Arturo Bandini the Viking: How Long Beach Junior College Transformed the Writing of John Fante

Summer 2017

Danny Hutto : English

Donor: Anselm Fund
Mentor: Kent Puckett

In the spring of 1932, while attending Long Beach Junior College (LBJC), John Fante published his short story “Eleven-Thirty” in the campus literary journal, Edda. The story, bursting with clichés, depicts a young man, disappointed in love, at the brink of suicide. Critic David L. Ulin dismisses it as “pure juvenilia” and “mostly overwrought.” A few months later The American Mercury published Fante’s story, “Altar Boy.” Aside from sharing Fante as the author, the two stories hardly resembled one another. The variation in the quality of the two stories suggests the tremendous impact that Fante’s experience at LBJC exerted on his thinking and literary career. In months, he transformed from the author of the immature and nearly unrecognizable “Eleven Thirty” to the prolific and emotionally wrought voice found in “Altar Boy” and later novels such as Wait Until Spring, Bandini and Ask the Dust. My research asks, what happened? What specifically about this place and this moment in time allowed Fante to develop his writing?

This fellowship has meant more to me than words can accurately do justice to describe. Not only have I advanced my academic capabilities considerably, I also feel that what I am working on has provided me with great purpose. The opportunities this fellowship provided for me enabled me to invest myself in a project which I have a deep emotional connection to and gave me the means to transform that emotional connection into serious and worthwhile scholarly work. Aside from the externalities that I learned over the course of the fellowship, I also gained a new, profound sense of what I am capable of. This has been one of, if not, the most important experiences I have had while at Berkeley and I cannot thank the Anselm Fund enough for granting me this opportunity.