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Fool: A Novel Hardcover – January 9, 1999
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From Publishers Weekly
Barnaby Griswold, the protagonist of this assured and sophisticated novel, is a fulfillment of his father's worst fear: a fool, an indulgent "fluffmeister." After his devious, get-rich-quick investment scheme is exposed, he loses everything: his home, his wife and children and, above all, the spoils of a New York lifestyle he once, albeit briefly, enjoyed. Barnaby's story begins at his rock bottom: a Labor Day weekend he spends relinquishing the last of his equity and beginning his suspension from the securities business. His divorce is final and his wife and daughters await his exit. Sitting alone in what was once his summer home, he gets a providential phone call from his ex-mother-in-law, Ada Briley, who beckons him back to Oklahoma City, the very place where he pulled off his ill-fated swindle. His enemies there are plentiful, and one in particular, a duped client named Peterpotter, stalks and torments him. But Barnaby is resilient, suffering Peterpotter's abuses while nurturing Ada, to whom he's become attached. As Ada's health deteriorates, she becomes intensely dependent on him, and their friendship suffers with his interest in a local waitress, Marian Winott, who hails from the same East Coast circle that now ostracizes Barnaby. His perception of himself as a fool crystallizes, and he must decide which path to choose Ada's love, Marian's potential or a chance to salvage his woebegone lifestyle, a surprising development that occurs when, in a brief visit to New York, his intuition predicts a "Christmas Crash." He warns his old coterie, saves them from financial ruin and earns back their respect, enough that they beg his return to Manhattan. The epiphany Barnaby experiences is somewhat suspicious, slipped between confusion and a sudden closure, casting his transformation in doubt. Dillen recounts his second novel (after the praised Hero) in a dense and darkly comic voice, offering flourishing passages, clever turns and tense, delightful confrontations between characters. But while Barnaby is an engaging antihero, readers may find Dillen's tone a bit cold, almost refusing Barnaby sympathy when he needs it most, in his last-minute moment of truth. First serial rights to Harper's. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Barnaby Griswold, the eponymous hero of Dillen's second novel (after Hero) is not just a fool but a jerk and a loser as well. His loss-to-win record is appalling, the first column includes his wife, daughters, fortune, homes, well-placed friends, lunches at La C Ôte, and reputation, while the second includes only a tennis championship at a shabby beach club, his ex-wife's dying mother, and early-bird suppers at the Dinner Box. A securities trader, Barnaby guessed wrong. Hearing of ex-mother-in-law Ada's stroke, he flies to Oklahoma City to help care for her. Bumbling, solipsistic, and sponging off Ada, Barnaby is excruciatingly annoying. Yet halfway into the book, a strange fondness stirs. By the end, the reader is cheering him on as he achieves self-knowledge and a chance at love. Dillen's prose is astonishing, manic, and repetitive, and much of it is stream-of-consciousness, always Barnaby's. For most fiction collections where readers appreciate the unconventional. Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
But then...oh yeah, then he falls off the wave and gets beaten teachable. Not beaten wise, remorseful, redeemed or even likable. He is beaten until he can no longer be cocky. He cannot be extravagantly wealthy or haughty. He has to dig in and just be.
That is when the story gets going. It is written in a slightly constrained flow of conscientiousness style. It has some of the qualities of well known picaresque fiction but falls just short of the mark. I felt the style, while occasionally jarring was realistic. When you are fully stressed ideas and plans, with little assessment of consequences shoot around your brain one after the other.
I am not going to give any spoilers but the last part of the novel included how he redeemed himself. It also shows that redemption is not an single eureka moment. It is laboriously built brick by brick, scar by bruise, over time. There may be an aha moment, but it is the result of the hard redemptive work done by he who seeks redemption.
I believe Barnaby had an eureka event when he returned to his empty home at Christmas. Walking through the home with no one there, the gifts open but still under the tree; the kensian feel gave him the impetus to mentally restructure, maybe re-prioritize his life.
He did achieve redemption. Will it last, can he sustain his redemption? We do not know and is probably unimportant. We leave him a better, wiser, poorer man and in the process he has attained some self awareness.
I like this book. It is not a light read and you cannot be superficial in the attention you devote to Fool. I am pleased that this book was brought to my attention.
That is why ninety-five percent of my reading is non-fiction. This reading was prompted by the science of a woman who has devoted her life to the written word, and lays her faith and knowledge out for our evaluation. Thank you Ms. Pearl, I'll try more of your selections. At sixty-seven years of age, I'm comfortable identifying those who can write. Mr. Dillen can, I can't. My value from this book is an opportunity to discuss Barnaby with other readers. The changes Barnaby undergoes, warm, fuzzy and profoundly well written, bring the thought to mind, "If complex behavior is highly malleable, why doesn't it statistically happen in non-fictional settings?" Maybe the initial discussion is resolving what it means to be gifted. The Fool is a guide for such discovery.