Thursday 4 June 2020

Fat City

Finished June 1
Fat City by Leonard Gardner

The introduction to my edition of the book is by Denis Johnson and he talks of his discovery of and obsession with this book when he was young.
The writing here is exquisite and the story sad and haunting.
There are two main characters here, both boxers in Stockton, California in the 1950s. As the book opens, they meet for the first time at the YMCA. Billy Tully is an ex-boxer, whose wife left him after his boxing career didn't go well. He is thinking about getting back into shape, and winning her back, a pipe dream as he heard from her brother that she's remarried. At the YMCA he sees a young man, Ernie Munger, hitting a bag. They spar for a bit, and Billy directs Ernie to his old gym, the Lido Gym, and his manager Ruben Luna.
Ernie does go to the Lido and work with Ruben, and start boxing. As he grows from a young man living at home, into being married and supporting his wife, he goes pro for some money.
Both men are poor, and Billy drinks too much. Billy gets by getting up before dawn and going out on one of the trucks with other men like him to pick produce. He lives in a room in a walk-up motel and changes hotels often.
The fieldwork is hard work, and pays very little, but enough for a room, a meal and some alcohol. There are many men like Billy in Stockton, and in the bars and hotels in the area. Ernie has more of a chance at a future, but he still struggles to get by.
Their stories are told simply, but well, and you get a real sense of the their lives and the hopelessness they try to escape through dreams of a better life and through other distractions.

No comments:

Post a Comment