When I first started reading Ask the Dust by John Fante, I really hated it. I thought that it started off slow and that the rest of the book would follow suit. But it didn’t. Arturo Bandini actually turned out to be an interesting character to follow after a certain point. When Arturo met Camilla Lopez at the Columbia Buffet, he became a different person. After that day the story became one of the most interesting books I’ve ever read, and I actually read it all in one sitting because of how engrossed I became with it.
Arturo and Camilla’s relationship was weird to say the least. The first day they met Arturo was insulting the coffee, insulting her shoes, and pouring coffee all over the table, but Camilla seemed to like it. That is something I don’t exactly understand. I understand that picking on someone may sometimes (in 4th grade) have been a sign of affection, but I feel like insulting someone directly and pouring coffee over the table does not show signs of flirtation. Arturo goes back at some point and, in hopes of impressing Camilla, takes a copy of the magazine with his published story inside of it, and even signs it as though he were a ‘famous’ author, which kind of shows how full of himself he is because of the story. Camilla ends up ripping up the story in front of Arturo, basically slapping him in the face. It went something like this:
I still don’t full understand why they have to treat each other so terribly. But I feel like Camilla uses him throughout the entire story. She just wanted to use him for sex in the beginning, but when that didn’t work out on the beach, she wanted to drop him. But he kept on. She used his home for a place to smoke bud, she used his money, and she used him to try and get in the good graces of Sammy. In my opinion she really did treat him much worse than he treated her. He tried to do most everything he could for her in the end, but she only took the help in order to get back to Sammy.
Arturo’s faith comes up at a few different times throughout the story. One in particular I thought was different. When he went over to Vera Rivken’s house and ended up sleeping with her, he felt so torn up about committing adultery. He said that he had sinned against her soul, but I thought it was interesting that when the earthquake struck and Vera ended up dying in the quake, his feelings about having sinned against her went away, and did not come back up. Also he began to base his first novel around Vera. Why would he want to write about his actions and have them published if he really felt bad about doing them?
It did not take too long for Arturo to find out about Camilla’s feelings for Sammy, but I don’t think he ever gave up hope on trying to get her from Sammy, or keep her away from him, but he would never do it forcefully. He wanted Camilla to go with him on her own volition, but when she left, he always went looking for her. He didn’t search for her to try and take her back, but more so to make sure that she was safe, which shows how he really cared for her. But in the end, he could not keep her away from Sammy. He knew that he couldn’t but he wanted to go see if she was safe, but he was too late. She ha already walked into the dust of the desert. I liked how Arturo took the signed book and chucked it in the direction that Camilla had walked. It seemed like a sign of him finally realizing that she was not worth it, but the signature “with love” showed that he appreciated the experience.
PS – Why did she have to take Willie? He was just an innocent dog…