed in lilac and with a pensive expression in her eyes. She's a crossover between one of Cicely Mary Barker's fairies and an heroine out of some fantasy book à la Lord of the Rings. She's the "Queen of Woods" and nothing more than a drawing on a tarot card lying on the table in front of me. The person who's reading my future starts interpreting the meaning of the card, while I hope nothing bad lurks in the universe for me. So, while my very personal Madame Sosostris, reads in the gallimaufry of the universe, I wait for my clairvoyant to pronounce a formula or a magical word that will secure my dreams to come true. But then the clairvoyant asks me if there is something in particular I'd like to know and I suddenly remember I should be the one who makes the questions here. You see, Dan Fante is such an easy-going person that while you're with him you might even be involved in having your future read through the tarots, a mysterious hobby Dan learned from his mother Joyce, who during the '70s was particularly fascinated by magic.

The next day, when the clairvoyant hidden in Dan goes away to leave room to the writer, we can finally have a quiet chat about his collection of short poems, A Gin Pissing, Raw Meat, Dual Carburattor V-8 Son-of-a-Bitch from Los Angeles (Wrecking Ball Press) and about his latest book, Spitting Off Tall Buildings (Canongate), both have been recently released in Great Britain.

In the poems there are sometimes characters a faithful reader may be able to identify with other characters out of Dan Fante's novels, such as Jimmi or Cynthia, whereas a scene recounted in one poem reappears in one of his plays and the poem "L.A." is the last page of Chump Change. I wonder if this is a way to recycle things or to create a continuity between poetry and prose. "I think none of the above," Dan explains, "I think there are people from my past life, who, while I was writing the poems, came to my mind. Sometimes conversations that I had with people occurred to me and so I mentioned their names simply because they're real and it makes the poem more real. Really in many cases you can tell or I can tell the period in my life when I wrote those poems. For example, the one in which I write about going out of my mother's house or the poems about Cynthia, I know exactly when those events happened. Then there are earlier poems that go back to when I was still drinking, I don't see a continuity between my poems and my novels in terms of evolution, I'd rather say these poems were good for that time."

And yet there are poems with particular stories behind them. "The poem on page 15 and also 'In Camogli' or the one at the end, 'To Mark'," Dan admits, "It is appropriate that the latter is at the end of the book because it's about my personal experience. I wrote 'To Mark' after having a conversation with a friend. He was talking with me about writing and about the fact that he was stuck on his book. We had several conversations and I wrote the poem out of one of these conversations. For what regards 'In Camogli', well, I wrote this a year ago. At that time my second novel had come out in Italy and I was doing this intense tour, in which I did twelve cities in three weeks. I was practically going to bed, then getting up and getting on a train to reach the next town where I had to do a reading. But I managed to make it to Camogli. I got there at midday and I didn't have to read until the next evening at 6 p.m., so I had a day, almost 24 hours without having to do a reading and I thought 'A holiday!' I didn't have my typewriter or my computer with me and if you're a writer you miss writing while you're travelling and you can't write. You know, when it comes to writing, I'm really disciplined, maybe this is the only good quality that I have, but when I write, I write six days a week, I only write for a couple of hours, but I write in a very disciplined way. So, I was missing writing and I began to write a poem. I'm sure I hadn't written a poem in ten years and I managed to write this poem, actually the book takes the title from a line of 'In Camogli'. After I wrote it, I realised I quite liked it and I gave myself the assignment of writing a hundred poems in a hundred days. In the end I didn't do it, actually it took me six months in the end, but it was a wonderful journey to just write poetry, to free myself up from the constraints of the novel. When I'm writing a novel, and I assume it's the same for most writers, it's an obsession, but a wonderful obsession, the characters live with you everyday: you'll be sitting drinking coffee with a friend and tell him 'Shut up!' and pull up a pen and write down a line that you know you want a character to say, when you're writing a novel you live all day long with the characters in the novel, you keep recycling the scene that you've just written or a scene before to find out what's going to happen next, so you feel really constrained, but with poetry it's different. 'In Camogli' was the first poem that I wrote that became part of this collection and it was a pleasure for a while to let myself go and write all the other poems."

