John Huston Vernon Young - Essay

Vernon Young

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Fat City is a work of art. This is the movie John Huston had under his skin for years to justify all the premature applause…. Allowing for the dreary level of consciousness conveyed by characters who live in the basement of themselves, the film is as perfect as a film can be—… a kind of American Lower Depths, it takes place in a California town where sun-shine is merely something that makes everyone in the film squint, so much of his time is spent in the gym, in the ring, in a bar, in an unmade bed…. The deadbeats and dumb hopefuls who comprise this lost colony are dupes of their own making; especially, one might add, they are victims of their total helplessness when groping for language. You feel that if they ever augmented their vocabulary with two fateful words, the increase could change their lives: they might just understand that they are trying to punch their way out of paper bags they have themselves inflated and climbed into. Reuben Lura, the fight manager, is the only articulate figure, and nobody listens to him. (pp. 172-73)

Vernon Young, "Fat Shakespeare, Fat City, Lean Wilderness," in The Hudson Review (copyright © 1973 by The Hudson Review, Inc.; reprinted by permission), Vol. XXVI, No. 1, Spring, 1973, pp. 170-76.∗