Mr. Fox

Mr. Fox

3.7 8
by Helen Oyeyemi
     
 

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From a prizewinning young writer, a brilliant and inventive story of love, lies, and inspiration.

Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his

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Overview

From a prizewinning young writer, a brilliant and inventive story of love, lies, and inspiration.

Fairy-tale romances end with a wedding, and the fairy tales don't get complicated. In this book, the celebrated writer Mr. Fox can't stop himself from killing off the heroines of his novels, and neither can his wife, Daphne. It's not until Mary, his muse, comes to life and transforms him from author into subject that his story begins to unfold differently.

Mary challenges Mr. Fox to join her in stories of their own devising; and in different times and places, the two of them seek each other, find each other, thwart each other, and try to stay together, even when the roles they inhabit seem to forbid it. Their adventures twist the fairy tale into nine variations, exploding and teasing conventions of genre and romance, and each iteration explores the fears that come with accepting a lifelong bond. Meanwhile, Daphne becomes convinced that her husband is having an affair, and finds her way into Mary and Mr. Fox's game. And so Mr. Fox is offered a choice: Will it be a life with the girl of his dreams, or a life with an all-too-real woman who delights him more than he cares to admit?

The extraordinarily gifted Helen Oyeyemi has written a love story like no other. Mr. Fox is a magical book, endlessly inventive, as witty and charming as it is profound in its truths about how we learn to be with one another.



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Editorial Reviews

Kerry Fried
…a postmodern puzzler that, despite its screwball moments, is inspired by the pre-modern: the bloody and bizarre English folk tale "Mister Fox," Charles Perrault's "Bluebeard" and the Grimm Brothers' "Fitcher's Bird" and "The Robber Bridegroom"…Violence is never far away in this ambitious effort, but neither is love (romantic, sexual, parental), and Oyeyemi's dazzling, dislocating novel ends with an elemental tale of transformation…that Jeanette Winterson might envy.
—The Washington Post
Aimee Bender
In the folk tale, Mr. Fox lures women into his lair to kill them. Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox used to lure women into his stories and kill them. She, of course, is her own Mr. Fox, and surely she lures us in, too. Not to kill us, not to repel us, but the opposite—to hold us in these stories and give us something along the way, something complicated and genuine. Charm is a quality that overflows in this novel, and it works under its best definition: as a kind of magical attraction and delight. Oyeyemi casts her word-spell, sentence by sentence, story by story, and by the end, the oppressive lair has opened up into a shimmering landscape pulsing with life.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
In this highly conceptual novel from Oyeyemi (White Is for Witching), the writer St. John Fox receives a visit from his muse Mary while his wife Daphne, whom he taught early on not to complain, sits upstairs,. Thus begins a playful but frustrating examination of storytelling, inspiration, and mythology, with a specific focus on how some male writers have traditionally treated their female characters. Oyeyemi recounts this multi-layered tale from each of her characters' viewpoints (often in letter form, and at times from alternate versions of a character, such as "Dream-Mary"), yet the larger effect feels muddled rather than illuminating. Stories-within-stories (Mr. Fox's fiction) wrestle their way in as well, and include the intriguing tale of an orphan boy in Egypt and a Nigerian girl with a heavy heart; and an impossible little girl's paid companion. Mr. Fox certainly does seem intent on having his female characters endure gruesome circumstances, a tendency that his muse appears to challenge, though this critical aspect also remains obscure. The pleasure of Oyeyemi's gorgeous language and brilliant sensibility is almost entirely overtaken by the author's preoccupation with understanding the architecture of her own book. (Oct.)
New York Times Book Review
Charm is a quality that overflows in this novel, and it works under its best definition: as a kind of magical attraction and delight.
From the Publisher
"A sly, tender, and elegant novel, graced with a magical charm that makes its wisdom about love and loss all the more captivating to read. Mr. Fox is a novel for those who love stories and who believe in their singular power to alter and heal our fragile souls."
—-Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air

