Desperate Characters

Desperate Characters

by Paula Fox


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780393351101
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/30/2015
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 165,960
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.40(d)

About the Author

Paula Fox (1923—2017) was the author of Desperate Characters, The Widow’s Children, A Servant’s Tale, The God of Nightmares, Poor George, The Western Coast, and Borrowed Finery: A Memoir, among other books.


Brooklyn, New York

Date of Birth:

April 22, 1923

Place of Birth:

New York, New York


Attended Columbia University

What People are Saying About This

Rosellen Brown

One of the few novels I've quite literally kept near me over the years, to re—read regularly. It's a model of profound and worldly insight and elegant style….Paula Fox's beautifully calibrated sense of scale demonstrates the power of brevity and reticence. It's thrilling to see her book made available again.

David Foster Wallace

A towering landmark of postwar realism….A sustained work of prose so lucid and fine that it seems less written than carved.

Andrea Barrett

A perfect short novel. A few characters, a small stretch of time; setting an action tightly confined—and yet, as in Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, everything crucial within our souls bared.

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Desperate Characters 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Ibreak4books on LibraryThing 22 days ago
A couple's attempt to gentrify Brooklyn. Strictly upper-middle class angst. If that's you, enjoy. If not, you'll be scratching your head, saying "who the hell ARE these clueless people." The trope of the cat bite was tiresome and obvious. Perhaps the whole thing of the "other", in this case meaning the unwashed masses-who-are-not-as-rich-and-educated-as-us, is dated and that's why it doesn't ring true. But it doesn't. Ring true, that is.
Girl_Detective on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Otto and Sophie Bentwood are a 40ish childless couple living in Brooklyn in the late 60¿s. Their neighborhood is covered in trash, and their backyard overlooks the slums. They don¿t like or understand the children of their friends. On a Friday night, before a party, Sophie tried to feed a stray cat, and is bitten for her trouble. The bite and the pain of it carry through the weekend, and this close-up snapshot of a particular place and time.Fox¿s prose is amazingly crafted, and conveys much with few words. This is a beautifully written book, full of metaphor and portents, that delves deep into its characters. Otto and Sophie are among the desperate characters of the title, yet they¿re complicated¿not entirely pathetic, yet not entirely likable, either. It¿s not a cheerful read, but neither is it a dire one. It is, though, quite rewarding.
NativeRoses on LibraryThing 22 days ago
A stray cat which might have rabies bites a woman in New York City. The lapidary prose of this slim novel brings the outcome into sharp relief in a manner which relates to us all. Rarely do authors craft their prose so brilliantly. (Don Delillo and David Foster Wallace come to mind.) When i finished it, i started re-reading it immediately. It's utterly brilliant and has my highest recommendation. Don't miss it if you enjoy extraordinary writing.
LauraJWRyan on LibraryThing 22 days ago
I'm so glad I found my way to this book, and Paula Fox...Desperate Characters is a book of its time, yet timeless, the writing is elegant and brave, the mood feels claustrophobic, but at times hilarious in spite of the tension, the desperation. Otto and Sophie are in that middle-age landscape, the low valley between young and old, feeling a loss as it seems the world moves on in spite of them, their efforts, their frustration with others around them and a chain reaction of events that start with a stray cat biting Sophie's hand threatens to undo the relative peace they thought they had, suffering quietly in their discontent, but they snap with occasional outbursts that momentarily stuns them... silent forgiveness and denial moves them onward. It is a mysterious little book, but it's all there...a thin slice of life, pared down to simplicity. It's beautiful, I loved it, and will go back to it many times.
ccayne on LibraryThing 22 days ago
Aspiring writers should read this book. It is beautifully crafted, an example of restraint and precision and most of all, illustrates that less can be more. I could see this book in my mind's eye as a play or an understated movie. It was written in the mid-70s and centers on Otto & Sophie, a couple who are among the first to buy a brownstone in a downtrodden area of Brooklyn. Sophie is bitten by a cat she has been feeding and that act unleashes feelings of dread and threat from all sides.
JimElkins on LibraryThing 22 days ago
It is a textbook for aspiring novelists, this book. Descriptions are so perfectly judged, incidents so astonishingly well balanced, episodes so impeccably resonant with one another, hints and allusions so delicately poised, psychological insights so bewilderingly sharp, that almost any novelist will seem dull-headed by comparison. I went from "Desperate Creatures" to a novel by Cees Nooteboom, and I could hardly stomach it: Nooteboom, by comparison, seems hulkish and animalistically unreflective. His prose is blockish by comparison, and his sense of timing and humor are like crude uncomprehending apings of real wit. It's not Nooteboom's fault: Fox has in dense excess what other novelists sweat to achieve. The number of felicitous, inimitable formulations on each page puts anyone else to shame (except perhaps Flaubert, or Joyce). But on the other hand. The reason Jonathan Franzen could write about this book in such superlatives is that he is himself very much a product of the "New Yorker" style from the 1970s onward. He is absolutely right that the novel can be read and re-read (he says he's read it six times). He's right, too, that the novel is a kind of model of what novels might be. But one of the Amazon reviewers, Jay Dickson, is also right that this novel is very much a product of the style exemplified -- or should I say moulded? -- by the "New Yorker." And what is wrong with that? The style breeds a kind of virtuosity in which a reader is continuously interrupted, and asked to stand back and admire what has just been deployed with such insouciant effortlessness. A number of times reading "Desperate Characters," I wanted to put the book down, stand up, and applaud. But those moments were more or less quickly followed by brief irritations. Virtuosity at this level is a snake that bites its own tail, and a novel as "perfect" as "Desperate Characters" chews off little pieces of its own plausibility each time it indulges in another coruscating firework display of outlandishly gorgeous, uncannily insightful, hyper-eloquent, impossibly well-judged description.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The introduction takes up the whole sample book. It's the author I want to sample not you.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago