ATD Question #17 ~ Buttermilk

by John Fante

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DeppInTheHeartOfTexas
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ATD Question #17 ~ Buttermilk

Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Dec 02, 2007 11:42 am

Pg. 33. “…Long after the milkman left Hellfrick’s room I was still on my knees, a full half hour of prayers, until I was ravenous for the taste of milk, until my knees ached and a dull pain throbbed in my shoulder blades.

When I got up I staggered from cramped muscles, but it was going to be worthwhile. I took the toothbrush from my glass, opened one of the bottles, and poured a full glass. I turned and faced the picture of J.C. Hackmuth on the wall.

“To you, Hackmuth! Hurray for you!”

And I drank, greedily, until my throat suddenly choked and contracted and a horrible taste shook me. It was the kind of milk I hated. It was buttermilk. I spat it out, washed my mouth with water, and hurried to look at the other bottle. It was buttermilk, too.”



After much deliberation Arturo steals the bottles from the milkman believing they are full of regular milk but they turn out to be bottles of buttermilk which he can’t stand. What do you think is the significance of this passage?
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -
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Unread postby gemini » Sun Dec 02, 2007 2:06 pm

God works in mysterious ways. What goes around comes around. Arturo learns by the school of hard knocks. But....sometimes I am not convinced he has learned at all. He still goes from repentance to enjoying what he has stolen. Just like the boy who stole from his mother, then repented, then tossed the keepsake away instead of returning it. He has not learned. I think it served him right.
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Unread postby suec » Sun Dec 02, 2007 3:28 pm

Gemini, I agree it definitely did serve him right. That was quite a satisfying moment, really.
I think it also may symbolise the souring of relationships and people going bad , because he does compare the bottles to human beings. The same thing happens with Vera when she offers him a glass of cool milk, which instead turns out to be almost hot, with a yellowish scum on top. After the sex, the half-drunk glass is one of the "little things accusing Arturo Bandini".
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Unread postby Parlez » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:04 pm

Beggars can't be choosers, says I!
Arturo is thirsty (for more than milk) but is too rigid to 'swallow' what's presented to him. Ya can't have it both ways, Bandini! If you're going to live on the street, scrounging around for opportunities to steal whatever you see, and justifying your bad behavior with lofy excuses, you've can't cop an attitude about what you will and will not accept!
Arturo isn't really as needy as he thinks he is or he wouldn't be so picky.
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Unread postby fansmom » Sun Dec 02, 2007 4:39 pm

suec wrote:Gemini, I agree it definitely did serve him right. That was quite a satisfying moment, really.
Yeah, I had a little bit of schadenfreude there, too.

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Unread postby gemini » Sun Dec 02, 2007 5:44 pm

Fansmom, schadenfreude sent me to the Wikapedia but I like learning new works. Part of the fun of our discussions is keeping the old brain alert.

Parlez said
Arturo isn't really as needy as he thinks he is or he wouldn't be so picky.
I agree. I have wondered at his excesses when money is so tight for him. He spends it foolishly when he has it and never worries about running out before the next check arrives. Rather than a little planning , he handles his money like everything else, excess and never worries about getting by when its gone. Reminds me of his mom killing the last rooster at their lowest point and relying on her faith to feed her children.
"If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went." Will Rogers



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Unread postby DeppInTheHeartOfTexas » Sun Dec 02, 2007 6:18 pm

Today's word is: Schadenfreude is a German word meaning 'pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune'. (from Wikipeida). Thanks, fansmom for a new word. :cool:

I agree the buttermilk incident was another in the long line of sin/repent impulsive actions Arturo is so fond of. Just like the locket incident, the stolen item doesn't do him any good, in fact both actions turn out badly. He also seems to be punishing himself in a way. He has just felt triumph over the 25 page letter he has written to Hackmuth so he goes and does something bad (keeping the balance as it were :sands: ). On the page before he talks about what a great genius he is and how he must sacrifice for his art:

"Oh Bandini, talking to the reflection in the dresser mirror, what sacrifices you make for your art! You might have been a captain of industry, a merchant prince, a big league ball player, leading hitter in the American League, with an average of .415, but no! Here you are crawling through the days, a starved genius, faithful to your sacred calling. What courage you possess!"
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming -

Wow! What a ride!

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Unread postby dharma_bum » Sun Dec 02, 2007 7:05 pm

i agree with the comments so far, especially Fante using milk as a recurring metaphor. California has often been referred to as the "the land of milk and honey"... an Eden (of course it's not). Fante makes it into a cautionary tale... be careful what you wish for.

Aurturo cannot tolerate even a mouthful of buttermilk—the richest of all milks—without a violent reaction. This foreshadows his desperate quest for wealth, recognition and love, and his inability to make peace with even small measures of all three.
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Unread postby Liz » Sun Dec 02, 2007 7:33 pm

dharma_bum wrote:i agree with the comments so far, especially Fante using milk as a recurring metaphor. California has often been referred to as the "the land of milk and honey"... an Eden (of course it's not). Fante makes it into a cautionary tale... be careful what you wish for.

This is true. His descriptions of his neighbors get that message across also.

Great answers all around today. Sorry I have been absent for the past 24 hours. I was away for a night in Monterey, CA……Steinbeck country.

And I will join you ladies in a bit of schadenfreude.
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Unread postby Betty Sue » Mon Dec 03, 2007 4:26 pm

Liz wrote:

And I will join you ladies in a bit of schadenfreude.

Me, too!! Me, too!! Missed yesterday due to a snow/ice storm messing up computer connections but found all of your answers great and love that new word! Guess it's not nice to engage in schadenfreude (gotta keep using it to learn it!) too often :blush: , but when it fits.... :cool:
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Unread postby Liz » Mon Dec 03, 2007 5:49 pm

Betty Sue wrote:
Liz wrote:

And I will join you ladies in a bit of schadenfreude.

Missed yesterday due to a snow/ice storm messing up computer connections


I hate when that happens. :banghead: Glad to see you are reconnected. :cool:
You can't judge a book by its cover.

The only thing that matters is the ending. It's the most important part of the story.

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Unread postby fansmom » Mon Dec 03, 2007 9:07 pm

I would post a link to the song called Schadenfreude from the Broadway musical Avenue Q but it has a couple of naughty words in it. If you're feeling adventurous, go to Youtube and search on Schadenfreude. People seem to like making videos to that song.


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