Dan Fante… I wrote about him recently. His excellent memoir Fante was a highlight of last year for me. So what do I do know that I’m waiting for his next book? Re-read his older titles, of course… starting with his debut novel Chump Change.
Sun Dog Press
1 June 1998
Chump Change is my favorite Dan Fante novel. At first, I attributed this to the fact that it was both his first novel and the first one that I read (though I read it about five years after it was released).
And this is, at least partially, it. I often find first novels to be my favorite (see Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, Charles Bukowski’s Post Office, or Knut Hamsun’s Hunger), but not always (see John Fante’s Ask the Dust, Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and Hubert Selby Jr’s Requiem For A Dream). And yes, I can’t decide between American Gods and Neverwhere. Maybe some day…
So… Dan Fante. Chump Change. For me, a great deal of this novel’s appeal is how strongly John Fante appears. I suppose I could argue that Mooch‘s steady tributes to John Fante’s brilliant Ask the Dust (both in plot and character) could make it a contender, but… Chump Change is still a better novel (though this may change when I re-read Mooch in a few weeks).
At the start of the novel, Bruno Dante is down on his luck. Of course. he’s just been released from a NYC rehab hospital after going on a massive drunk, blacking out after having sex with men in a porno theater, and taking a knife to his gut. All in all, a rough start.
And of course… it gets worse.
His wife, Agnes, picks him up and tells him his father is dying. The rest of the novel is Bruno traveling to Los Angeles, dealing with his family, and coming to terms with his relationship with his father.
The book, much like the memoir I posted about a week or so ago, is full of depravity, cursing, alcohol consumption, and depictions of a life lived in the grip of madness. So beware, gentle reader, if this sort of thing wouldn’t appeal to you.