Saturday, January 8, 2011
Fat City by Leonard Gardner
I get knocked down but I get up again
My heart sank a few pages in – O jeez a bunch of hapless mooks stumbling around Stockton. Was this to be a joyless slog? Luckily the book seemed short. Then I was completely sucked into the vivid scenes – our two trapped dumdums, Billy and Ernie, and their adventures fruit picking, boxing, fucking and in Billy’s case, going on benders. What’s really marvelous is that we “get” Stockton – that very gritty city – a major port in the middle of farm fields, a racial mosaic. Gardner is like Penelope Fitzgerald in that numerous characters are distinctly delineated, mostly with dialogue. And unlike Fitzgerald, these characters come from all over the world. White, black, mulatto, Mexican, Oaxacan, Chinese and Filipino. The situations and the characters felt very true.
Men are men here and women are manipulative and irresistible and for sure will derail your life. This book is set in the sixties and feels so different from the fiction written by men nowadays with their castrating exasperated career women.
A quick compelling read but after the final paragraph I felt a little like I wanted to blow my head off. Surely Gardner could have left us with a flicker of hope? Or maybe given one of the mooks a puppy?