Read Fat City by Leonard Gardner Online


Fat City is a novel about the indestructibility of of hope, the anguish and comedy of the human condition. It tells the story of two young boxers out of Stockton, California: Ernie Munger and Billy Tully, one in his late teens, the other just turning thirty, whose seemingly parallel lives intersect for a time. Set in an ambiance of glittering dreams and drab realities, itFat City is a novel about the indestructibility of of hope, the anguish and comedy of the human condition. It tells the story of two young boxers out of Stockton, California: Ernie Munger and Billy Tully, one in his late teens, the other just turning thirty, whose seemingly parallel lives intersect for a time. Set in an ambiance of glittering dreams and drab realities, it tells of the two fighters' struggles to escape the confinements of their existence, and of the men and women in their world. Fat City is a novel about the sporting life like no other ever written: without melodrama or false heroics, written with a truthfulness that is at once painful and beautiful.Denis Johnson: "Between the ages of 19 and 25 I studied Leonard Gardner’s book so closely that I began to fear I’d never be able to write anything but imitations of it, so I swore it off(...)When I was about 34 (the same age Gardner was when he published his), my first novel came out. About a year later I borrowed Fat City from the library and read it. I could see immediately that ten years’ exile hadn’t saved me from the influence of its perfection — I’d taught myself to write in Gardner’s style, though not as well. And now, many years later, it’s still true: Leonard Gardner has something to say in every word I write."Joan Didion: "Leonard Gardner's Fat City affected me more than any new fiction I have read in a long while, and I do not think it affected me only because I come from Fat City, or somewhere near it. He has got it exactly right--the hanging around gas stations, the field dust, the relentless oppressiveness of the weather, the bleak liaisons sealed on the levees and Greyhound buses--but he has done more than just get it down, he has made it a metaphor for the joyless in heart."David Wagoner: "The people he writes about are alive and three-dimensional, and have that meaty, sweaty immediacy I admire in novels and find so seldom. It's an odd, interesting world he explores here--as tense and vivid as the prose."Ivan Gold: "Gardner writes with power, with an insider's knowledge, and with a vividness and love for his characters which redeem them even when they're lost and beaten."Harry Mark Petrakis: "A man of real talent. He makes the savage world he writes of come alive to the point where the reader can smell the sweat, and feel the anguish of unremitting failure."Ross Macdonald: "In his pity and art Gardner moves beyond race, beyond guilt and punishment, as Twain and Melville did, into a tragic forgiveness. I have seldom read a novel as beautiful and individual as this one."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....

Title : Fat City
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 12402397
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 183 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Fat City Reviews

  • Brian
    2018-11-16 03:07

    California is a story of two states. Norcal and Socal, for all of their rivalries and proclamations of differences are really two sides of a coin. It’s moving inland - where the politics shift right, home values decrease and employment outside of the agriculture sector becomes more scarce – this is where you’ll find the other California, the second state, the place that looks and feels so different from the coastal cities it may as well be in the Midwest.Stockton is one of these inner California towns, and it’s almost not fair to the rest of the world that takes up a pen to write fiction that Leonard Gardner can write such a perfect first novel using this city as his setting. Yes, this is boxing fiction, but boxing is simply the clay Gardner uses to cast his dual protagonists, the young Ernie Munger and the fading Billy Tully. They meet in the opening pages of the book and then their stories depart for a time, Munger’s new life in the ring presenting subtle echoes of Tully’s same experiences a decade before. There is an uncomfortable intimacy in the writing concerning poverty, a day-to-day hardscrabble finding a meal and a roof. Gardner must have pulled from firsthand experience in writing these scenes. They are too perfect.My copy of this book comes with a Denis Johnson penned Introduction, one of the most beautiful homages of the form. Johnson credits this author, this book, as his northstar when he was beginning as a full time writer. I love learning about how authors are touched by those that came before. If only Fat City had the readership of Johnson; it certainly deserves it.

  • Rae Meadows
    2018-12-10 22:00

    Fat City won the National Book Award in 1970. Reading it I felt the masculine despair of Carver, Bukowski even, a gritty look at men who are not making it. One character is a past-his-prime boxer who works day labor in the fields of Central California but returns to the gym to try to regain something of his life. The other character is a younger man who trains in the same gym, hoping for something other than his pregnant wife and stifling life in Stockton. It is grim, to be sure, but Gardner is a marvelous writer. (Denis Johnson wrote the soaring introduction to this edition.) There is such subtlety in the scenes and dialog between men and women--simmering resentment, hopes, hate--juxtaposed with the gruesome violence of the small-time boxing ring. Uplifting, this book is not. It's full of alcoholics and lost hope and lives lived on the edge. But it has a humming humanity at its core and I loved reading it.

