It really is. I have read, I'd guess, 250-300 novels by contemporary writers since I read a glowing review of FAT CITY in a San Francisco newspaper years ago, sometime in the early 1970s, and bought the novel, mainly because I was brought up in San Jose, California, and wondered what could a writer find in the humble tank town of Stockton to write about. When I finished reading it I just looked out the window, so moved was I by the characters in the novel, and by Gardner's storytelling prowess. And to this day -- going on 28 years later -- I swear that I have not read a contemporary novel that has affected me as profoundly as FAT CITY did, and still does whenever I reread it, which is every year or two. Gardner's craft is wonderful to read -- the cadences of his sentences are gorgeous; you find yourself wanting to read it out loud to yourself, just to relish the drum beat of the syllables. (The only other writer I can think of who constructed sentences that way in English is Joseph Conrad.) Gardner's understanding of his characters, and of human nature, makes you shake your head and smile, even as his characters are blindly reeling toward sad destinies. This is American literature of the finest kind -- and though Gardner has not published a novel since FAT CITY in 1969, I know that a whole lot of people hope that he will again. He has the gift and this novel is proof.