Sample Book Review on “Ask the Dust”

Ask the Dust

 “Ask the Dust” is one of the most popular novels across the world. The novel talks about the real human life and the everyday experiences in the lives of human beings, the difficulties that people face in their daily operations are also exhibited in the book[1]. The book was later adapted into a movie by Robert Towne in the year 2006. The novel and the film both try to bring out the relationships that exist between Arturo Bandini and the people around him. The relationships that come out in both stories are almost similar. In both the novel and the film, Fante and Towne feature the character Arturo Bandini in their works. Recurring themes in Fante’s work include poverty, Catholicism, Italian- American identity and the writing life, which is also present in Towne’s film.

The novel ‘Ask the dust’ talks about Arturo Bandini, a young man who moves from Colorado to Los Angeles.  He lives a life full of struggles. Arturo lives in a residential hotel, located in a section of Downtown Los Angeles.[2] In his neighborhood, there are a number if vices such as racism, poverty and diseases; and these prevent the rapid development of his neighborhood. As Bandini goes about his daily operations, he meets a beautiful girl, a waitress in Colombian Buffet, one of the places he visited. The girl, whom Bandini meets, is Camilla Lopez.  The two later on fall in love though the main distracter in this case is Camilla’s co-worker known by the name of Sam.[3] This is where the intimate relationship that later on comes to exist between the two begins. Sam eventually finds out and despises Camilla. Conversely, Bandini struggles with poverty and his love for Camilla, a lady he treasured and admired beyond doubt. Camilla is unstable and her health is deteriorating. She is eventually admitted to a mental hospital and later moved to a second one, before she escapes.

There are signs of complications in the relationship existing between the two.[4] He does everything possible to make Camilla happy and to please her but he does not achieve any of these.  Instead, Camilla tries hard to go far away from Bandini. Despite the presents that Bandini buys, Camilla has her mind made up and she does not seem to look back. At some moment, Bandini had reserved a hotel room for Camilla, just as a sign of love. Unfortunately, when Bandini returns to the reserved hotel room, he finds that Camilla is gone. Baldini appears troubled in this relationship. This is due to the fact that Camillla, who he believes is his lover, runs away from him every now and then. Bandini searches everywhere for his lover but to avail.[5]

A description of the novel ‘Ask the Dust’ as one of the greatest novels of all time is given by Robert Towne. The relationship that is exhibited in the film ‘Ask the dust’ is one that often undergoes great depression. One important fact that would be worth noting is that Camilla is visionary and she hopes to be above a number of people in her society in the near future. She wishes to gain the high status in society by marrying a wealthy American man. Once Camilla meets Bandini, his plans are interrupted and she has to come up with new strategies of achieving her visions. In the end, though Bandini loved Camilla, he does not end up marrying her. Camilla is later infected by T.B. and she leaves Arturo without telling him. When Arturo finds the love of his life, she is about to die and so he promises to marry her. Unfortunately, Camilla passes on before their marriage takes place. The film and the novel are similar in that they both emphasize on the relationships that Bandini’s life is all about. Besides, both the novel and the film tell the tale of Arturo Bandini, his struggle to become a famous writer in Los Angeles and his relationship with Camilla- a Mexican-America waitress.[6]  Both the film and the novel exhibit or rather explain about the sadistic relationship existing between Camilla and Bandini. For instance, both the novel and the film explain the beginning of their love at the Columbian Buffet. Additionally, both the film and the movie explain the tough conditions that Bandini was in when he met Camilla at the Columbian Buffet. Both the movie and the book shows how the two love birds going to the beach and Camilla ask Bandini to teach her how to swim. She pretends to drown and his reaction to what was happening. The novel by John Fante and the film by director Robert Towne have a similar development but they have several differences too.

