Fox 8 by George Saunders is a feat of great storytelling, it’s an enchanting and darkly comic fable centred around the life of Fox 8 who reveals through his unique voice the greed of man and the destruction of nature.
If anyone doesn’t know who George Saunders is, where have you been living…under a rock, on another planet or deep within a fox hole. Saunders is a master story teller who breaks with the conventional forms of storytelling to produce time and time again experimental works that just zing with quality and uniqueness. His previous offering Lincoln in the Bardo was quite possibly one of his greatest pieces of work to date, experimental, brave and utterly irresistible.
I couldn’t help but think that Fox 8 shouldn’t really work, the language used is distracting and sometimes chaotic in its structure, but once you get into the story (for me it was about four pages in) the sheer mastery of Saunders work is revealed. The use broken / incorrect English is in part to Fox 8 learning how to speak by watching a family read to their children at night. So throughout the book Fox 8 speaks with words that blur into one another or are spelt phonetically for example ‘Yuman’ and ‘Danjur’ (human and danger) but there is a musicality to the voice and at times when I let myself be swept away by the story, I was devouring page after page as if this tool wasn’t even visible. But fret not, with Saunders at the helm and his mastery over the English language and his ear for how words sound, makes this book an intoxicating read and a real joy to behold.
The magic of this book is that it reminded me of Watership Down by Richard Adams and The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann. Not only because the animals are talking, it’s due in part that both of these are great stories which are well told and hold a kind of magic within the pages. There is also a hidden depth with both of these books and with Fox 8 which hint at dark and foreboding undertones with stark warnings about what we Yumans are doing to nature in the pursuit of social and economical development.
Fox 8 is a Watership Down for a new generation – a generation who may have forgotten these warnings written previously in other literary works, but my hope with this book is that it brings these issues to light and could possibly light the fuse for drastic action – the book is so engaging it can also be shared with younger readers – who, as my children did, can marvel at the delightful illustrations that litter the pages and enjoy the playful tone of Saunders writing.
Saunders has written a tiny piece of brilliance in Fox 8 and it is a worthy read. Not because of the subject matter (which is fabulous) but he has delivered it with a mastery of both the English language and prose which is refreshing and new – I for one will be keeping an eye out at the window when I am reading my children stories in hope that an inquisitive fox may be present and possibly we can teach him that times they are a changing!
A short but very powerful read!
Fox 8 is published by Bloomsbury Books and is available here.
George Saunders is the author of nine books, including Lincoln in the Bardo, winner of the 2017 Man Booker Prize and the Premio Rezzori prize. Tenth of December was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the inaugural Folio Prize. He has received MacArthur and Guggenheim fellowships and the PEN/Malamud Prize for excellence in the short story, and was recently elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2013, he was named one of the world’s 100 most influential people by Time magazine. He teaches in the creative writing program at Syracuse University.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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