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Fat City by Leonard Gardner

Fat City (1969)

by Leonard Gardner

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3061155,404 (4.05)16



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Boxing is a sport that's had its day, and despite recent movies like 'The Fighter', I'm not sure how its still relevant. Of all the sports fans I know, and when you're not one it seems you run into a fan every time you're waiting in line, I don't know a single person who considers boxing at all. Professional wrestling gets more attention, and maybe for good reason. I don't see any boxers pulling a snake puppet out of their trunks and jabbing the other guy in the face with it.

But enough of that.

'Fat City' is a good book. Another one I never would have picked up if it hadn't been republished by Vintage Contemporaries. It follows the paths of two boxers, Ernie Munger and Billy Tully, at the start and tail-end of their careers. Gardner is restrained in his writing and does a fine job of showing tenuous success is, the struggle to keep up hope and scraping by without any speech-making or railing. The reader is given the situation, how these two lives briefly meet and separate, and can decide for themselves where to put their blame and/or sympathy. ( )
  ManWithAnAgenda | Feb 18, 2019 |
Billy Tully, 29, divorced, "afraid of a crisis beyond his capacity" which is basically his life, feels washed up as a boxer. He works as a fry cook until fired and has to resort to field labor. Billy lives in flophouse hotels, where "his neighbors all seemed to have lung trouble."

Ernie Munger is a younger boxer with potential, newly married with a child on the way. Both men are trained and managed by Ruben Luna. Early on you get the sense that none of the three are ever going to have success, in boxing or life. But it doesn't bring the story down. Leonard Gardner elevates it with his writing. He's one of those select writers that you read very carefully because every word counts. Tully at one point dresses in "a red sport shirt and vivid blue slacks the color of burning gas." Gardner even makes onion harvesting poetic.
"Occasionally there was a gust of wind and he was engulfed by sudden rustlings and flickering shadows as a high spiral of onion skins fluttered about him like a swarm of butterflies."

Apparently an influential work, and rightfully so. ( )
  Hagelstein | Feb 6, 2019 |
Some great books one reads quickly because the story surrounds you. This one read slowly, maybe even aloud because the words and sentences are too good to let go off. Yeah, the story resonates with anyone who struggles. ( )
  mielniczuk | Jul 17, 2018 |
Fat City? Fat chance, in Leonard Gardner’s grim, sometimes funny, novel of dreams chased and dreams lost in the streets, fighter’s gyms, fields, bars, and residential hotels of Stockton, California.

The two main characters, boxers both, stumble from one burden to one hope and back to others again. It is a novel where what’s at hand—fist fights, drinks raised, short hoes wielded, lovers groped—doesn’t put a tight grip on the reality that’s desired, and the desire itself isn’t sure to persist into the next situation that always comes round, whether in the ring or the compass of one’s days. Resolution and ambition, when they arise, are subject to chance alterations in circumstances not known to the individual, with influences alien to their realization.

That’s not to say the women and men of the novel lack all insight or responsibility. But when a self-audit discloses an abhorrence of one’s own “unfathomable stupidity,” the possibilities narrow. Also, one hopes, the delusions.

Midway through the story, city workers cut down the shade trees of a park so that the derelict won’t find in it comfort for their rest. Such actions intensify the sense of impasse, the sense of standing outside a building where the work of life could become productive, where one might enter if only the entryway were not so perpetually guarded. It is in the working through of these situations and days that the novel resides. In telling it, Gardner conveys a reality that hits hard. ( )
1 vote dypaloh | May 9, 2018 |
Emotionally raw and honest to a degree I did not expect from a "boxing novel". It switches between uncomfortably described grit and obliquely structured parables, and the overall effect is almost musical, like hearing jazz that doesn't fit the chorus-solo form you expect. ( )
  mrgan | Oct 30, 2017 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0520206576, Paperback)

Originally published in 1969, Fat City is an American classic whose stature has increased over the years. Made into an acclaimed film by John Huston, the book is set in and around Stockton, California.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:53 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A story of small time boxing in Stockton, California in the 1950s.

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