Finding your Master

Finding your Master

By on October 23, 2013 . Category Column

Don’t you sometimes feel, while you are writing, that your text sounds like another author’s style?  The point here is not plagiarism. You are not willing to steal styles, or even phrases, nevertheless, there is a clear connection. How to explain this connection? “Literary synchronicity”, might cry the most optimistic, and maybe they are right. However, a deep admiration for an author may be the source of this connection. I would like to illustrate my point through the gripping history between two masters: John Fante and Charles Bukowski.


According to the latter, Fante was his “savior”. Well, many years ago, Bukowski was bored trying to find something interesting in the Los Angeles Public Library when suddenly he came across an old edition of “Ask the Dust”, Fante’s masterpiece. Bukowski took the book in his hands, brought it to his room, and read it from the beginning. “Gold in the garbage”, this was the phrase that Bukowski used to describe how impressed he was after the reading. Actually, Bukowski wrote a foreword to “Ask the Dust” when this novel was reprinted for the Black Sparrow Press, his own publishing house – yes, you could also say that the pupil somehow saved the master – and posited this statement: “Fante is my God”. He also chronicled their relationship in a short story titled “I Meet the Master”, although in this story he refers to his master playfully as “John Bante”. You can find this chronicle in the book “Sporting Times? Yeah?”.


The main character of “Ask the Dust” is Arturo Bandini, a would-be writer, with no money, living in cheap hotels and getting drunk whenever he can. Well, he sounds a lot like many Bukowski’s characters, especially Henry Chinaski, doesn’t he? He never concealed his admiration for and inspiration in Fante’s work. He guided his plots through visceral language, acidic humor and autobiographical passages, and all of these characteristics came from John Fante.


What did Fante think about that? According to his son, Dan Fante, who was interviewed by Fernanda Ezabella, “he liked Bukowski, they had a great friendship. But my father did not understand the hype around his work. He felt the same as me. Bukowski was a great poet. All the poetry I wrote is really because of him. But he was not too fond of his novels. They were not great literature.”


So, if you are feeling that your style is similar to another author, perhaps you have just found your Fante.


By Jr. Bellé


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