"A wonderfully original novel, full of images and turns of phrase so arresting, so vivid and inventive, its pages almost glow with them. Helen Oyeyemi has given us a work of playful charm and serious narrative pleasure."
—Sarah Waters
Library Journal
Heroines don't live happily ever after in Mr. Fox's books because he can't help killing them off. Then his muse, Mary, comes to life and drags him into a world of make-believe that tests both the limits of the genre and the idea of a lifelong bond. Oyeyemi consistently surprises (her White Is for Witching won the 2010 Somerset Maugham Award). Get for discriminating readers and watch where this one goes.
Kirkus Reviews
Postmodernist, meta-fictional riffs on classic tales, especially fairy tales, in which women die violently in the name of love, from Nigerian/British wunderkind Oyeyemi (The Icarus Girl, 2005, etc.).

The Mr. Fox of the title (and there are plenty of other Mr. Foxes here) is a novelist who kills off his heroines. He is living in 1930s New York with his younger wife Daphne, whom he tends to neglect while creating his fiction—a neglect akin to adultery since he is visited with increasing frequency by his imaginary but alluring muse Mary. Mary is dissatisfied with Mr. Fox's treatment of women and challenges him, very vaguely, to a contest. Soon stories are appearing—it is never quite clear whether composed by Mr. Fox or by Mary—in which the roles of Lover/Murderer and Beloved/Victim go through a host of variations which bring to mind bits and pieces (as in body parts, pun intended) of various classic tales of misogyny. The serial killer Bluebeard casts a long shadow, as do the Grimm Brothers' sorcerer Fitcher and the French fox Reynardine, as well as less familiar characters from Yoruba folktales. In the first, simplest story, a man chops off his wife's head, thinking he can reattach it; he does but with problematic results. In more complex stories, women named Mary and men named Fox sometimes love each other but often commit gruesome acts of violence, physical and emotional. In the story"The Training At Madame de Silentio's," roles are somewhat reversed as young boys are schooled to become perfect husbands. Mingled among the titled stories are snatches of the growing marital crisis between Mr. Fox and Daphne, who is understandably jealous of Mr. Fox's devotion to his muse.

The language is crystalline and the images startling, but forget any resemblance to linear logic in what is ultimately a treatise on love (with a clever borrowing from Cappelanus' 12th centuryThe Art of Courtly Love), on male subjugation of women and on the creative experience.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101547861
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/29/2011
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
278,929
File size:
0 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are saying about this

Dinaw Mengestu
A sly, tender, and elegant novel, graced with a magical charm that makes this novel's wisdom about love and loss all the more captivating to read. Mr. Fox is a novel for those who love stories and who believe in their singular power to alter and heal our fragile souls."--(Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air)
Sarah Waters
"A wonderfully original novel, full of images and turns of phrase so arresting, so vivid and inventive, its pages almost glow with them. Helen Oyeyemi has given us a work of playful charm and serious narrative pleasure."--(Sarah Waters)
From the Publisher

“Oyeyemi’s writing is gorgeous and resonant and fresh . . . a shimmering landscape pulsating with life.”—Aimee Bender, The New York Times Book Review

“Oyeyemi has an eye for the gently perverse, the odd detail that turns the ordinary marvelously, frighteningly strange.”—The Boston Globe

“Dazzling.”—The Washington Post

“Cheeky and imaginative.”—The New Yorker

“Startling, beautiful . . . [Mr. Fox] should not be ignored.”—Chicago Sun Times

Mr. Fox is a wonderfully original novel, full of images and turns of phrase so arresting, so vivid and inventive, its pages almost glow with them. Helen Oyeyemi has given us a work of playful charm and serious narrative pleasure.”—Sarah Waters, author of The Little Stranger

"A sly, tender, and elegant novel, graced with a magical charm that makes this novel’s wisdom about love and loss all the more captivating to read. Mr. Fox is a novel for those who love stories and who believe in their singular power to alter and heal our fragile souls."--Dinaw Mengestu, author of The Beautiful Things That Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air

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