Aug 31, 10
Read from August 14 to 31, 2010
Stahl does self-hate like nobody else. His somber wit is the perfect mouthpiece for silent film comedian Roscoe “fatty” Arbuckle’s heartbreaking tale. There’ve been many books about Arbuckle’s life, but Stahl’s account is unique because it’s a first person narrative as imagined from Arbuckle’s VOP, which is the most fascinating aspect of his story. Born dirt poor to violently abusive parents, Arbuckle had that self-hate that festers at the heart of abused kids who become adults. Young Arbuckle made the most of his 250-300 pound frame to cope with his awful life and developed his natural talent as a singer and physical comedian. Hollywood movies were silent and new to the world. Stahl captured the tone and the time period without a speck of sentimentality or victimhood, just honest lines like this from Arbuckle: “I’m incapable of feeling real pain in real time.” Stahl never shies away from Arbuckle’s emotional turmoil. For example, when the shit hit the fan in SF, Arbuckle was thrown in the slammer and Arbuckle said, “My sadness was massive-the whoosh of your life disappearing.”
The pace in “I, Fatty” jumps from elation to tragedy with the same energy as one of Arbuckle’s gags. The information about the much publicized death-rape incident of gold digger Virginia Rappe was handled masterfully: Stahl never veered from Arbuckle’s apologetic, shameful voice and the characters were never eclipsed by the business of plot points.
Arbuckle’s life was a heartbreaking seesaw of tears and laughter, sexual failures and epic success, drug addiction and sorrow. But, at the end of it all, when he won his trial, I applauded him because he never gave up, no matter how many people wanted him dead in Hollywood.