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Two Books by Sun Dog Press
by Mark Spitzer

Chump Change. By Dan Fante.
Sun Dog Press, Northville, Michigan
paperback, 198 pp., $14.00.
Few books are better than Dan (son-of-John) Fante's tour de force, Chump Change, which is written in a tough, clean, ballistic voice, reminiscent of Bukowski, charged like Céline, and in the same league with both just-mentioned writers. This novel literally attaches itself to the reader, becoming an extra appendage. When the end gets near, you start to bum out. It's one of those books you try to slow down on.
     Slowing down on Dan Fante, however, is like trying to slow down on an amphetamine smoothie, especially when the narrator is smashing around in a big old stationwagon with a 460 V8, punching out transvestites, slugging down every bottle of booze in sight, and taking you along on a raucous suicidal deathwish that makes you laugh out loud.
     The difference between Dan Fante and Bukowski isn't much in the language department, but in the action department it's a whole nuther thing. Whereas Bukowski reflects on things, Dan Fante creates chaos in the world, then recreates it just as intensely on the page. Meaning that Fante doesn't just get drunk, he gets drunk and starts trouble - usually with a stuttering 15 year old whore, his dead dad's dying dog, piss-ant clerks who treat him like a bum, or his wife who won't give him a blowjob so he sneaks his cum into her mouth when she's zonked out on valium - if he isn't dropping a reeking dead gopher into her purse to use as a dildo.
     The difference between Dan Fante and Céline has more to do with volume though. Céline wrote volumes and volumes of misadventures, Fante has just begun. And I hope he keeps on going.
     Despite a couple awkward analogies, Fante manages to deliver image after graphic image with hilarious consistency. Here are some passages that I noted:
     "Agnes [had]... black eyes and black hair and a wonderful ass like the pillow of an angel" (p. 9).
     "Lorette was making her way down the aisle with the food service cart. She was ten or fifteen rows away, but I could easily make out her firm calf muscles flexing as she stooped down to fetch food trays and plastic cups and fill them with diet cokes or club soda. She had an abundant hipline and a firm-looking puff-butt. The top button on her blouse was still unbuttoned" (p. 17).
     "What happened to Jonathan Dante [John Fante] in Los Angeles is what happens to a man who falls in love with a beautiful, heartless bitch. Each time you touch her round hard breasts and press yourself deeply between her legs, rapture explodes your heart. Possessing her flawlessness fills you with a drug, a perfect divine bliss. You have a dick that never gets soft. The paychecks, the kisses fix everything....
     "A poor writer growing up in the poverty of the thirties, finding L.A. blooming, beautiful - an air-brushed kibbutz paradise - Dante knew he must have her and let his tongue penetrate her every orifice. At the time it didn't matter too much that, in the essence of his bones, he knew he was licking the clit of the spider lady" (pp. 25,26).
     "Each judgmental, pissy remark and criticism about our father made me want to grab handfuls of his hair out by the roots. Each sound, each resonating shit-filled emission of his speaking increased my edginess" (p. 33).
     And on and on. It's rare that I'd dogear any book so much, and note so many instances of writing that are brilliantly crude (yet elegant), and horrifically violent (while being tender enough to make machomen cry).
     In short, keep your eye on Dan Fante. He kicks literary ass.

Charles Bukowski: Laughing with the Gods,

an interview by Fernanda Pivano.
Sun Dog Press, Northville, Michigan
paperback, 160 pp., $14.95.
Fernanda Pivano, an Italian translator/writer (whose past subjects include Henry Miller, Hemingway, Kerouac and Ginsberg) came to California in the 80s to interview Bukowski. The book was originally published in Italian, but now it's out in America.
     Roughly, the book is 3/4 interviews with Bukowski and 1/4 commentary which can be dismissed. The interview, however, is the MEAT of the book, and will be of interest to anyone with at least 4.3 Bukowski books on their shelf. Like the letters and the tapes, Fernanda's interview gives another angle to view America's favorite alcoholic from, other than his own embellished autofiction (present in his poetry as well). So don't buy this book if you're looking for stories about beating up whores, taking a big beershit, or getting drunk at the racetrack; buy it if you like Bukowski and want to know more straight from the horse's mouth, rather than the ugly mugs of hipster professors trying to bring Bukowski into the mainstream canon with their academic jargon. Not that you will read anything totally earth-shattering and new in this book, but because you might be entertained by the novelty of this different view. For example:
     "BUKOWSKI: The Devil is far more interesting than Christ." (p. 83)" .... "I'm more in sympathy with the Devil than I am with the nice guys. He seems a more interesting fellow to me down there burning in these flames. He lost the battle with God and he got tossed down there in these flames. Maybe I can help him out of there and we'll take over, and change things a little" (p. 42).
     Or: "I write because it comes out - and then to get paid for it afterwards? ... writing is like going to bed with a beautiful woman, making love to her, and when you get up, somebody hands you some money" (p. 41).
     Other subjects in the interview include the toughest cat in the world, Bukowski's personal writing style, why he got so hammered all the time, feminism, waiters, nature (or rather, his aversion to it), and his wife's shoes. What makes the book interesting though is not really what Bukowski answers - it's the often annoying, biased bent of the questions, which give the reader who knows anything about Bukowski a feeling of authority in relation to the interviewer. Fernanda asks a lot of dumb questions which show how much she didn't do her research. For instance, she asks if John Martin is a publisher or author (p. 71), doesn't know much about John Fante's influence on Bukowski (p. 66), doesn't seem to be aware that Bukowski (who wrote Factotum) had other jobs before working at the post office (p. 95), and keeps pushing the subject of Hemingway - sometimes putting words in Bukowski's mouth about the debt he owes old Ernest (whose later work "got milky," according to Bukowski, "the lines were no longer straight and strong. They became tame" (p. 65)).
     My point is that the questions in this interview make the reader a participant in this book, because reactions are provoked. And if you aren't a misanthropic alcoholic yourself, these reactions will most likely lead to drunken dialogue with others, in regard to Bukowski.
     There are also quite a few instances in this interview in which Bukowski contradicts himself, outright lies, and reacts for the sake of reaction - which are amusing when they occur. Hence, this book brings up more questions than answers, which is the mark of something that makes you think.
     Anyway, it's a good looking book with a picture of Bukowski and the interviewer on the cover, more photos inside, and some original illustrations by Bukowski with samples of writing straight from his typer.
     Ultimately, it's difficult to get a fix on what exactly Laughing with the Gods is trying to do, but nevertheless, the book is intriguing. There are certain moments which arise in spontaneous places which give insight to a life that has fascinated more readers of poetry and prose during the last century, perhaps, than anybody else's has. And for this reason, I say buy it - but not if you have less than 4.3 Bukowskis on your shelf already.

Click here for more info on books by Fante, Bukowski, and others: Canongate Press


Collected Poems of Georges Bataille
Bottom Feeder

The Church, by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Chapbooks: Motorhead and Notch of the Sorceress (send $5 for each title to MuscleHead Press, 3700 County Rd. Route 24, Russell, NY, 13684).



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