Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Suzanne Jill Levine, noted translator of Borges, gave me a copy of Paul Fox's 1970 novel, Desperate Characters. The story of a woman whose hand is bitten by a stray, possibly rabid, cat, DC is a beautiful short work about (in a larger sense) a troubled (but ultimately successful) marriage in Brooklyn against the backdrop of a decaying New York. Fox is wonderful-- there's something both Iris Murdoch-ish and Noel Coward-ish about this famous writer of children's literature. Which DC decidedly is not: its characters say quite adult and delicious things to each other. This reissued edition features a preface by Jonathan Franzen, which is filled with precious, pompous things (What does it mean to say a novel "rises up in revolt against its own perfection"?) and which I advise you to skip unless you want to learn that Franzen's own marriage had its troubles, too.