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Mr. Fox Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 29, 2011
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Featured Author: Anna Snoekstra
In this chilling psychological thriller, one woman's dark past becomes another's deadly future. Learn more
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Smith: What’s in a name? Why is Mr. Fox called Mr. Fox?
Oyeyemi: Mr. Fox is called Mr. Fox because I think of him as both wild and urbane; also he’s a namesake of the English Bluebeard and an even older mythological lady killer, Reynardine (from the French for fox, Reynard). This book is full of foxes and foxgloves and fox trotting and all things fox. As to why the book itself is called Mr. Fox, that’s partly because calling it Mary Foxe seemed like bad luck for Mary--books and films that have a woman’s name as their title seem to end up with the woman dead or insane or bereft in some way, and I like Mary too much for that. But also one of my favorite writers, Barbara Comyns, wrote a book about a wily man called Mr. Fox in 1987, and even though I didn’t know about it or read it until I’d finished writing about my own Mr. Fox, I can’t help but think that’s got something to do with this business somehow.
Smith: Where does this story come from and did it go where you thought it would go? What was the process of writing this one like?
Oyeyemi: This story comes from having read Rebecca, which made me want to have a go at writing a Bluebeard story. Then I started reading (and re-reading) Bluebeard variants, from Jane Eyre to Alice Hoffmann’s Blue Diary to the Joseph Jacobs fairy tale “Mr. Fox,” which features a kind of linguistic battle between Mr. F. and the heroine, Lady Mary, who witnesses a murder he commits and has the guts to tell him all about himself to his face. So then I had two characters, and I was off.
Smith: What does it mean to lose the plot? Is story different from plot? If so, how, and do they need each other? And why or why not?
Oyeyemi: I reckon losing the plot means finding the story. The plot gets you from A to B and home again, but the story is the surrounding wilderness that you wander into, and then the bears come, and it’s impossible to tell which ones would like to invite you to a picnic and which ones would like to make a picnic of you, because they look exactly the same until you’re right up close. So I think you do need plot if you’d rather not risk approaching a story’s bears, either as a reader or a writer--it depends on what sort of story it is. Some stories don’t have very interesting bears. (Maybe you don’t agree? Maybe you think all bears of this kind are interesting, or at least, more interesting than the plot path?)
Smith: If you, like me, think that books produce books, which books are germinal to this one? And if you don’t think that, then where do books come from?
Oyeyemi: Yes, books beget books; I’d say they’re the leading cause of today’s plague of books, and may we never be cured. Rebecca caused this one, and Marina Warner’s From the Beast to the Blonde, Anne Sexton’s Transformations, Angela Carter’s The Magic Toyshop, Gombrowicz’s Bacacay, Daniil Kharms’s Incidences, Susanna Moore’s In the Cut, and Barbara Comyns’s The Vet’s Daughter, too.
Smith: What was in your pockets when you began this book, and what’s in them now that you’ve finished it? i.e., what’s next?
Oyeyemi: When I started writing Mr. Fox, it was summer, and I was interested in cupcakes and foxes and Mills and Boon books written in the 1930s. Now I’m interested in fudge and wolves and self-appointed executioners.
Thank you for asking me these questions; they’re a delight.
(Photo of Helen Oyeyemi © Saneesh Sukumaran)
(Photo of Ali Smith ©Sarah Wood)
Top Customer Reviews
Mr. Fox is different. It is the story of the love triangle between a writer and his unruly muse (Always an excellent starting point!) and his flesh and blood wife. But don't for a minute think things are as straightforward as all that. The love triangle and the muse's struggle for independence are merely the base of a novel comprised of constantly shifting stories, each of which feature an iteration of writer St. John Fox and his imagined perfect woman Mary Foxe. In one, he's a psychologist and she a model. In another, they are children in an African village. In one he's an actual fox and she an old woman. The imagery of all things foxy is pervasive, from foxes both human and animal to foxglove flowers and foxholes.
Here is an illustrative conversation between writer and muse:
"'Mary, I think I know what we're trying to do with this game of ours.'
`We've been trying to fall in love.'
She raised her eyebrows. `With each other?' she asked coolly.
`Would you let me finish?'
`We've been trying to fall in love, yes with each other, but we've been trying to take some of the danger out of it so no one ends up maimed or dead. We're trying for something normal and nice.'
Mary folded her arms. `That is not what we're trying to do.'
`Oh, what then?'
`Your wife loves you. Turn to her properly. Stop fobbing her off and being a counterfeit companion.Read more ›
I wasn't sure how to approach writing this review. After finishing Mr.Fox I sat a long time in silence, slightly light-headed and with no clue what to think about it. I still don't know to be honest. I feel like I need to read it again to fully grasp the message that's undoubtedly hidden between the lines. In fact, I think I'd need to re-read it not once, but a couple of times more. There are just so many details, so many nuances that are all to easy to miss, and I feel that I ought to collect them all to get the whole picture. There's so much going on on the pages of Mr.Fox, so many different stories are being told here, so many shifts - in narration, time, even reality! This is a novel that requires 100% of your focus and sponge-like brain to absorb all that.
I won't even try to summarize this novel. There's no way I could do that without giving away too much. And in case of this novel, anything I'd tell you about the plot or characters would be way too much. The complexity of this novel totally overwhelmed me at first, I felt lost and confused.Read more ›
Just a few hints: Remember the story of Bluebeard? The noble man who had a track record of killing his young wives because they were too curious? Until, that is, when he came across one that was the right match for him: she fought back. There is also an ancient, similar story of a Mister Fox... and foxes are important to Oyeyemi's story. With Mr. Fox she has created a modern version of the old fairy tale, adding modern life's complexities through any number of original twists and turns. Her Mr. St. John Fox is a well-known writer who creates stories where, unfortunately, the heroine... well, you get the sense of it. Until a female challenger turns up and everything is up for grabs. To add another layer to the stories, there are three in this union...
Mr. Fox is a book that will not be great fun for readers who like a linear plot or story lines.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
She's a genius! Loved this book and will be reading as much of her work as possible.Published 11 days ago by amy blevins
fun train of fantastic narratives told from multiple points of view. Shades of Angela Carter - sort of. This book was written before the excellent "Boy, Snow, Bird".Published 21 days ago by Wanda Eisenman
A little hard to follow but fun to read, keeps you reading trying to figure it out. I would recommend it.Published 6 months ago by Teri Phillips
My first measure of a book is simple: Do I want to keep reading? Many if not most literary novels falter in the readability test, unlike the classics. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Uintah Springs
The author is playing with the idea of a writer who imagines his muse so strongly that she may come into being. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Lewis P. Wilkinson
Amazing book for those who appreciate artistic and somewhat confusing narrativePublished 8 months ago by Rachel Miller
This is my second read, and I'm still not sure what this book is about, but I'm charmed by it. It's creative, magical, and engaging -- quirky, too. Who is the author? Read morePublished 9 months ago by pastrygirl
In many ways, an author has complete control over his characters. The character is given life by the author, given whatever traits the author desires and every move and action is... Read morePublished 13 months ago by Sandra Iler Kirkland
Would give it a zero if it was available. I'd like my money back for this one.Published 17 months ago by Barbara Ann Kennedy