The Road to Los Angles by John Fante introduces one of the most bizarre, disturbed, and likeable alter egos in literature, Arturo Bandini. The book takes place in 1930’s Los Angles, primarily the rough neighborhoods around the harbor docks. We are put in the mind of a young man suffering from the world’s worst grandiosity complex. Bandini is convinced he will go down in history as the world’s greatest man. Unfortunately, he’s from a dirt poor family and works a fish cannery. His megalomania is severe to the point where it becomes absolute comedy. He is the ruler of a kingdom of beautiful women, deadly revolutions, exotic lands, and missions of conquest. The real world is an inconvenience.
The psychological depth is superb. Fante knows how to illustrate the grinding gears of a neurotic mind. The settings are absolutely vivid. You can smell the piles of fish guts smearing the page. The characters are fleshed out, but what’s truly interesting is how Fante instills personality into inanimate objects that come to life in Bandini’s warped mind. The constant tension between the magnificent fantasy in Bandini’s head, and the reality of living in a ghetto is done to great effect.
John Fante wrote this in his late twenties. The youthful energy is apparent throughout the whole book. The recklessness of youth drives him to take chances like a cocky bastard, but he has the writing ability to pull it off every time. Fante really captures the essence of the grimy, foggy, streets of Los Angles and the blue collar lifestyle. Charles Bukowski has been quoted saying, “Fante was my god.” Fante is writer that goes straight for the jugular, even when it comes to being a coward. He’s a writer that throws dog shit at the church. The Road to Los Angles is a book that swings hard with crude impact and special brand of finesse. Teenage angst just isn’t done this good anymore.