Fat City (California Fiction) Paperback – 1996
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Top Customer Reviews
The book is about boxing and low life, faded dreams, lack of prospects, booze, rooming houses, failed relationships in a small California town. The two primary characters are Billy Tully and Ernie Munger. Billy at age 29 is a washed-up fighter who has lost his wife and several jobs and is sinking deeply into alcohol and oblivion. Ernie is 19 years old and a boxer who may have potential. He marries a young women named Faye, after getting her pregnant, and takes up the ring as a professional in order to support his wife and child.
The paths of the two men cross in the gym at the beginning of the book and their careers take parallel courses. Billy had lost an important fight in Panama some years earlier when his manager, Ruben Luna, forced him to travel alone to Panama in order to save on expenses. He makes an attempted comeback at the age of 30 and actually wins a decision in a brutal match with an aging Mexican fighter. He returns to fighting to try to save himself from depression over the loss of his wife, his lack of prospects, and his loneliness.
Ernie Munger is young and works at a gas station. Although he has some boxing potential, his skills appear limited. As had been the case with Tully years earlier, Ruben Luna sends Munger out of town, (to Las Vegas) for a fight to save on the expenses. This is Munger's first professional fight which proves more successful for him than did Tully's fight in Panama.Read more ›
Leonard Gardner has followed the rule of thumb laid down years ago of "Write what you know." Gardner grew up in Stockton and knows the lower middle class world he describes with graphic brilliance. He was an amateur boxer, giving him a knowledge of how men struggle to survive in that competitive and highly dangerous world.
Gardner's story craft is straight out of Albert Camus, in many ways reminiscent of his epic novella, "The Stranger." His descriptions of dingy bars and dreary hotel rooms ring with clarity, transferring readers to a world of existential survival where some cling to hope while others have long since given up.
Tully was on the verge of being a contender but lost a major fight, hit the bottle, and quit boxing. He got a job as a short order cook. After going to the local high school gym to work out he meets Ernie Munger. At 18 Ernie is eleven years Tully's senior. He becomes so impressed by Munger's moves that he recommends that he visit Lido Gym and look up his former manager. When Munger begins boxing amateur Tully's interest increases and he is motivated to launch a comeback.
Tully and Munger seek extra money by working as field pickers under a broiling sun.Read more ›
The main characters are boxers: Billy, who at 29 is all but washed up, decides to try it in the ring one more time. Ernie, young and confident, enjoys limited success, but it's clear his future in the ring is limited at best. Between bouts they take day laborer jobs in the fields and orchards that support the Stockton community. The scenes that describe the work in the fields and the bus trips to small-time fights are beautifully drawn in spare, unsentimental prose of the highest order.
This novel is a classic of American realism. Gardner catches with uncanny clarity the drudgery of the work required to keep our land of plenty churning out the goods that we expect and take for granted. Its general tone is bleak, yet that tone is leavened with a deadpan humor and -- most importantly -- a genuine respect for his characters.
It's unfortunate for us as readers that Gardner didn't write more. On the other hand, he accomplished much with this work, and I believe that we can find his influence in contemporary writers such as Thom Jones and Elwood Reid.
Most recent customer reviews
Gardner writes about about boxing as well, if not better, than any boxer could. I could feel the punches, the sweat, the pain and the fatigue kicking in as Gardner takes us into... Read morePublished on Oct. 30 2000 by Gary
Step in the ring with Gardner and experience the talent of a literary heavyweight. Gardern's writng packs a punch, it is lean, mean and powerful. Read morePublished on May 24 1999 by Tax_Relief@msn.com
I first read Fat City in 1970, not long after publication, and again recently(a first edition, no less!)and this brilliant novel only gets better with time. Read morePublished on Jan. 8 1999
"Fat City" is a novel that delivers an uppercut of grit, sadness and human endurance to the reader. Read morePublished on Nov. 22 1998 by email@example.com
'Fat City' is a fabulous look at the dead-end lives of a pair of Stockton, California boxers. The tale is grippingly told in Gardner's spare and starkly beautiful prose, the crisp... Read morePublished on Jan. 2 1998 by Rev. Al Zak