"It looks like the same ocean/but this is Italy - not L.A./…On this trip I've been a fine success at impersonating a writer/my poetry - remarkably - even sounds like me/before I lost my muse/and became a hopeless moron-hasbeen-talentless-retard/fuck/with a freight train roaring through my mind/chasing a ridiculous lost idea of literary perfection/But I warn you/I'm like a dented 1985 Ford/with a busted radiator,/a cracked windshield,/and 3 bald tires/speeding down the autobahn/Don't try to diss me or pass me or call my bluff/'cause - see/when I'm cornered/I can write like a gin-pissing-raw-meat-dual-carburator-V8-son-of-a-bitch/even in Italy!" Dan Fante, In Camogli

Dan's poems are written in a sort of free verse and his style often assumes the rhythm of prose or the rhythm of a long fucked-up rant, but how would he define such a style? "It's a very good question," he says, "because it concerns my objective in writing poetry and what I want to convey with my writing. I want to convey one notion and then I want to expand it and tighten it together. My poems have in effect a kind of beginning, a middle and an end. My poetry must completely be a circle, sometimes I do it more effectively than others, but that's my objective, I think the best poets do that. You know, I've read so much bad poetry and it is published and lionised as somehow post-modern and classical that I feel free to write what I like and my poems are very well received whenever I read them. There are many good poems in the anthology, but there are half a dozen poems there that are fucking spectacular, really really good."

"Stuck on my novel and wasting time/I drove up Beachwood Canyon in the hills/today/under the /Hollywood/sign/and felt/again/how it must have been seventy years ago for my old man and Nat West/…/Looking down through the soot I said out loud,/'you wanted this?'/A/Spanish mansion on this hill - and fame/and hearing people whispering your name when you entered Musso's bar/and/blowjobs from not-quite actresses after the card game and too many drinks/at the garden of Allah/…/John Fante's gift to me/was/his/pure writer's heart" Dan Fante, taken from, A Gin Pissing, Raw Meat, Dual Carburattor V-8 Son-of-a-Bitch from Los Angeles

In Chump Change the influence of John Fante, Dan's father, is strong, but his ghost is present also in some of Dan's poems, though Dan seems to be aware that, as time passes by, he's leaving that ghost behind. "My father was the most powerful influence on my writing and he died as an undiscovered writer," Dan starts to remember, "He began to write at a very early age, he was writing novels, but struggling in Los Angeles as a writer. My father began his career writing for the American Mercury Magazine in the early '30s. At that time, The Mercury was the apex for short story writers and my father was twenty when he had his first short story published. After that, he went on and had a relationship with a man named H.L. Mencken who was a literary lion for many years and a very powerful social figure as well, because he was a social a commentator. After a time, a year or two, he began to write films, one of the people he worked with was William Faulkner, another one was Nathaniel West, another one was William Saroyan, he and Saroyan were actually very good friends. Dad used to play poker at an old 'garden type' hotel at Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Sunset Boulevard named "The Garden Of Alla" where Francis Scott Fitzgerald spent his last days. Alla was a woman named Alla Nazimova. It became quite a seedy place in the fifties and sixties. "The Garden of Alla" was where many Hollywood screenwriters and movie people used to gamble and keep their girlfriends. At the time most of these Eastern and Southern writers came from across the country to Los Angeles to start working for the movie industry. My dad made more money in one week writing films than he did in six months writing short stories. And when they gave him his first Hollywood pay cheque, he thought there was a misprint, he thought there were too many zeroes on it, it was for $250, he had never got $250 for anything, it was 1934 and he was used to get $25 for a story. Throughout his life there was a conflict between himself creatively as a novelist and the money Hollywood could offer. This created a terrible dichotomy in his soul and he became very upset about it: I use to say that my father was always pissed off and most often he was right at being pissed off because in Hollywood he was made to perform a bit like a chimpanzee with a typewriter and it was very upsetting. So it's natural for me to make references to him in my work. In my current novel, I make one literary reference to my father, but I think I'm pretty much leaving that behind. Those poems were written over seventeen years, I don't write poems about my father anymore. I think I've just evolved out of it, so I don't think it's a feature in my work anymore."

If Dan's father was a novelist, Joyce, his mother, is a poet and an excellent editor. "My mother was amazed that I produced a book of poems because she's had poems published here and there, but not a collection," Dan states. "She has asked me how long it did actually take to put together the collection and I explained her that there were a few poems, maybe fifteen for over a period of years. Then I began writing poetry again and I wrote sixty poems in a couple of years. So she was amazed and a little jealous!"

