Fat City

images.jpgLeave out the magic realism and switch from Albany, New York, to Stockton, California, and you might think you were reading William Kennedy. Leonard Gardener’s Fat City, despite the comparison to another excellent American author, is on it’s own a very good book.

If you know California, Stockton is not Sacramento; not San Francisco; not even San Jose. It is, however, an important hub for the commerce of California as a part of the major San Francisco economic zone. But Stockton has had its share of tough times. Wikipedia provides a depressing list of recent ills:

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Zoot-Suit Murders

images-1.jpgIt’s war time and the City of the Angels is experiencing a great deal of influence and intrigue from religious, communist, fascist, and government operatives seeking to control the population or to overthrown the government or to find loose women to satisfy a sailor on shore leave or just to make a fashion statement in the Barrio.

The history of the Barrio, the pachuco, and the zoot-suiters  make for fascinating reading. Add to that some rioting, espionage, combat, and baseball (not to mention a love story) and Thomas Sanchez’s novel is a fast mover with just enough nostalgia for the Los Angeles of the forties to make it really interesting.

Zoot-Suit Murders reminded me of two similar stories: The Day of the Locust and the movie Chinatown (not to mention all those wonderful Philip Marlowe adventures).

Thomas Sanchez writes novels that eschew arcane literary values and instead provide a good, entertaining story with fine attention to the visual detail of his subject. Sanchez is also in the movie business, so it makes sense.

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The Great American Novel

RothColonel Chichikov relates how his experiences with American capitalism provided Stalin with this classic witticism:

From each according to his stupidity, to each according to his greed.

I have to admit that when I read this passage in Philip Roth’s The Great American Novel, I was confused: although the witticism is attributed to Stalin, it seemed to fit the current Republican Party much better than pre-war Communism in the USSR.

In fact, the more I read Roth’s novel, the more it illuminated the current political situation in the United States. How do you gain power, power to control the population? Lies, character assassinations, spreading fear, promoting myths, creating enemies, developing hatred and fear.

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Repeal Night Baseball

I was rummaging around in some old baseball archives from the Patriot League and was struck dumb by this moving piece written by Ulysses S, Fairsmith which at one time was proudly framed on the wall of his office at Ruppert Field.

baseball[T]he Almighty Creator, Whose presence, I do feel in every park around the league, on those golden days of sweet, cheerful spring, hot plenteous summer, and bountiful and benevolent autumn, when physically strong and morally sound young men do sport in seriousness beneath the sun, as did the two in Eden, before the Serpent and the Fall. Daytime baseball is nothing less than a reminder of Eden in the time of innocence and joy; and too, an intimation of that which is yet to come. For what is a ball park, but that place wherein Americans may gather to worship the beauty of God’s earth, the skill and strength of His children, and the holiness of His commandment to order and obedience. For such are the twin rocks upon which all sport is founded. And woe unto him, I say, who would assemble our players and our fans beneath the feeble, artificial light of godless science! For in the end as in the beginning, in the Paradise to come as in the Eden we have lost, it is not by the faint wattage of the electric light bulb that ye shall be judged, but rather in the unblinking eye of the Lord, wherein we are all as bareheaded fans in the open bleachers and tiny players prancing beneath the vault of His Heaven.

I am considering sending this to Ted Cruz or perhaps even Mike Huckabee: I’m sure both esteemed gentlemen would immediately add it to their demands as candidates for President of the United States. What better wedge issue is there than the evils of night baseball?