Fante/Mencken: John Fante and H.L. Mencken: A Personal Correspondence, 1930-1952

John Fante, Author, Michael Moreau, Editor, H. L. Mencken, With Black Sparrow Press $16 (172p) ISBN 978-0-87685-766-3
``Will you answer a question for me?'' asks 22-year-old aspiring novelist Fante of Mencken (1880-1956), then the formidable editor of the American Mercury . ``In the past thirty days I have written 150,000 words. . . . Is a man just starting supposed to do that much?'' Fante (1909-1983), who in 1938 published his first novel ( Wait Until Spring, Bandini ) but whose fiction has yet to be widely acclaimed, couples ingenuousness with youthful arrogance. His long, rambling letters often lie about his age or background, and he is cravenly sycophantic. Mencken's replies are terse but encouraging; in 1932 he publishes one of Fante's stories. The two never meet, and never cease addressing each other as ``Mr.'' It is, however, misleading to state that this correspondence continued past 1940: in 1951 Fante writes after an 11-year hiatus, and receives a reply from a secretary informing him that illness prevents Mencken from answering. Los Angeles Times reporter Moreau's commentary and notes penetrate Fante's egocentricity to afford glimpses of the political climate of the time. Photos not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 12/01/1990
Release date: 12/01/1990
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