The movie doesn’t show Bandini asking for writing advice from J.C.Hackmuth. Moreover, the movie does not include explanations as to why Arturo was constantly writing to his mother requesting for financial help. In the book, Arturo’s mentor is named J.C. Hackmuth yet in the movie his name is H.L. Mencken.[7] Another contrast is that in the book, Camilla asks Arturo to edit some of Sam’s pieces yet, in the movie Sam himself goes to Arturo for advice when he discovers that Arturo is a writer. Unlike in the book, the movie never shows Camilla going to the hospital for her marijuana addiction. A section of the movie reveals that Bandini often insults Camilla his lover because he struggles to treat her but she never makes him happy. Bandini also struggles with his masculine nature when dealing with his sexual relationship with Camilla yet the film does not include this.[8] The movie revolves around the ups and downs that Bandini faces in his struggle to maintain Camilla as his lover. Their relationship however, turns sour in the end, as Camilla seems not interested. When he finally gets back to the beach house, she is no longer there. Lastly, the book and the movie have two totally different endings.

The young man Arturo started out so ambitiously though he spent his days hungry for success, life and food in a dingy hotel in Los Angeles, he was full of the enthusiasm of youth and the thrill of having one short story published, the reality of poverty and prejudice has hit him hard. A time came when he had no more and last piece of his wealth he went to spend it in a café. Later on, Bandini comes across a beautiful lady by the name Camilla Lopez where he goes to have fun. The relationship between the two does not exist for long as Camilla disappears and leaves Bandini very lonely. Bandini is forced to reject and turn down all his achievements as a writer simply because of the lady. Bandini becomes emotional and the novel and the movie both depict conditions of depression in Bandini’s life. Furthermore, he is frustrated with life and curses himself for having loved someone who did not love him back. He sneers when offered something he really wants despite the fact that he wants it so desperately. In general, ‘Ask the Dust’ is a literature that brings out the period of the Great Depression. Life is brought to Los Angeles through John Fante’s literature.[9]

Anyone who loves Los Angeles struggles with it. Bandini exhibits his struggle with Los Angeles since his love for Camilla is all about struggle. Bandini’s love relationship began in a good way but ended in a difficult manner. This is one of the clear indications that John Fante is a writer ignored or underappreciated because reality is a little bit more complex. It is worth noting that in both cases, the relationships that exist are very close despite the heartbreaks that happen later on.

In conclusion, “Ask the Dust” novel is about a man known as Bandini and Camilla. The two fall in love though it does not go on smoothly. At some point in life, Camilla runs away from Bandini and wanders into the desert after she is thrown away by Sam who is her other lover. Bandini does not find her. Conversely, the “Ask the dust” film is also about love.  Though the two lovers, Camilla and Arturo separate when Camilla leaves him when she gets infected with T.B. Later on Camilla dies and leaves Bandini lonely. It is worth noting that, just like in the case of Arturo Bandini, relationships, to be specific close relationships can be very stressful at times. Although research shows that relationships can help human beings overcome the several challenges they have, relationships are often accompanied by stressful conditions that would lead to great lengths of depression. Both the “Ask the dust” novel and film clearly bring out the suffering that Bandini went through simply because he was in love with someone who did not appreciate him and did not love him back.



Bernard, Cindy. 1990. Cindy Bernard: ask the dust. Santa Monica, CA: Richard Kuhlenschmidt Gallery.

Fante, John. 2006. Ask the dust a novel. New York: HarperPerennial Modern Classics.{ADD85BA4-CC2C-4D28-8D3F-F786D4C9754F}&Format=410.

[1] Fante, John. 2006. Ask the dust a novel. New York: HarperPerennial Modern Classics.{ADD85BA4-CC2C-4D28-8D3F-F786D4C9754F}&Format=410.

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

[4] Ibid

[5] Bernard, Cindy. 1990. Cindy Bernard: ask the dust. Santa Monica, CA: Richard Kuhlenschmidt Gallery.

[6] Ibid

[7] Ibid

[8] Ibid

[9] Bernard, Cindy. 1990. Cindy Bernard: ask the dust. Santa Monica, CA: Richard Kuhlenschmidt Gallery.