RARA-AVIS: alcohol-soaked tales

From: Con Lehane ( CLehane@nea.org)
Date: 23 Jul 2001

One of the best treatment of the besotted I've read---maybe one of the best books, period---is Fat City by Leonard Gardner, written in the 60s, and republished a few years ago by the University of California Press. The main character, as I remember, is a down on his luck, ex-boxer, gone drunk, and making his living, such as it was, as a migrant, day farmworker in or around Stockton, California. Fat City was also a great movie, directed by John Huston, with Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges. I saw the movie by accident many years ago and was then turned on to the book by my writing teacher at the time, Richard Yates... in whose books also, as in whose life, drinking played a prominent role. Richard Yates wrote a number of bitter, sad novels about the gray flannel suit crowd in the 60s and 70s. Fat City is starkly realistic, about those down on their luck, and even sadder and more bitter. As far as I can tell, it's the only book Gardner wrote. I would think some folks on this list, especially those who like Jim Thompson, would like it a lot and might find a way to include it, even though it's not formulaic, in some definition of noir, if not hard-boiled.

I suppose this contribution, such as it is, is my swan song for the moment. I'm going to be reluctantly leaving the list for at least a month or so at the end of this week, after a year of mostly eavesdropping...I think I sent one message...I want to thank everyone for sharing the discussion; it's been often thought-provoking and challenging and always entertaining.... It will take me years to catch up on the suggested readings.... I've enjoyed myself thoroughly and learned a great deal, although...despite being told more than once...still can't get the distinction between hard-boiled and noir. I look forward to catching up with your discussions again in the fall, if you'll once more permit me. Please excuse the disclaimer at the end of this...it follows me everywhere.

Best to all,

Con Lehane

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