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Issue 54 - Dante's inferno...

Whisky Magazine Issue 54
March 2006


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Dante's inferno...

Jefferson Chase on an extreme independent novel that rode in through the back door

For the next couple of issues, I thought I'd focus on literature's equivalent of the small-batch bourbon – books from independent presses. So let's begin with an excellent and extreme novel, Dan Fante's Chump Change.

Fante, a recovering alcoholic and the son of author and screenwriter John Fante, originally published his novel in French, after it was rejected by American publishers. It was then re-imported to the States, where many a professional scout discovered, with chagrin, that he had turned down a talent comparable to Hamsun or Bukowski.

Chump Change, which was eventually published in English in 1999, is autobiographically based. Afailed writer and alcoholic, Bruno Dante, sets off to Los Angeles to pay his last respects to his father, a promising novelist turned Hollywood hack. Bruno's marriage is on the rocks, his life is a sleepless nightmare of maintenance drinking, and what's worse, he gets stuck minding his father's aging mutt.

At around eight a.m., I sat on the back porch after more cups of coffee that were mostly scotch. I got an idea. Rocco was still guarding his rodent in the morning light when the thought fully formed; the dog had the right to say goodbye to Dante in the hospital. My father had been his master his whole life. Now his time had run out too. I was sorry for Rocco's situation. From now on, his life would only get worse.

No doubt 12-steppers will nod with recognition at Dante's uncompromising descriptions of the alcoholic's daily fear and sel...

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