  • Fabian
    2018-11-23 22:42

    One solid American Tale. More about the men's personal life (wives, remedial jobs, prejudice) than the sport of boxing. (Why oh why am I so attracted to these little books about athletes? I read "The Natural" a while ago & right now the Olympics ARE where its all about. But perhaps I'm kinda trying to find that novel that debunks "Art of Fielding" as the best sports novel of all time. It's a real toughie.)

  • Tony
    2018-12-05 02:01

    The obligatory Introductions in the nyrb-classics series are often scholarly analysis by well-known authors. Don't tell, but I often skip them, or cherry-pick an important date or two therein. But Denis Johnson, in two pages (I like that), didn't try and tell me how smart he is, or how his writer's insight is more important than my mere reader's view. No. Instead, he wrote about what it is to be a fan of an author or a book. He told this story:My friend across the road saw Gardner in a drugstore in California once, recognized him from his jacket photo. He was looking at a boxing magazine. "Are you Leonard Gardner?" my friend asked. "You must be a writer," Gardner said, and went back to his magazine. I made my friend tell the story a thousand times.I loved that. And told the story already in a bar last night. And will again, to friends who love a special book, and talk about every paragraph ... one by one and over and over, the way couples sometimes reminisce about each moment of their falling in love.I tried, after that, to make Fat City be that book for me. But it wasn't. And I fall in love easily. But, ah there were moments:"All I need's a fight and a woman. Then I'm set. I get the fight I'll get the money. I get the money I'll get the woman. There's some women that love you for yourself, but that don't last long. Ernie?"Not a boxer, I can still feel that. Ernie? Take this outside the ring:As if in rebellion against his influence, they had succumbed to whatever in them was weakest, and often it was nothing he could even define. They lost when they should have won and they drifted away. Over the years he would see one around town. A few he read about in the newspapers--some fighting in other towns for other managers, one killed on a motorcycle, one murdered in New Orleans. They were all so vulnerable, their duration so desperately brief, that all he could do was go on from one to the other in quest of that youth who had all that the others lacked.It's the American Dream. Dropped in the desert in the middle of the night. No cut man. Best to break your nose in your first fight, so there's one less thing to worry yourself about the rest of your life. Ernie?

  • Tfitoby
    2018-11-13 01:55

    Why haven't you heard of this book?I'm one to talk, owing my knowledge of Leonard Gardner to having recenty had the pleasure of watching John Huston's forgotten cinematic masterpiece that was adapted from it. So that's a forgotten movie and a forgotten book. And Gardner never published another novel. The novel becoming the perfect allegory for its own life in hindsight?Ernie Munger and Billy Tully are two amateur boxers, Ruben is their trainer. All three men have dreams of making it big, of a happy life, none of them get it. There's not much more to the actual plot to add to a synopsis. There are a few ups but mostly downs, it's a largely depressing novel and beautifully written. Much like a kitchen sink drama there is not so much a completed journey feel to the story just a documentation of life and Gardner allows you to tag along for a while.Place Gardner alongside John Steinbeck, Nathanael West et al as a superb chronicler of the misery of the American people, the death of the American dream. Through a series of vignettes a portrait of emptiness and despair, of loss and desperation is completed with a bleak outlook and brutal honesty.The characters may well exist as boxers, that's their surface designation but there's no glamour in what they do, Gardner does not drift in to eulogising the pugilistic arts as many have done before and since; Ernie and Billy are all men and boxing is the metaphor for the toll life can take on you."..... they succumbed to whatever in them was the weakest, and often it was nothing he could even define"Sometimes there's so much beauty in a book that could be missed, the content is depressing but the choice of words and the framing of them in this case make the experience of reading so much more than its content.

  • Rod
    2018-11-29 02:45

    If you're a writer, and if you're going to write just one novel over the course of your career, please try to make it as good as this one.

  • Tim
    2018-11-29 04:03

    FAT CITY by Leonard Gardner is the story of Tully, a washed up fighter who lost his career as a result of sinking into the bottle after his wife left him.Tully meets up with a young man named Ernie training in a gym and invites him to go a few rounds of sparring, after which Tully gives him words of encouragement and tells him to get in touch with his old handler Ruben.Oma is a drunk Tully finds sitting at a bar, and they strike up a relationship that evolves into a situation where they live together in a dysfunctional relationship with alcohol being the glue that keeps them together, that is until Tully decides to clean up and resume his boxing career.Superb story in this book written by author Gardener, and the 1972 movie starring Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges directed by John Huston is also excellent and does as well as a film can be expected to at condensing the story from the book while still staying true to the majority of what takes place in it.5 stars.

