SLATE -- This month New York Review Books brings out a handsome new paperback edition of Leonard Gardner’s sole novel, a slim, taut book that has earned its status as a classic by dint of its immaculate, evocative prose, a compassionate but dour view of the human condition, and the absolute credibility of its depiction of the sport of the busted beaks.
Gardner was a grad student in Creative Writing at San Francisco State when he began the four-year process of creating Fat City. He had grown up and fought as an amateur boxer in Stockton, where the story takes place. He was 36 when the book finally appeared; it was a finalist for the 1970 National Book Award along with Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five and (the eventual winner) Joyce Carol Oates’ Them. Gardner went on to write for movies and television, including the script for the 1972 film of Fat City. John Huston directed the film, starring a relatively unknown Stacy Keach, a young Jeff Bridges, and the brilliant Susan Tyrrell.
Photo courtesy of New York Review Books