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The Big Hunger

Since his death in 1983, John Fante's literary stock has soared. In 1987 Vogue proclaimed Fante "one of the premier American writers of the century"; in 1989, when no less than six movies based on his novels were in production, American Film called him "the hottest writer in Hollywood".

The groundswell of belated recognition for the once obscure creator of such Italian-American classics as Ask the Dust and Wait Until Spring, Bandini keeps on growing. Now Fante biographer Stephen Cooper has unearthed eighteen previously uncollected stories which are bound to further solidify Fante's reputation.

Taken together, the stories here, along with generous editorial notes, provide a useful introduction to Fante's fiction, charting the writer's development from raw youth to accomplished maturity. The tales range from funny, iconoclastic depictions of Catholic boyhood ("Horselaugh on Dibber Lannon", "Jackie's Mother"), through comically self-aggrandizing chronicles of struggling-apprentice years on Bunker Hill ("To Be a Monstrous Fellow", "I Am a Writer of Truth"), to bittersweet, wry commentaries on the travails of family life and Hollywood ("The Taming of Valenti", "The Case of the Haunted Writer"). The final story, "The First Time I Saw Paris" -- written in 1959, when Fante was working on a screenplay for Darryl Zanuck and residing in the same Paris hotel as Elvis Presley -- ends on a typically Fantean note, summing up the writer's humane vision of life as a struggle worth undergoing: "I choked up at the dignity of man..". Like his forerunner in the school of hard knocks, Knut Hamsum, and his successor in that arduous academy, Charles Bukowski, John Fante delivers truths in a voice we cantrust, because there's no mistaking he's "been there".

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