  • Gary
    2018-11-21 20:08

    The writing, the dialogue, the plot, the down-and-out characters with their demons--Leonard Gardner's Fat City is a total knockout.

  • Bert
    2018-12-01 22:41

    Written at the end of the Sixties, but set in the Fifties world of boxing, boozing, skid row and bad relationships. It felt totally authentic and testosteroney, and i think i probably admired it more than loved it. There's an old boxing movie called The Set-Up and this made me want to re-watch that and it also made me grateful that i don't have to go peach picking, and that Sian isn't an alcoholic who taunts me in public.

  • Victoria
    2018-11-21 22:11

    Fat City is a book so beautifully written that it seems at times far from its subject matter. One could see it as somehow cruelly inappropriate to use intricately crafted sentences writing about characters who by their very nature could never appreciate them. The characters are involved with amateur boxing, everyone hoping to earn a little money from either getting beaten up, beating someone else up, or training the fighters and arranging the bouts. When they're not fighting, the boxers get farm work by the day, miserably difficult and ill-paid, where they're subjected to insultingly dismissive treatment by the hiring team in their smelly trucks and by their employers. So when reading about a sometime-boxer picking onions in a field, half kneeling and half lying between the rows, we find: "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. Skins left behind among the discarded tops swirled up with delicate clatters and the high, wheeling column moved away across the field, eventually slowing, widening, dissipating, the skins hovering weightlessly before settling back to the plowed earth. Overhead great flocks of rising and fall blackbirds streamed past in a melodious din."it's clear the workers aren't noticing the phenomenon so lovingly described, and how, and why, did we got taken away from the hard-working men of the story to this extravagantly lovely descriptive aside. And the effect is perhaps even more anomalous when such passages occur during the blood, sweat, violence, and anxiety of the boxing ring. It's a kind of authorial intrusion more distracting than the usual unidentified omniscient narrator telling the story.To its credit, Fat City ends on a note as unresolved as the lives of the young men of Stockton. And the story does hold our interest, is occasionally amusing. But questions of appropriate language and style do keep rising.

  • Tyler Jones
    2018-11-22 21:51

    Denis Johnson, one of my favourite authors, has often cited Fat City as the book that made him want to be a writer, and after finally getting around to reading it I can see why. Leonard, like Johnson, illuminates the lives of the under-privileged with empathy without getting sentimental. One senses that Leonard gets very close to the heart of the matter.Focusing on the lives of one boxer on his way down and another just starting his career, Leonard is able to create an over-all picture of what life was like for the vast majority of fighters. In our society a boxer, like a whore, is viewed only as a physical being. What a boxer's aspirations and values may be are irrelevant to society; only his ability to beat people up matters. By investing the lives of these men (even those who are self-destructive) with nobility and grace, Leonard gives us a truer understanding of our world than a typical champions story ever could.Unfortunately you are not likely to find Fat City on the shelves of a bookstore. Ask your local bookseller to order a copy in for you.

  • Kenneth
    2018-11-27 00:48

    Another knockout from NYRB Classics. Fat City tells the tale of two down-and-out boxers in Stockton, California. They box, they fight with their women, they lose, they win, they win nothing. Gardner's prose is lucid and poetic. There's so much to admire in this novel, it's a wonder that it isn't renowned as an American classic. I hope this reissue expands its audience.

