cover image Fante: A Family's Legacy of Writing, Drinking, and Surviving: A Memoir

Fante: A Family's Legacy of Writing, Drinking, and Surviving: A Memoir

Dan Fante. HarperPerennial, $14.99 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-202709-2

Son of novelist and screenwriter John Fante, and grandson to an Italian immigrant from Abruzzo, Dan Fante (Spitting off Tall Buildings) fashions a frank, hard-hitting memoir about the curse that they all shared: heavy drinking. Fleeing a blighted existence as a poor farmer in his village in the Apennines mountains, Nick Fante got to America in 1901 and eked out a living as a stonemason in Denver, frittering away his pay on alcohol and gambling, though dazzling his children with his storytelling skills; his eldest son, John, inherited his father's gloominess and temper, as well as weakness for alcohol, and turned the family narrative proclivity into spinning out gritty stories for H.L. Mencken's The American Mercury. Writing for Hollywood paid bigger, and for 45 years, married to Stanford graduate Joyce Smart, living in Malibu, and raising four children, he tossed off screenplays while torturously neglecting his own work. His awkward second son, Dan, born in 1944, was ill-favored, dyslexic, overweight, and perennially anxious living under an angry, "volcanic" father. He developed a rich inner fantasy life, his education largely street smarts, and worked at odd jobs like driving a cab in New York City and boozing heavily until the mid-1980s. Indeed, he didn't attempt a first novel until his father was dead from complications of diabetes, and, at age 47, Dan Fante dug out his dad's old Smith-Corona portable. His anecdotal, spare narrative is full of fine, pointed writing and searing memories. (Sept.)