And if Dan's mother wants to know how the poems were actually published, here's the story: "I get a great deal of emails from writers and literary people around the world now. One of these, a friend of mine called Ben Myers, sent me an email and he mentioned the fact that there was a publishing house in Britain that was small, but its publisher Shane Rhodes was really committed to good poetry and good short stories. Then Ben told me the name, Wrecking Ball Press and I said 'Oh I love the name!' so I wrote Shane an email and emailed him the poems. In two or three days he answered saying 'Yes, I want to publish the stuff!'"

"Publishers don't know what they're doing/not a-one/and/trust me/literary agents know even less/…The only real peace there is for a writer is at the typewriter/facing it/as he must/head first/without artifice/waiting for the fingers to move/until/once more/with only the heart as a shield/he listens to the sound of music" Dan Fante, taken from A Gin Pissing, Raw Meat, Dual Carburattor V-8 Son-of-a-Bitch from Los Angeles

In one of his poems, Dan criticises publishers and literary agents, so it comes natural to ask him if he thinks that publishers and agents discover new talents just because they have a passion for literature or because they have a passion for money. "My experience is that really the American publishing market has set the global tone for a real financial cynicism in publishing. I don't think publishers nurture writers anymore. If they send a writer to Italy they do it out of their own financial interest and not because they're nurturing any other interests. I haven't met a publisher yet who doesn't reason in this way, with one exception, Al Berlinski at Sun Dog Press in America. I ask Al for his opinion all the time, we're dear dear friends, he always tells me what he thinks and he's always kind, helpful and supportive. Al is really a wonderful publisher, for example, when Mooch was published in America, Al suggested to reprint Chump Change and I said 'Why?' and he said 'Because it's good to have them both on the shelf,' so he did a new run of a few thousand copies. This is the kind of things that he does, he's sensitive to the writer and he's trying to give the writer as much opportunity as possible, that's the kind of thoughtfulness that I really appreciate."

During his tour, Dan read his poems and extracts from his new novel to students in universities and to mass of people at literary festivals. Whenever he reads his stuff, he gives it a rhythm, a special rhythm that makes the text more alive: "I recently read my stuff at festivals and readings in Great Britain in combination with music. In America we have a thing called 'poetry slam': poetry is performed directly by a poet and it made me rethink so many of the classics I read and awfully read, and wondered what the poet would have been like saying, punching that stuff. You know, some poets are good readers and it adds a dimension to poetry, it is very powerful. When you hear poems read at poetry slams, they get a very different dimension. When I read a poem, there's a rhythm to it, sometimes I get it, sometimes I lose it, but it has surely another dimension when I read it aloud."

But also Dan's prose has got a rhythm and he's got something to add regarding his latest novel, Spitting Off Tall Buildings. "I wrote Chump Change first and then I wrote Spitting Off Tall Buildings. Mooch was actually my third novel, though it was published in between the first two books. When I wrote Chump Change, I thought it had to be a very effective story, but when I wrote Spitting Off Tall Buildings, my objective as a novelist was very different. I really had less of the tortures when I wrote it, it came out as literature rather than something that HAD to be said. Somerset Maugham said, if you want to exorcise a demon, write about it and I did it with Chump Change. Spitting Off Tall Buildings has more technique and its challenges are not life and death or they are not as life-threatening as in Chump Change. I must admit that I like it: when you're involved with a book you're so close to the material that it's hard to judge it, but now I can say it's a good book. There's a scene in Spitting Off Tall Buildings when the two window cleaners are talking, for instance, that I think it's just fantastic! At present I'm very interested in American society, you know, I see L.A. as a fascinating phantasmagoria of displaced energy and when I think about it I wish there would be a study done on the perversity of cities. For example, all my characters in Chump Change don't speak English, in L.A. they speak nine language, but you might go into a store and not be able to have a conversation, because they don't speak any English. L.A. is fascinating, it is a city created out of people's fantasies about what they want. People go to L.A. to get something and L.A. just keeps swelling, it keeps going further into the desert with its aspirations and dreams, L.A. is a prototype for America, for American society. When I write I study the alienation of society and my own alienation: I was a practising alcoholic for almost all my adult life, until fifteen years ago, so I know what it is like to feel like you never belong and to convince yourself that you're crazy. I know what it is like to feel like you're on the outside and like Dostoyevsky I'm very interested in communicating the passion and the human experience, because I think that what I write can help."