  • Carl R.
    2018-11-25 23:57

    Leonard Gardner's Fat City. is a close companion to Don Carpenter's 60's classic Hard Rain Falling, with its clean, clear prose and gritty setting. The novel is set in Stockton, CA, fifty miles from my doorstep and scarcely over a hundred miles from where I grew up in the Sacramento Valley, and it has the same ring of geographical authenticity and the same clean, clear prose that helped endear me to Hard Rain. I was further impressed with Both Carpenter and Gardner's ability to immerse themselves and their readers in the world of their characters. An aside--They remind me of Ian McEwen in this respect. In Hard Rain, it was criminality and prison. Here, it is small-time boxing and agricultural labor. The hopes and dreams of fringe athletes, their trainers and managers, make for a yeasty storytelling. And when we follow the washed-up never-weres into the fields to trim onions and weed tomatoes, Gardner makes us feel every agonizing moment and the agonizing pain in every muscle of stoop labor from the hiring hall to the endless rows and hours under a punishing sun.Both the older, clearly done-for Billy Tully and the younger, more promising, Ernie Munger live on the edge. Tully has actually crossed over the edge, mired in days of alcohol and regret over a lost wife and lost loves. Munger's in somewhat better shape. He pulls down a small wage at a service station while pursuing his fights, and he manages to marry and produce a child, about which he is more or less happy.What the characters have in common besides their time in the ring and their ties to their manager is a total lack of insight into themselves or their situations. They drift without substantial goals, without capacity for joy or love. The result is a novel of unalloyed grimness. Hard Rain, despite its horrors, had soft touches. A real romance that generates hope in readers, even if it doesn't eventually pan out. Even the most intimate moments in Fat City, though, are fraught with angst to the point that one senses no real connection between the participants. Not that I ask for Disney joy and dancing from every book, but all ugly and no pretty or even chance of it seems a little much to ask of a reader. At least this one.

  • Matthew
    2018-11-12 02:52

    I found this fascinating. It's all about the sustained miseries and brief thrills of boxers. It was published in '69, I think it is set in the late fifties.The details of the boxing life are gloomy, but they are not without grace and fine emotion. The main boxing trainer in this book, Ruben, has been training quitters for years, but his optimistic dialogue with his boxers breaks your heart (and makes you laugh).This book does not encourage you to root for anybody. It's not about championships. It's about how the boxers survived, or didn't. One illumninating portion details the journey of a boxing veteran traveling up from Mexico City to California by bus.Also the agony of fruit picking, tomato thinning, onion topping, nut shaking for wages (nuts seem like the best gig).And for some reason I'm always interested in what bars were like back in the day.It's in the same family as Fante's "Ask The Dust" and Bukowski's "Factotum", because it is set in California in the mid-twentieth century, and because it's a perceptive and funny book about melancholy. But it has much more emotional variety and perspective than those two books.I guess most people would find these types of books to be immensely depressing, but I find them strangely comforting.There's a part in this where a character wakes up in a stove used to burn trash. He's arguing with the guy who wants him to get out because he doesn't like his tone. "What's the matter with you? You don't even want to move when someone's going to light a fire under you?" I have a weakness for this stuff. It makes me laugh. I love that type of story.

  • Robert Hobkirk
    2018-12-10 03:44

    It took about 2 months to get Fat City from the library, there was that much of a waiting list although the book was published back in 1969, so it wasn't like some recent highly promoted book that people just had to read because of all the rave reviews. Apparently it has a cult following. I read it before, several years ago. As I read it, some things came back to my memory like deja vu. This is the one and only novel by Gardner although he's made his living working as a writer for TV. He spent 4 years writing this relatively short novel. Maybe after the 4 years, he said to himself, not going to do that again. He knew what he was writing about. The setting is Stockton where he grew up, and he was an amateur boxer at one time. That's right, this this a boxing story set in Stockton. Unlike the fairy tale Rocky, the two main characters don't make the big time, don't get the girl, don't get respect. This book is a page turner. It moves fast. I think it could have been further filled out in spots, whole chapters instead of just paragraphs. The author seemed to be in a hurry in places. Slow down, man, you got ten rounds, no rush. Gardner hits you with a couple quick jabs; you get hit with a punch you never saw coming and years later you might want to go back into the ring and have another go round. I would have liked it if Gardner had written more novels because Fat City was that good.

  • Andy
    2018-12-03 19:56

    Fat City can be shelved somewhere in between Tom Waits records, Bukowski lit and early Cassavettes films. It's got that nighthawks at the diner feel to it. Of all the boxing novels I've read Leonard Gardner describes ringside action more lucidly than anyone else. I can actually understand what's going on in the match. Gardner's a great writer and I'm surprised he didn't produce many more works after this. He could've been a contender.

