26 September 2023

Coach Fitz

Start the conversation

Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

By Tom Lee, Giramondo Publishing, $26.95.

The story is gentle and straightforward. Meeting Tom, we pick up that he’s living in Sydney and is obsessive about physical fitness. He is bright, individualistic to the point of segregation and introspective, too much at times, to the point of egocentric. While this, in part, makes up for feelings of shortfall persistent from his youth, he struggles to forge some sense from his experiences. To that end, he employs the services of an older woman as his running coach.

A former psychoanalyst, Coach Fitz is both physically fit and also a good ‘fit’ for Tom, sharing his interest in betterment beyond just physical fitness, and in architecture, design, food and wine.

The coach’s techniques combine fitness training with an intense curiosity about the spirit of the places through which they travel. Insightful and excited, Tom is shrewd yet afflicted by insecurities. He finds himself at once feeling disturbed, yet captivated, by his mentor’s weird ideas.

As they follow an eccentric course across parklands, streets and beaches, a conversation unfolds about the athletic body, architectural style and especially the emergence from adolescence into adulthood. However, when his relationship with Coach Fitz breaks down, Tom finds himself dogged by past failures and obsessions, and sets out in search of a student of his own, in an attempt to orchestrate an ideal expression of his emotional, athletic and intellectual urges.

Intertwining surreal, heartfelt and comical voices, Coach Fitz finds marvels in unlikely places: in outdoor gyms, picnic spots and water towers; in internet cafés, hotel restaurants and bottle shops; in goat’s cheese, olive oil and sourdough bread; and via the body in motion, in its squats and stretches, run-ups, chin-ups, push-ups, sit-ups, warm-ups and cool-downs.

Tom is the narrator: deep-thinking, teasing, yet inexplicably enthralling.

Lee’s first novel speaks to the modern-day fascination on ‘self-fashioning and wellness’, summoning an invasive world of closeness, gawkiness and exhilaration.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.