"'I hate this fucking job' …'Ya know… I know it gets cold up here. I know that, ya know…Some days up here I hate the fucking cold…Some days I hate fucking God, ya know?…Some days I hate the fucking President of the United-fucking-States …You gonna shitcan this deal or stay sober workin' with me?' I thought about it, The Mad Dog had re-adjusted my perspective. 'I'll stay workin' with you,' I said." Dan Fante, Spitting Off Tall Buildings

Though at present Dan Fante is busy celebrating the publishing of his third novel which has already received raving reviews in Great Britain, he is already writing a new novel. Entitled Short Dog, the new book narrates a new adventure starring Bruno Dante. "My British publisher on the back of my latest novel said, 'The third instalment in the trilogy of Bruno Dante'. Well, I didn't know I was going to write only three Bruno Dante novels! In fact I'm writing another one!" Dan reveals, "As long as this character can speak for me I'll use him, I don't have a problem. The novel I'm writing now is quite different, the character is doing things that are quite different from the other books, but he's still a functional character for me. I still enjoy using him, so I don't think he's limiting me, at least not yet. Then I will move on. So now I'm writing a new novel about Bruno Dante working in a limousine service. It's a new thing for me, a new direction since it's a kind of black comedy, with more cynicism, a work that I'm finding very fine to write. After I write it, I go back and read it and I chuckle, then I know it must be good! It's taking me two or three weeks to write fifteen pages. When I was in Turin, after I did a couple of lectures, I began to get this sense of peace and it's really unusual for me and I realised what it was: it was because I was in Italy and that sense of peace translated into productivity for me as a writer. It translated into a calmness that allowed me to write some wonderful stuff while I was here, to be really pleased about what I was doing. And I realised it's inspiring to be around people who appreciate and love my work. That's why I really think I'm gonna move to Italy, because I feel appreciated and I feel free to express myself. I feel liberated, my soul, my spirit is liberated here. Italians are lovely, gracious people and they are very human and very open and then they don't have the American cynicism or defences, I can just be myself here, not that I'm not myself in America, but I don't feel challenged by some social convention here. I just feel like I can be myself and shake people's hands and go for a walk and be open with people and this is what I will take back to the States, I'm so comfortable here. The freedom of being here is incredible for me and it is a privilege for a writer like me who spends his time anonymously in L.A., going about my daily business, knowing the people I know, who are wonderful, but to be here and have my work appreciated, is great since the environment is, artistically speaking, extremely stimulating for me. And then, an amazing thing happened me at the Coliseum in Rome! I circumnavigated the Coliseum and, as I walked away from it, walking away in the direction of the temple of Venus, I got to an open stretch of land. I looked back at the Coliseum from a few hundred yards away and I realised, I even said, which was amazing for me, 'I've been here!' I think I wanted to say a sentence like 'I like it here!' but my mouth said something different. I realised that I had been there before! Many years ago, I went to a brilliant medium, a psychic, and he said in the middle of the reading, 'Oh my God, you are the first 1st century Roman poet I have ever met!' and I had never thought about it for twenty years, it has never even occurred to me and suddenly I realised that I even could see my sandals in the dust and it was an amazing experience that I had been there before!"

Though the next questions doesn't relate to Italy, it is inevitable to ask, what will change in the States after September 2001? "Kipling said the first casualty of war is truth," Dan starts, "so in America, we turn on the TV and we see a general standing in Afghanistan telling us how great things are. While I was in London I saw for the first time footage of dead children. We don't get that in America, what we see is just the newscasters, we are not exposed to the horror of the event. This is a very frightening time for me. As a result our freedoms have been changed radically, now you can be detained without a reason, we interred a hundred thousand Japanese in 1943 just because they were Japanese, for no other reason. I'm an American and I love my country, but I have a concern that maybe we might be taking this past what's reasonable in terms of response. I think that there's going to be some interesting literature about what is happening."

"The only writers I know write/… and live and die giving birth to their stuff/but keep going anyway/until this thing they've borne and trapped and caged/has been fed all the raw meat it will eat and requests a toothpick/Writers who don't write, I said/are like hookers who don't suck dick/they should try new career choices/like flipping burgers/or the Italian post office" Dan Fante, taken from A Gin Pissing, Raw Meat, Dual Carburattor V-8 Son-of-a-Bitch from Los Angeles