  • Matt
    2018-12-09 04:09

    You know those evolution posters, where you get the silhouettes of apes transforming into a Cro-Magnon man into a human into a slacker with a surfboard (or whatever)?Fat Citygives a portrait like that, only its characters each represent a stage in a certain kind of life. It is a novel of a time and place, Stockton CA in the 1950s, for a down-low segment of society--men scraping by on bad work, boxing, and a brand of love craved and despised. The novel is exquisite in its misery, honest to its place and to the work the men do. And it spares no pain in portraying, quite perfectly I think, their bewildered sense of injustice done to them and the shocks of recognition over what they've done to themselves. Their desperate need for love, and their hate for the kind of people they find themselves worthy of, is awful, as is their misery when they find themselves staring down the barrel of the rest of their lives, alone. Kids, you can fuck up your life, and when you realize that, it might be too late to fix it, because fixing it would mean fixing yourself, and sometimes it's too late, you're just not up to it, and you understand that it's just going to keep going how it's going, and you have to take it because you can't do any better. Yikes.

  • Wu Ming
    2018-11-27 22:52

    WM2: Come spettacolo sportivo, la boxe non riesce a piacermi. La maggior parte degli incontri che ho visto era di una noia mortale, divertenti quanto uno zero a zero per chi non ne capisce di calcio. A parte questo, riconosco nel pugilato una forza evocativa superiore a quella di altri sport. Forse è grazie alla sua semplicità archetipica - picchiarsi finché l'altro non va giù - fatto sta che i migliori film di genere atletico hanno a che fare coi guantoni (se si escludono Ogni Maledetta Domenica, Momenti di gloria e L'allenatore nel pallone).E' molto difficile raccontare di calcio senza fare un racconto sul calcio, qualcosa che riscaldi chi non è appassionato. Le storie di futbol narrate da Soriano sono magia pura, musica per le orecchie, ma già mia madre, che di calcio se ne frega, le legge con un certo distacco, percepisce il pathos ma non lo condivide, non riesce a rintracciarlo dentro di sé. Invece Million Dollar Baby è un film dirompente, un diretto al mento che colpisce qualunque spettatore, me compreso.La noble art sembra essere in contatto diretto col nocciolo dell'esperienza umana, con il corpo e la rabbia, la fatica e il successo, la sconfitta e la rivalità, il sesso e la morte. Un pugile steso sul ring col naso che butta sangue e un altro a braccia alzate, gli occhi pesti e la faccia gonfia, sono un'immagine ben più diretta e potente che un tabellone elettronico con su scritto 3-0.Così Fat City, per il lettore che non ama ganci e riprese, non parla di boxe più di quanto non parli della raccolta di pomodori in California. Non a caso il titolo fa riferimento a una città, che è il Paese dei Balocchi, ma è anche Stockton, vera e propria protagonista del romanzo, fatta di alberghi squallidi, disoccupazione, ettari su ettari di campi coltivati. Fat City (come Città Amara, il grande film di John Houston tratto dal libro di Gardner) è una storia di loser, sempre sul punto di arrendersi, ma mai fino in fondo, quasi che l'ambizione fosse una fame chimica, impossibile da saziare, sempre più grande del loro stomaco. Non c'è ascesa e caduta: i protagonisti di questa storia non sono mai stati davvero grandi, al massimo sul punto di; per loro la boxe è sempre rimasta una promessa, troppo ingombrante per incastrarla nella vita, tra mogli, figli, affitti, alcol, lavori di fatica per sbarcare il lunario. E' molto difficile scrivere di aspirazioni tradite, sfighe, piccoli sotterfugi, squallore, desideri e voglie di piccolo cabotaggio, ma comunque eccessive per chi non riesce a sbrogliare il groviglio dell'esistenza. Gardner ci riesce, senza mai un eccesso, niente retorica, abilità degna di Steinbeck. Una scrittura illuminata per raccontare il lato oscuro delle strade, delle case, del ring e dell'anima. Descrizioni nitide come fotografie, spietate come un KO, leggere come Alì quando balla intorno all'avversario, un attimo prima di stenderlo. Mai una luce, mai un momento di respiro, il domani che incalza, mentre ogni dettaglio, anche l'immondizia e la nebbia, si trasforma in destino.Un grande romanzo sulla precarietà del vivere e della speranza, con il caporalato come agenzia interinale, una stanza d'albergo come singola a cinquecento euro, e il ring come occupazione ideale, non meno spietata di tutto il resto, che anche quando l'assaggi, non ha mai il sapore che ti aspettavi.…

