‘At one time he had believed the nineteen-fifties would bring him to greatness. Now they were almost at an end and he was through.’
Fat City (US) centres upon the lives of a stable of boxers and their coaches. In truth, it’s not much of a stable. There are has-beens and hangers-on and never-had-a-hope-in-hell characters who sometimes turn up to train and sometimes don’t.
Things look to be on the upturn when Tully discovers a new talent in the form of the young Ernie Munger, so much so that Tully begins to think that a return to the ring might not be beyond him. All he really needs is to get over his divorce, kick the booze and get himself in condition and anything might be possible.
The tales of the history of the training and their bouts is compelling. Even more powerful is the examination of their personal battles. Each of their lives a struggle against demons without and within. Their worlds are tough. Money is tight. Women bring pleasure and pain in equal measure. The mundane is everywhere and the only hope of escape seems to be to put on the gloves and either take or dish out a beating.
Some of my favourite scenes revolve around the seasonal work offered on local farms. These are handled superbly and highlight the depth of the desperation.
‘And so Tully, relating the story of his marriage, crawled through the afternoon, separating the nuts from clods until all the nuts were the same hated one thrown forever into the bucket.’
I love this sentence. It resonates with me as I’m sure it would with many. That sense of the pointlessness of the daily grind. The repetition week after week. The harnesses that have to be endured. Working is tough. Surviving can feel hard. Life could always be better. Even for the lucky ones.
This is a fantastic read. The prose is tight and powerful. The cycles of hope and despair are compelling and the desire to root for the characters in whatever they do is strong.