What I’m Reading – Karen Schoemer of The New York Times searching for Leonard Gardner’s lost Fat City (AKA Stockton, California)

At the moment, I’m in between books. I looked @ nytimes.com and found a great article in their Travel section. Writer Karen Schoemer got in touch with Leonard Gardner, the author of the acclaimed 1969 novel Fat City. If you’re unfamiliar with Fat City, it is a gritty slice of life set in the world of boxing. The Fat City to which Gardner is referring is his hometown of Stockton, California.

Schoemer asked Gardner, who is now 83-years old, to accompany her to Stockton to show her what’s left of the Stockton he knew “way back when.” Gardner agreed to drive down from his current home in Marin County, California.


Fat City is a fantastic novel. It’s about people at the margins of society who struggle to do something meaningful. If you haven’t read ityou’re in for a treat. Sadly, Fat City is Gardner’s only novel. The 1972 John Huston movie (also titled Fat City) is terrific as well. Stacy Keach plays the lead.

The New York Times article has good rhythm and diction, with photos that add to the prose. Consider this passage –

The real Stockton is nice enough. But the Stockton of “Fat City” is lurid and legendary. It’s where guys with flasks in their pockets line up on street corners at 4 a.m. to ride rattletrap buses into agricultural fields to pick tomatoes or top onions. Downtown is rife with greasy diners, fleabag hotels and steamy dive bars. Drunks take cover from the rain in incinerator silos. Boxers bust each other’s noses in basement gyms. Dissolute men pine for wives who have ditched them, and dissolute women carp at no-good boyfriends. It’s not pretty, yet somehow, through the honesty of its grime and the earnest way its inhabitants try to scrape and spar their way out of it, it becomes beautiful. “Fat City” is an Edward Hopper painting, a Robert Frank photograph, a midnight-choir Tom Waits operetta plunked on an out-of-tune piano.

I’ve never particularly wanted to go to Stockton, but after I read the book, I really, really wanted to go to “Fat City.”

The link to the article is below –


About mobilemojoman

I have been a Mobile resident for about a decade. Working as a college professor keeps me off the streets and pays the bills. I am married to a woman (the MojoWoman) who is a much better person than I am and we have two beautiful girls who keep us both jumping. My interests are varied - food & drink, sports, politics, exercise, books, travel, Mardi Gras, and all of life's rich pageant. In the future, I'd like to learn more about sailing, photography, Cajun/Creole cooking, making beer and wine, and writing.
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