  • Cody
    2018-11-23 21:47

    Ripper: Mandrake?Mandrake: Yes, Jack?Ripper: Have you ever seen a Commie drink a glass of water?Mandrake: Well, I can't say I have.Ripper: Vodka, that's what they drink, isn't it? Never water?Mandrake: Well, I-I believe that's what they drink, Jack, yes.Ripper: On no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason.Mandrake: Oh, eh, yes. I, uhm, can't quite see what you're getting at, Jack.Ripper: Water, that's what I'm getting at, water. Mandrake, water is the source of all life. Seven-tenths of this earth's surface is water. Why, do you realize that seventy percent of you is water?Mandrake: Uh, uh, Good Lord!Ripper: And as human beings, you and I need fresh, pure water to replenish our precious bodily fluids.Mandrake: Yes.Ripper: Are you beginning to understand?Mandrake: Yes.Ripper: Mandrake. Mandrake, have you never wondered why I drink only distilled water, or rain water, and only pure-grain alcohol?Mandrake: Well, it did occur to me, Jack, yes.Ripper: Have you ever heard of a thing called fluoridation. Fluoridation of water?Mandrake: Uh? Yes, I-I have heard of that, Jack, yes. Yes.Ripper: Well, do you know what it is?Mandrake: No, no I don't know what it is, no.Ripper: Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face?* * * * * * * * * * * *Anyone familiar with Dr. Strangelove has a soft spot for Sterling Hayden’s Col. Ripper. He’s a hilarious character that embodies all of the best worst qualities of an archetypal, macho male Americano: patriotic to a psychotic level, humorless, xenophobic, flouridophobic. Now the above quote, the "Commie" talk and such, has nothing to do with this book. The reason I included it? Because the entire time I read Fat City, I couldn’t get Ripper’s stentorian voice out of my head. Seriously. A book-on-tape of this by Hayden in-character would be a national treasure. The book is that sober. That’s not say that Fat City is bad by any means, just not really for me. It reminded me of Steinbeck (never a good thing, sorry), what with all the plaintive detailing of MidCal’s agriculture, “Mexican and Negro” fieldworkers, and spangle-browed sincerity. It is a Naturalist novel in extremis, with all the requisite socio-economic externalities that weigh on the characters given equal import as actors in the story. If you’re into that kind of thing, go for it—it certainly stands out from most of its brethren. But I want orotund, bombastic, sparkler-tracer-at-night prose that leaves impressions on my retinas. If I wanted to read about how bad-love-is-easy-to-do or the depravities of alcoholism in them's-the-facts fashion, I’d just re-read any Ray Carver story at-hand. I can’t imagine that anyone ever read this for the boxing, and if they did I assume they were disappointed. Which, hey, was a plus for me. Reading about boxing is like [ed.—insert Zappa "architecture" quote here]. Beyond the Naturalism and my predisposition away from it, Fat City just didn’t move me in any way. I simply didn’t care about the characters, plot...—not a single thing spoke to me. This is fine writing undoubtedly, compact and not without innate talent. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that a 16-year-old me would've have appreciated it more than the Hermit at Middle Age. One last try: When it was over, I exhaled it like cigarette smoke. Gone.

  • Aaron Mcquiston
    2018-11-25 19:51

    I was excited to see that "Fat City" was the novel of the month from NYRB classic subscriptions because I had seen the John Hudson movie years ago without realizing it was a novel as well. I did not remember much of the movie, except that there was a boxing theme and that Jeff Bridges was very young in it. Reading the book made me think not of this movie, but of other literature, particularly that of Charles Bukowski. These are Bukowski characters, those who drink and fight. Those who cannot maintain a relationship. Those filled with broken promises and unfulfilled potential. Billy Tully and Ernie Munger meet in a gym, spar against each other, and their lives split. Tully continues the struggle to get his feet underneath him where as Munger tries to fight his dreams versus what is expected of him (wife, kids, job). The end result is a fantastic short novel with a tone that is almost unmatched, and there is a statement by Denis Johnson in the introduction that regardless of what you want, the writing style will seep into your own writing, that it is unmatched. I agree with this statement. When I was reading this, I could not write at all; I was completely enthralled with the writing and the tone. Nothing I wrote would not be a minor ripoff of Leonard Gardner. It's incredible that even though the story is not spectacular by any means, it has that much power over my own creativity. This lends to the power of "Fat City" and Leonard Gardner.

  • Sebastian
    2018-11-19 00:50

    No es solamente una novela sobre boxeadores; es también sobre las oportunidades perdidas, la soledad, la transición cruel de la juventud a la adultez en una época dura y las ansias de llegar a una vida normal, el tipo de vida que muchos escritores de clase media alta se divierten en ridiculizar. La prosa de Gardner es seca y austera, con destellos líricos ubicados en los puntos exactos, y los diálogos resultan memorables por su naturalismo y brevedad. Esta novela es la materia prima de mucha buena literatura: el autor no editorializa, no toma distancia de sus personajes ni los hace hacer cosas que fuercen una nota trágica forzada.

