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 Post subject: ATD Question #29 - The Working Class
PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:11 am 
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From an essay I found on the Youngstown State University website (another link that no longer exists :banghead:) :

John Fante’s writings collectively tell the story of assimilation, of ethnic and social struggle. They are realistic accounts of working people’s struggles for a better life and integration into mainstream American society. Although Fante is mostly known and studied as a representative voice in Italian-American literature, his work can also be interpreted through the lens of working-class criticism. As the brief biographical notes illustrate, Fante’s background is definitely working-class, which endows his writings with authenticity and an interior perspective into working-class experience that is best appreciated in the so-called Bandini Saga. This is a cycle of four novels loosely linked by their common protagonist, Arturo Bandini, Fante’s literary alter-ego. Many other features also identify Fante as a working-class author: the tension between working-class community and the writer’s individualism, the representation of class and ethnic conflict, the representation of work, and the rich realism Fante employs to depict the sufferings of working-class people.The Bandini Saga narrates the coming of age of a writer; it thus best represents the typical tension between working-class community and the artist’s individualism.

Do you see it this way?



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:52 am 
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Whoa! What did I miss?? I didn't get this at all ~ especially the bit about Fante's writing being representative of 'the typical tension between working-class community and the artist's individualism.'
For starters, I didn't find anything 'typical' about it, and I'd be willing to bet Fante - or any artist - would hate having that term used to describe his/their work.
The whole working-class thing has me confused too ~ I never saw Arturo's struggle as one of overcoming his 'working-class community' (whatever that means) or that said community was something he felt a tug to return to. :eyebrow:
I'm eager to hear what others have to say about this ~



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 1:18 pm 
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I never really thought of it that way either, even though I read this quote before I read the book.

But there was the tension between Camilla, the working class waitress, and Arturo, the artiste.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 2:49 pm 
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Agreed, Liz. I think what's got me confused is the use of the word 'community'. To me that means a group of like-minded souls who have come together to offer each other support and solidarity ~ like a trade union, or a church congregation, or a neighborhood, or even an extended family. Said communities are also frequently invested in keeping their members members, so they're not so tolerant of those who try to leave. But, as we know, none of those groups played a role in Arturo's upbringing one way or another. Svevo and Maria approached (his) work and (her) religion in a very individualistic manner, as in alienated, solitary and unsupported. So I don't see a resulting 'tension' for Arturo regarding 'community'. :-?



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 3:56 pm 
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Parlez wrote:
The whole working-class thing has me confused too ~ I never saw Arturo's struggle as one of overcoming his 'working-class community' (whatever that means) or that said community was something he felt a tug to return to. :eyebrow:
I'm eager to hear what others have to say about this ~
On the question of class, Parlez, I think that at the time ATD was written, it would have been unusual to have a novel about the working-class actually written by someone in the working-class. If you think of other writers of the early 20th century (Arthur Conan Doyle, Henry James, Edith Wharton, Somerset Maugham, D. H. Lawrence, as well as popular writers such as Elinor Glyn and Mary Roberts Rinehart), they were mostly middle-class and upper-class writers who were writing for their peers. Some authors wrote about the working class with the goal of social advocacy: Upton Sinclair, Frank Norris, Jane Addams. Even O. Henry wrote about criminals, both before and after he spent time in prison. There were exceptions, of course, such as all those dime novels and pulps written for the common folk.

I think Fante was fortunate to make it away from Boulder and into writing. Someone in his Jesuit high school must have been very encouraging to him to allow him to think of the possibilities beyond Boulder. The expectation in his hometown would certainly have been that a bricklayer's son would be very fortunate to work with his head instead of his hands. I think the term "community" is used both very narrowly here, to mean those who knew him in Boulder, and widely, to say that his individual experiences can be expanded to reflect society at a larger level, thus turning Bandini's personal story into literature.

Bandini certainly thought of himself as part of a larger community. Think of his pride in being of Italian origin, and his conflict over his Catholicism.


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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:14 pm 
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A community can be defined as narrowly as a small neighborhood or a close-knit group of people and as widely as society in general. It basically refers to a group of people with something in common…..either interests, locality, history, religion or work. I don’t think those in the community necessarily have to support each other. Thus, I think the author of this essay lumps all the working class into one and calls it a community.

Although I don’t think this tension between working class and artistic individualism is Fante's focus, I do think it comes into play in his novels. Take Svevo and Mrs. Hildegarde, for example. She doesn’t really have anything to talk to Svevo about because her interests lie in literature and the finer things in life. She has money and status that Svevo lacks. She is the upper class, Svevo the working class. Yes, he may be acting as an individual, but he falls in the category, based on his trade, of working class. I think that we see this more in Wait Until Spring, Bandini than we do in ATD. I have not read his other books, so I cannot comment on them.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 8:20 pm 
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Thank you, mateys! I get a clearer picture now of what the author means here by a working class community. I didn't know about Fante's school years, which could most definitely be called a community as well. :cool:



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 9:05 pm 
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Quote:
the tension between working-class community and the writer’s individualism
The writer uses this sentence twice in his essay so it is a point he is committed to.

The sentence itself makes me think that Fante's writers individualism is not exactly the same as the tension in the working class community. The Bandini's, as a family, were a recluse bunch. Svevo had his friend Rocco, who was disliked by his wife who had no friends. The boys, at least Arturo, played ball after school, but seemed to hold to their parents example of loners. Even Maria who was very religious didn't seem to use the clergy but relied on her faith and her rosary. They weren't very community oriented.

