The story of 1933 Was a Bad Year is that of a promising teenage baseball pitcher, Dominic Molise, and of his fabulous left arm of which he takes loving care rubbing it all the time with the smelly Sloan balm. Unfortunately his town, covered in snow for most part of the year, isn’t the best place to start a career in baseball and the journey to Chicago, home of the Cubs that could put his talent to test, is too expensive for his poor family. The rest is the story of all his problems, dreams, of the relationship with his father, his best friend, and the beautiful Dorothy: all essential to the understanding of a character that Fante, in a few pages, brings to life.
In 1933 Was a Bad Year Fante touches on one of his favourite subjects: his obsession with success. Baseball and writing are two viable ways to save his family from its condition always forced, as it is, to shop on credit from the grocer. The obsession with success and glory will never fade in Fante even as he became an accomplished author and screenwriter. Once his wife Joyce was named the fourth best writer at her job, which made her very proud; immediately she went to inform her husband John, who just shouted at her: how can you be happy of being the fourth at anything?
Hormones: this is what some claim is the key to understanding Fante’s life and that of his characters; that and, we might add, maybe just a sprinkle of his Italian made DNA.