  • Anna
    2018-12-10 02:57

    I learned a whole lot about writing from this book.

  • Kobe Bryant
    2018-11-25 20:44

    This was a really manly man kind of book

  • Joey Gold
    2018-11-29 01:53

    "In the morning waking was like a struggle with death. Exhausted in the dismal sheets, hearing the coughing….he was laded with remorse. His life…had turned against him. Catastrophes seemed to whisper just beyond hearing."("Fat City", Page 161. An obvious paraphrase...).Yes, this is mostly a pessimistic book, but I would like to explain while it's still the most powerful book I have read thus far. Most works dealing with down-and-about blue collar folk, even great books like "Ironweed", feel a bit like slum-touring. If you are from an average middle-class background, you read these books feeling like walking in a ragged museum; "Here's the dusty gas-station", "on you're right a seedy gin mill", "keep your eyes open for the mad war-veterans begging down the alley , kids!".The greatest achievement of Leonard Gardner is that he is in complete control of his characters. The book is like a chamber play, focusing mainly on a handful of round individuals; there aren't a lot of bit parts, drunken caricatures popping in for a second and rolling away down a gutter stream. Curiously, Gardner creates a gritty landscape without using any gritty clichés; no smoke cloud ascending from an open sewer, no raging homeless men with brown bags.The minor characters, such as Ruben the local trainer and promoter, are real. The conversations, from the mundane small-talks to the wrathful hollers and curses, aren't melodramatic. Perhaps the secret of this book is its rhythm. The pace is sluggish yet unexpected; true to our everyday labyrinths. I was reminded sometimes of the music in Neil Young's album "On the Beach." This isn't self-righteous kitchen-sink realism; it is life.I choose not to summarize the plot. This book is a mood-piece; it isn't driven forward by tense action. However, the "mundane" atmosphere is colored with such surgical honesty it almost reads like a good crime novel. For example, read carefully the passages of field work featuring Billy Tully, the aging former boxer who is somewhat more the heart of the book than Ernie Munger, a welterweight first-timer echoing Tully's tragic steps. I could have never guessed agriculture is interesting, and I've personally worked outdoors most of my life. Tully arrives at some dark street corner in the morning, before the first ray of dawn, and tries to thrust his way amidst a crowd of Mexicans into one of the work trucks. Cherrie picking, onion topping; whatever there is. This is what he has to do to pay the rent of an unkempt motel room; his post-boxing life, the main source of heartbreak. I actually reread these paragraphs a few times, not to understand anything I may have missed, but just to absorb again Gardner's unusual language. These parts are more hypnotic and powerful than the fights!Many of the key scenes in my opinion, from Tully's all-night bender after winning his comeback fight to Munger hitchhiking back from a fight in Utah in the bleak wilderness, and any chapter featuring Oma (Tully's troubled love-interest) rambling in outcry, are detailed in the impossible oxymoron "poetic realism":"In the midst of a phantasmagoria of worn-out, mangled faces, scarred cheeks and necks, twisted, pocked, crushed and bloated noses, missing teeth, brown snags, empty gums, stubble beards, pitcher lips, flop ears, sores, scabs, dribbled tobacco juice, stooped shoulders, split brows, weary, desperate, stupefied eyes under the lights…"(Page 116).I believe the seed of "Fat City" is Hemmingway's "The Sun Also Rises." Both use understated prose describing a masculine game (bullfighting in the latter) to camouflage a deep sense of melancholy. And although less revered than Hemingway's binge-drinking-fueled portrait of the "Lost Generation" in Paris and Spain, "Fat City" is no less powerful. I recommended this book to anyone literate.

  • Dax
    2018-11-20 20:52

    Billed as a boxing novel, “Fat City” is really a book about the hopeless; about men who have utterly lost their direction in life. Gardner’s strong pose is perfect for a story of this nature and his characters are fully developed. The overwhelming sense of gloom is almost too abundant, however, and there isn’t a single likeable character. Gardner’s writing is great, but the story is just okay. Meet in the middle and we’ll call it good.

