|Author John Fante|
I was publishing my poetry, doing readings. In the 1980s, I was emerging as a writer, finding my way on the page, struggling toward my voice. John Fante was still alive, his spirit inhabiting my imagination, helping me believe it could be done. Today, Fante's middle-aged children, his grandchildren, a nephew attended Steve Cooper's lecture. The nephew, also named John Fante, told me that it wasn't until the papers were acquired by UCLA that the family learned about much of his uncle's life. He looked at me sheepishly, saying that all those unsavory private details being revealed, it was embarrassing. That's what happens when you're famous, The Obsessive Reader offered. But he wasn't famous, nephew Fante reminded me. Not when he was alive.
After this exchange, I fell into conversation with another writer. The audience had lifted themselves out of their chairs and were sampling refreshments, wine, chatting with each other. People walked to peer at objects from the Fante papers on exhibition. Letters from H.L. Mencken, Steinbeck, Robert Kennedy. A recording by Charles Bukowski, signed. Fante was his god. More correspondence between Fante and Carey McWilliams, dearest friends. Screenplays. My fellow writer and I huddled on our seats. We bemoaned, compared, rededicated ourselves to our novels. We make such galling progress in our writing, inch-by-inch during stolen hours. We hold such hopes to add to the world's literary worth. Today there was Fante still hectoring, inspiring, saying, "I am no longer lonely. Just you wait, all of you ghosts of this room, just you wait, because it will happen, as sure as there's a God in heaven."