While in Italy, Dan also stopped at a couple of universities and schools to teach creative writing. Often when starting his lesson he asked the students how many of them were actually writing and how many of them were writing a novel, but what's writing for Dan and how does the writing process work for him? "I cannot write a novel, it's impossible, but I can write one page a day, that was how I started to write," he states, continuing, "I sit sometimes in my bedroom and I take the books that I've written and put them in front of me and I can't believe it, because I can't write a novel, but I can write one page a day for twelve years. It's far too difficult to think in terms of the entire story, but you can think in terms of the immediate, after all that's how life is lived anyway, all we have is the present, all we have is to make the most of the present. While I was staying in Turin I was in this beautiful hotel and I wrote for three hours, it was wonderful, I have been writing the new novel for four months and I was stuck and suddenly I felt like Arnold Schwarznegger. I was intoxicated by what I was writing, everything that came out of my hands was brilliant: I had an idea and I tried it and I filled in a paragraph, then I filled in another paragraph and that gave me another idea and suddenly there were two or three pages and I was a genius. I felt like the most brilliant writer in America or in Italy! Writing is just like that! One day you might be obsessed with your own genius, and one day you might be writing only two sentences, it's just the way the process goes. The wonder of it is that if you stick to it and if you're committed, what happens is that you find your voice, you find what you're supposed to say in the process of doing it and if there's anything I can say, it is simply that I taught myself how to write by doing it, by just sitting there. And I can tell you that I wouldn't show the first hundred pages I wrote to anyone as they were awful! But I just kept doing it, I was committed to it, I was at the place in my life where I was forty-two years old, I had lost a business, I had lost my house, I had lost my sports car, I was living in the back bedroom of my mother's house and I said 'OK guy, what do we do now?' I didn't have anything to do, I didn't have a job, I was unemployable as I was very crazy at the time, I just fought with depression and just couldn't understand why my life had taken this turn. My father was dead at the time. So I went up to his garage and there was a ream of typing paper that had been torn open. I wrote the first draft of my first novel on the paper he wrote his last novel on. Isn't that nice? And I also wrote it on his typewriter. It was awful but it was a beginning and I realised that I was making room to become a writer."

"My favourite line from anybody is from the great actor James Cagney, who had never took an acting lesson but was a brilliant actor. Somebody asked him, 'How do you do it?' and Cagney said 'You plant both feet firmly on the ground and tell the truth!' I've struggled for so many years to express myself creatively in frustration because of my other personal problems. For years I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to look like a poet and I actually smoked like a poet and definitely drank like a poet and I produced so little that was of any value. I lived for twenty years in New York City, seven of which I drove a taxi. I had my master degree in taxi driving, but I wanted to be a poet and when somebody said 'What do you do other than driving a taxi?' I would say 'I'm a poet.' But at the time I produced a poem every two months. Then, when I made a commitment to actually do it, then everything changed. I started trusting my commitment, I did it and I did it badly, very badly for a few months, but within it for every two or three pages that I wrote there were one or two lines that were really good. So it was a process of discovery, of archaeology: within me there was a writer, I just had to keep writing until I discovered him and then I discovered, I found my 'voice,' as they say in literature. It's a little highfalutin, but for me it is true."

"The gift I have at present is that I'm able to sit down good, bad or indifferent, six days a week, at least two hours a day and just go on. And sometimes it's Arnold Schwarznegger lifting weights, sometimes it's The Terminator, and sometimes it's Donald Duck. When I start writing a book, I don't really generally know how it will go on. For instance, before starting writing Mooch I had an idea about writing the story of a guy who was in love with a very rootless woman, a guy who was making a lot of money in telemarketing and so I started it and I wrote a hundred and thirty pages. Just keeping on writing, I found the characters were beginning to tell me what they wanted to do. It's just like that, after a while, the novel begins to write itself for you. But for my father it was different, he would think his plot through and take months, he would know chapter by chapter what he wanted to say. I don't work in this way. I think that when you teach creative writing, you can't teach people to let go, but you can do writing practice, you can discuss stuff. Flannery O'Connor says that everyone that survived their childhood has enough information to write novels. The point is creative writing is learned in the doing, in its application. I think if people have the impetus to write, then they should write, if people come to school and take creative writing and they want to write, then they should write. When I'm teaching creative writing, I'm not interested in somebody else's work, I'm interested in your work and showing you how I do it, so that you can do it too and you can write in the classroom or go home and write. I usually get people writing, they really start producing material."