  • Nigel Bird
    2018-11-21 23:06

    ‘At one time he had believed the nineteen-fifties would bring him to greatness. Now they were almost at an end and he was through.’Fat City centres upon the lives of a stable of boxers and their coaches. In truth, it’s not much of a stable. There are has-beens and hangers-on and never-had-a-hope-in-hell characters who sometimes turn up to train and sometimes don’t. Things look to be on the upturn when Tully discovers a new talent in the form of the young Ernie Munger, so much so that Tully begins to think that a return to the ring might not be beyond him. All he really needs is to get over his divorce, kick the booze and get himself in condition and anything might be possible. The tales of the history of the training and their bouts is compelling. Even more powerful is the examination of their personal battles. Each of their lives a struggle against demons without and within. Their worlds are tough. Money is tight. Women bring pleasure and pain in equal measure. The mundane is everywhere and the only hope of escape seems to be to put on the gloves and either take or dish out a beating. Some of my favourite scenes revolve around the seasonal work offered on local farms. These are handled superbly and highlight the depth of the desperation. ‘And so Tully, relating the story of his marriage, crawled through the afternoon, separating the nuts from clods until all the nuts were the same hated one thrown forever into the bucket.’I love this sentence. It resonates with me as I’m sure it would with many. That sense of the pointlessness of the daily grind. The repetition week after week. The harnesses that have to be endured. Working is tough. Surviving can feel hard. Life could always be better. Even for the lucky ones.This is a fantastic read. The prose is tight and powerful. The cycles of hope and despair are compelling and the desire to root for the characters in whatever they do is strong. Super stuff.

  • J.C.
    2018-12-06 01:56

    As someone who has personally spent a few quiet nights in downtown Stockton, the way Gardner captures the vibe of the city still holds true. The streets that Tully walks down in a drunken stupor are still there. I see the Stockton i know in the words of this book, as abstract as that sounds, it's all about the tone and the spirit of a particular setting. If you enjoy novels that focus on men or masculinity, this is one of the best I've ever read. I think this novel is set in the same atmosphere as Bukowski's work but never so misogynistic, never so sexual. The grime and dim lit bars are here but used differently. i want to say efficient but i don't think it is. Also there's no glorification here, but rather an honesty, a bluntness that doesn't romanticize or trivialize, and in so doing creates a wonderful piece of written art. What i find interesting though is how Tully and Ernie parallel each other, yet hardly meet through the course of the story. I have seen the film before I read the book, and the amount that's the same in both is more of a surprise to me than the changes (Gardner wrote the screenplay, by the way). This book is going on a close shelf where I can easily pluck it and thumb through the pages for a little while to hear the characters and that tight, beautiful narration.

  • Daniel Polansky
    2018-11-22 23:11

    This was a cheery one. About a cast of hard luck sorts trying to make a bit of money in the squalid, despairing world of semi-pro boxing in southern California in the early or mid 60's, I guess. An uncompromising though not cruel view of an impoverished sub class, living on the bare fringes of society. Actually sort of an unintentional theme of books this month has been a strong sense of place, and this one is no exception. I'm actually not entirely sure of Gardner's background but one feels not only that the specifics of this are right, the worn gyms and the routine of the fruit and vegetable pickers who cannot find more solid work, but that the spirit of the characters, their misery and the of necessity endurance with which they survive it. There's a funny joke in the intro to the effect that Gardner is a real writer's writer sort, which is indeed true – the bleakness of this vision it not one likely to find favor with many readers, but those who persevere will be rewarded. It's also not real long.

  • Matt Beckwith
    2018-11-17 02:03

    I can't believe it took me so long to read this great novel. This story takes place in my hometown of Stockton, California. And in true Stockton fashion, I purchased the book, in its third printing, from Bill Maxwell from Maxwell's Bookmark ( at Stockmarket ( I was captivated by the story at first because of the familiarity with my city but quickly became engrossed by the story lines of the two main characters, Tully and Munger. I have never followed boxing but seeing the sport through the eyes of Gardner was so colorful and intriguing. For me, the book was a story of a has-been and someone with great aspirations to be much more than he currently is. I can't help but draw the comparison to Stockton of today with our past dragging us behind and our possible future fighting like hell to make something of itself. The author is coming to Stockton next week to give a talk. What a wonderful time to have finally read this novel.

  • Timothy Jeffrey
    2018-12-08 23:01

    One of the Great American novels of all time, and one of its greatest authors because – like Harper Lee – he knew enough not to continue, or shall we say, get out of the ring? Gardner did what few novelists understand is their job...that is, he plumbs the depths of the emotional life of people little-known to the rest of us by showing rather than telling in some selected moments the horror and pathos of their lives. That's the hardest thing to do, but the only way to respect the reader enough to feel their way through a story so that it reverberates for the rest of their life.