I’ve been obsessing over the novel Fat City and the film Fat City over the last couple of days. I should be reading So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell. I should be grading my Lit students’ second formal essay. But instead I am rereading scenes and watching scenes from the film. The film follows the novel so closely. And I even went so far as to copy ch 19 for my creative writing students because I believe it represents exactly what Tracy Daugherty advises in his essay “A Character’s Skin”. And I know I’ve written about this book before–many times. And I’ve written about the Denis Johnson essay about Leonard Gardner and his fine novel and his fine screen play that John Huston turned into a very understated film–understated is how Netflix describes the film and you can watch it immediately if you have a Netflix account. The film is very subtle and slight in its meanings/themes. And I’ve taught this book in a couple of my novels class and right now I regret not having it on my reading list for next Fall but perhaps next Spring.
What I love about the book is the third person narration and the very concise/brief chapters–also the very precise narration. Denis Johnson in his essay admits to obsessing over Gardner’s paragraphs and the form–something I can’t but obsess over myself. I rarely read books that I obsess over as much as ch 19 of Gardner’s book–the interactions and the shifts into omniscient narration. The achingly beautiful relationships between Billy Tully and his doomed relationship with Oma. Like Johnson, as soon as I read I picked up my notebook and drafted the Notorious Cornbread Baca and the places of my youth in Colorado–imagining the places from Baca’s youth.
Now I obsess over the film and the locations and the peripheral players–showing Huston’s keen eye.