"The problem with writers is that sometimes we become over-intellectualised, we freeze ourselves whereas the creative process is completely not intellectual, it's experiential and it must be learned by doing it. I learned my proficiency in my language by reading and, since I love plays, going to the theatre to see Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill's plays, that stuff would just blow my mind. I got fascinated by the rhythms of words. I think that 70% of Americans get all their information from television, so Americans are not reading, I have dear friends who are educators and tell me that people don't like to read. I think the problem with contemporary American poetry is that people don't read enough first before starting writing poetry, that's why it sometimes sounds awfully superficial. It's the same thing that happens in music: pop lyrics at present are just bubble-gum. Writers must have a literary frame of reference so if you're a poet or a writer you have to school yourself, you have to prepare yourself. I frequently get a compliment, the highest compliment anybody could pay to a writer, people saying I picked up your book and I read it in one sit. To me, that's the highest compliment. I believe a writer has an obligation towards readers to capture their attention. "

Since Dan has mentioned his love for theatre, we must remember that he has also written a couple of plays: Don Giovanni and The Closer (also known as Boiler Room). Both have never been staged in Europe, though they enjoyed a good success in the States. "I'm going to send The Closer to Great Britain and in particular to Scotland because they are very creative theatrically there," Dan explains, "I love plays, I love what happens when people speak on stage, I love what happens when just two people talk, so the idea of writing dialogues really entertains me. Theatre is enormously powerful. Shakespeare wrote all that stuff because theatre is a completely different medium than film, they both use words, but the impact of theatre can be enormously powerful. The best movie I have ever seen made me think for about three days, but it doesn't even come close to seeing Eugene O'Neill's Long Day's Journey Into Night. I think that for me the use of dialogue brings the characters to life, I love writing dialogues. And I think that people in Europe would love to see The Closer because it contains a sense of madness, American madness, that has never been exposed and the play is truly mad, it is truly radical and crazy and the characters are incredibly vibrant. I wrote the play four years ago and I can look at it now and I can say that the play is like sitting in a theatre going a hundred miles an hour in your seat around a slalom."

"The woman who directed the play, Jolene Adams, is a theatrical director in L.A. She's brilliant and I didn't think it possible that she would have the sensibility to translate some of the scenes that I did onto the theatre and how she's done them, they are extremely sexual, but they don't violate any codes because of the way they're staged. In the play there are eight characters. The main character is Eddy Cammegian, who owns a telemarketing business, a boiler room in L.A. He's a guy who's recovering from alcoholism and drug addiction, but he's tremendously ambitious and he never knew it because he was using alcohol and drugs and then when he got sober he suddenly discovered that he had this gift for slamming people on the phone. Anyway, Eddy's stuck, he's got some old habit, he wants to conquer every woman and he has these incredible needs which he tries to transfer onto this group of people who work for him. He's got his own philosophy: when he tries to convert somebody, it's like a spiritual conversion, he's trying to convert them from alcoholism to making money, sort of making them think 'Greed is good! Make more money! Money will cure every problem!' After seeing The Closer, people would leave stunned, it is that kind of play. The play is like a long rant, like a tornado, it is exciting, that's the best thing I can say about it, you surely won't be bored!" Now, pardon my insensitivity, but let's go to the real matter, the real problem, will people feel like going home and having sex after seeing the play? "Yes, yes, yes," Dan patiently nods, "or talk about the play! Maybe they'll have sex and talk!" he concludes.

"Walk with only words/and books/as your friend/dream the dreams of deviant dead writer saints/… embrace selfishness and joblessness/smoke millions of unfiltered cigarettes/and glue your ass hopelessly/to the evilest drunken crack whore/…/Do not be courageous/remember that all men are fools/and liars/soulless captives of their own blood-stained necessity/and forgive nothing/then maybe one day/like me/your feet aching and your skull still raw from last night's festivity/you'll kick over a box/or turn a page/and find yourself face to face/with/the blurry eyes of God" Dan Fante, To Mark

In the poem "Parrots" Dan writes a few verses about chatting with his mother about writers. Dan mentions Dickens, Rupert Brooke, Mallay and last but not least "that jerk T.S. Eliot." In Dan Fante's poems, there are no more Madame Sosostris, no more Tiresias, no more "Hurry up it's time," no more mythology or the ball-wrecking mind-numbing intertextuality that titillates fucking academics, no more "Shantih Shantih Shantih," above all there are no men walking with neurasthenic eyes that aimlessly stare at the ground like the ones of the passers-by in T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, but there is life, truth and reality. Alcoholism, depression and despair have made room for new challenges and for a proper job, a terrific job. It's called "Writing."


Special thanks to Dan Fante for putting up with my madness.

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All pics by Anna Battista.