In ATD Arturo's goal was to leave the working class ranks and be a famous writer. ( Also Fantes desire although he didn't succeed until his life was nearly over). Arturo is inconvenienced by living penniless and he resents Camilla when she tries to give him a free beer as it made him feel working class.

That's my opinion of the Bandini family so let me contradict myself by saying, I don't want to take away the very great descriptive nature of Fantes view of life's trails which do reflect the hardships of the working class.



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PostPosted: Fri Dec 14, 2007 11:34 pm 
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In general I thought the passage seemed to make sense. I could just see Svevo looking at his son -- writing and dreaming, instead of getting calloused hands laying brick, learning a "real" trade, making an "honest" living -- and Svevo being angry, disgraced, etc. As a working man, he felt pride in his achievements and in what he earned. He would never understand Arturo's goals.


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PostPosted: Sat Dec 15, 2007 2:22 pm 
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I agree with nebraska here. I don't think he would undertand Arturo's goals. And that is something that Arturo would be very aware of. He's aware of his roots, his cultural background and so forth, but also he is branching out from them, and not following on in the footsteps of his forebears. So, he might well be aware of the struggle for assimilation, for example, but in a way he is moving away from that - except that in his work, he is drawing on that very thing as inspiration and turning it into art.

I also think that you never see a community so clearly as when you first join it, or when you are about to leave it. But Fante, as an artist writing about it, has to see it clearly at all times, and at the same time, be able to step back to reflect on it. So he has the authenticity and interior perspective, but also the artistic individualism to turn that into art.

Buta s for the comment as a whole, and your question, do I see it that way? Not entirely. especially not the last sentence.



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 1:26 pm 
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suec wrote:
I agree with nebraska here. I don't think he would undertand Arturo's goals. And that is something that Arturo would be very aware of. He's aware of his roots, his cultural background and so forth, but also he is branching out from them, and not following on in the footsteps of his forebears. So, he might well be aware of the struggle for assimilation, for example, but in a way he is moving away from that - except that in his work, he is drawing on that very thing as inspiration and turning it into art.

I also think that you never see a community so clearly as when you first join it, or when you are about to leave it. But Fante, as an artist writing about it, has to see it clearly at all times, and at the same time, be able to step back to reflect on it. So he has the authenticity and interior perspective, but also the artistic individualism to turn that into art.

Buta s for the comment as a whole, and your question, do I see it that way? Not entirely. especially not the last sentence.

Good points, suec, and I like the way you expressed them! :cool:
I think every artist (or every person for that matter) is a product of their upbringing to some degree. Artists naturally brings their milieu into their work, but at the same time they push the boundaries and create something new out of it...a fresh perspective. I never got the impression that either of these books was necessarily oriented toward class struggle. I never saw Arturo as speaking with the voice of the working class one way or the other, either in terms of overcoming it or embracing it. Arturo's struggle, IMO, was always about finding his way creatively, which often means independently. ADT is full of flashbacks to Arturo's old, learned behavior patterns - in all their rawness and misplaced energy - but I think the outcome he (and Fante himself) sought was always about becoming a writer, not a spokesperson.



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 4:08 pm 
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Parlez wrote:
suec wrote:
I agree with nebraska here. I don't think he would undertand Arturo's goals. And that is something that Arturo would be very aware of. He's aware of his roots, his cultural background and so forth, but also he is branching out from them, and not following on in the footsteps of his forebears. So, he might well be aware of the struggle for assimilation, for example, but in a way he is moving away from that - except that in his work, he is drawing on that very thing as inspiration and turning it into art.

I also think that you never see a community so clearly as when you first join it, or when you are about to leave it. But Fante, as an artist writing about it, has to see it clearly at all times, and at the same time, be able to step back to reflect on it. So he has the authenticity and interior perspective, but also the artistic individualism to turn that into art.

Buta s for the comment as a whole, and your question, do I see it that way? Not entirely. especially not the last sentence.

Good points, suec, and I like the way you expressed them! :cool:
I think every artist (or every person for that matter) is a product of their upbringing to some degree. Artists naturally brings their milieu into their work, but at the same time they push the boundaries and create something new out of it...a fresh perspective. I never got the impression that either of these books was necessarily oriented toward class struggle. I never saw Arturo as speaking with the voice of the working class one way or the other, either in terms of overcoming it or embracing it. Arturo's struggle, IMO, was always about finding his way creatively, which often means independently. ADT is full of flashbacks to Arturo's old, learned behavior patterns - in all their rawness and misplaced energy - but I think the outcome he (and Fante himself) sought was always about becoming a writer, not a spokesperson.


I thoroughly agree, Parlez. I just don't think that was his focus. I think it was all about him, his experiences and how they effected his writing.



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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 10:14 pm 
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gemini wrote:
( Also Fantes desire although he didn't succeed until his life was nearly over).
Wait, really? I thought I'd read that he met with almost immediate success when he got to LA. :-?


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PostPosted: Sun Dec 16, 2007 11:57 pm 
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fansmom wrote:
gemini wrote:
( Also Fantes desire although he didn't succeed until his life was nearly over).
Wait, really? I thought I'd read that he met with almost immediate success when he got to LA. :-?

No success as a novelist.



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PostPosted: Mon Dec 17, 2007 10:13 am 
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Liz wrote:
fansmom wrote:
gemini wrote:
( Also Fantes desire although he didn't succeed until his life was nearly over).
Wait, really? I thought I'd read that he met with almost immediate success when he got to LA. :-?

No success as a novelist.
Ah. Thanks.


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