Fat City (novel)
infobox Book |
name = Fat City
language = English
Farrar, Straus & Giroux
release_date = 1969
media_type = Print (Hardback &
pages = 183 pp (Hardback first edition)
"Fat City" is a novel by
Leonard Gardnerpublished in 1969. Though the first and only novel he published, its prestige has grown considerably since its publication to critical acclaim from the likes of Joan Didionand Walker Percyamong others. The book is widely considered a classic of boxingfiction.
Set in the small-time boxing circuit of
Stockton, Californiain the late 1950s, the novel concerns the revival of a semi-retired Billy Tully's career and the first fights of a novice, Ernie Munger. At twenty-nine years old and discouraged by his defeat to another lightweight fighter in Panama, as well as the desertion of his wife two years previous, Tully meets Munger at the local YMCAand remarks on his talent, suggesting he visit his former trainer Ruben Luna.
Disgusted by his lack of fitness and power, Tully entertains the idea of returning to the ring in a bid to reclaim his self-respect and possibly his ex-wife. Munger meanwhile impregnates his girlfriend, Faye, and marries her out of obligation, vowing to support his young family by winning fights. After losing his first bout he attains some success and, despite his anxieties about marriage, seems poised to ascend the circuit ranks. Tully, meanwhile is wracked by uncertainty and divides his time between working as a low-paying farm laborer and drinking heavily in seedy bars and motels. After a brief affair with an alcoholic barfly named Oma, Tully strengthens his resolve and makes a concerted effort to prepare for a fight with a moderately well-known but aging Mexican fighter named Arcadio Lucero.
Tully narrowly wins the fight on a bill with Munger, who is also victorious. Though momentarily bolstered by his victory, Tully pines for Oma, his ex-wife, or any woman, realizing that his career is over and the past can not be reclaimed. Alone and without any future prospects, he descends into an abyss of inebriation, becoming just another unshaven face at the bar recalling former greatness. Munger continues to fight and, hitchhiking home from a fight in Salt Lake City alone, he is picked up by two young women who eject him from the car on a stretch of highway in the dark of night after an awkward exchange revealing Munger's lustful longing. The novel ends with the suggestion that Ernie Munger may be starting down the same desperate and well-worn path as Billy Tully.
The novel was adapted into a celebrated a film of the same name by
John Hustonin 1972.
* [http://www.salon.com/weekly/gardner960930.html "Personal Best: Fat City" by Denis Johnson]
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