Synopses & Reviews
The strange, compelling, and occasionally hysterical story of Hollywood's first celebrity scandal-as told by Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, the star at its center.
Abandoned as a boy in Kansas, Fatty Arbuckle found adulation first onstage, and then in the new medium of the cinema. In his day, during the second decade of the 1900s, Fatty was more popular than Chaplin; he became the first screen actor to make a million dollars a year. But in 1921 he was accused of the rape and murder of actress Virginia Rappe, whom he encountered at a party in San Francisco and who died a few days later. Though he was eventually acquitted by a unanimous jury, the virulent speculation by the press ultimately destroyed Arbuckle's career for good. Framed for a crime he didn't commit, and demonized by conservative powers that hyped the case as emblematic of all the evils of show business, Fatty Arbuckle was the O.J. Simpson of early Hollywood, the first modern celebrity whose presumed guilt and alleged innocence galvanized a nation.
In I, Fatty, Jerry Stahl, the celebrated author of Permanent Midnight, tells the story from Fatty's own perspective. This is an incisive and sympathetic look into the life of a man whose astonishing rise and fall set the precedent for the scandals that still shake Hollywood today.
"Dedicated as ever to exploring life's dark and deviant sides, Stahl shows his heart in this sad, wild, uproarious faux memoir of silent film star Roscoe 'Fatty' Arbuckle. Presented as if told to Fatty's butler who wouldn't dispense his employer's heroin unless he coughed up the dirt the book hews closely to the undisputed facts of Arbuckle's life. The forerunner of fat man comic actors ranging from Jackie Gleason to Horatio Sands, Arbuckle was most famous for being the center of one of the first celebrity trials: at the height of his film career, he was accused of raping an aspiring actress. The prosecution claimed that he crushed her with his weight during the act and she later died of the resulting internal injuries, while the papers suggested that when his 'manly equipment' failed to function he reached for a Coca-Cola bottle. Arbuckle was acquitted at trial but even the apology issued by the jury did him no good. Stahl's deep dedication to the whacked-out and marginalized helps him inhabit Arbuckle's character sharply and convincingly. Poor, huge, articulate Fatty realizes at one point, 'Success and adulation turned out to be just a vacation from the jeers and ire I'd known before.' Agent, Chris Calhoun. (July) Forecast: Stahl's near-ventriloquism and immersion in the mystique of Hollywood will remind readers of Joyce Carol Oates's Blonde; silent film fans will relish the period flavor." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"I, Fatty sometimes feels a bit stately, a methadone version of Stahl's other work....But Stahl remains a writer who delivers, every few pages, a bit more than a reader expects." Thomas Mallon, The New Yorker
"Readers have to get past [Stahl's] wise-guy, self-hating tone and cliched period slang, while the narrative's repetition and heavy-handed prefiguring remove any suspense. Still, it's worth the read." Library Journal
"There is probably not much new material here...[but] Stahl gives Arbuckle a hard-earned humanity as well as explains the actor's incalculable contributions to film comedy." Alan Moores, Booklist
"As show business 'reporting' grows more sensational and less reliable, Stahl again turns to fiction, creating an illuminating story about actors, studios, and audiences." Kirkus Reviews
In this highly acclaimed novel, the author of Permanent Midnight channels fallen early-Hollywood star Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle. Fatty tells his own story of success, addiction, and a precipitous fall from grace after being framed for a brutal crime-a national media scandal that set the precedent for those so familiar today.
About the Author
Jerry Stahl has written for GQ, Village Voice, and Esquire, among others, as well as film and television. He is the author of the acclaimed memoir Permanent Midnight, which was made into a film starring Ben Stiller, and the novels Perv and Plainclothes Naked. He has one daughter and lives in Los Angeles.