Sometimes it is useful having a husband who works in the publishing industry…although he doesn’t work in fiction publishing, he got hold of this gorgeous edition of John Fante’s Wait Until Spring, Bandini by Black Sparrow Press some years ago, but I only picked it up last year; what a shame I waited so long.
From the very first page Fante’s spare but energetic writing allows the reader to form a vivid impression of Svevo Bandini, his family and their pathetic existence. Debt ridden, dirt poor and living on the edge we follow this Italian immigrant family’s attempts to survive another winter in depression era Colarado. Chancer and smooth talking builder and odd-job man, Bandini abandons his family for 10 days over Christmas to escape his vitriolic and spiteful mother-in-law. He thinks he’s found an answer to his miserable debt situation with a rich local widow who he shacks up with for a while. Meanwhile things at home go from bad to worse with his wife having a nervous episode and his eldest son experiencing an adolescent crisis of identity. This is very much a story of identity, fitting in and the importance of family and heritage. Wait until Spring deals with familiar themes and in some respects Fante has nothing new to add to depression era writing, but the vivid description of his characters’ emotions, desires and motivations are so energetic, moving and often funny that it is a pleasure to read despite the grim situation of the characters. Writing at its best.