"Fat City" is an old slang word for wealth, success and satisfaction. Quite contrary, Fat City is a vivid novel of allegiance and defeat, of the potent promise of the good life and the desperation and drink that waylay those whom it eludes. Stockton, California, is the setting: the Lido Gym, the Hotel Coma, Main Street lunchrooms and dingy bars. When two men meet in the ring—the retired boxer Billy Tully and the newcomer Ernie Munger—their brief bout sets into motion their hidden fates, initiating young Munger into the company of men and luring Tully back into training. Spoiler: There are no American winners like Rocky or Jake LaMotta, Rather it is about insignificant preliminaries in small towns, losers and loneliness.
Or in Joan Didion's words: "Leonard Gardner's Fat City affected me more than any new fiction I have read in a long while, and I do not think it affected me only because I come from Fat City, or somewhere near it. He has got it exactly right - the hanging around gas stations, the field dust, the relentless oppressiveness of the weather, the bleak liaisons sealed on the levees and Greyhound buses - but he has done more than just get it down, he has made it a metaphor for the joyless in heart."