Otto and Sophie Bentwood live in a changing neighborhood in Brooklyn. Their stainless-steel kitchen is newly installed, and their Mercedes is parked curbside. After Sophie is bitten on the hand while trying to feed a stray, perhaps rabies-infected cat, a series of small and ominous disasters begin to plague the Bentwoods' lives, revealing the fault lines and fractures in a marriage—and a society—wrenching itself apart.
First published in 1970 to wide acclaim, Desperate Characters stands as one of the most dazzling and rigorous examples of the storyteller's craft in postwar American literature — a novel that, according to Irving Howe, ranks with "Billy Budd, The Great Gatsby, Miss Lonelyhearts, and Seize the Day."
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.
Paula Fox has long been acclaimed as one of America's most brilliant fiction writers. Borrowed Finery, her first book in nearly a decade, is an astonishing memoir of her highly unusual beginnings.
Born in the twenties to nomadic, bohemian parents, Fox is left at birth in a Manhattan orphanage, then cared for by a poor yet cultivated minister in upstate New York. Her parents, however, soon resurface. Her handsome father is a hard-drinking screenwriter who is, for young Paula, "part ally, part betrayer." Her mother is given to icy bursts of temper that punctuate a deep indifference. How, Fox wonder, is this woman "enough of an organic being to have carried me in her belly"?
Never sharing more than a few moments with his daughter, Fox's father allows her to be shunted from New York City, where she lives with her passive Spanish grandmother, to Cuba, where she roams freely on a relative's sugar-cane plantation, to California, where she finds herself cast upon Hollywood's grubby margins. The thread binding these wanderings is the "borrowed finery" of the title-a few pieces of clothing, almost always lent by kind-hearted strangers, that offer Fox a rare glimpse of permanency.
Vivid and poetic, Borrowed Finery is an unforgettable book which will swell the legions of Paula Fox's devoted admiriers.
Poor George gives us George Mecklin, a restless, soft-spoken teacher at a private school in Manhattan. Depressed by his life of vague moral purpose, George discovers a local adolescent named Ernest breaking into his house. Rather than hand the boy over to the police, as his nagging wife insists, George instead decides to tutor him. His life consequently implodes. Filled with vividly acid portrayals of American life in the 1960s, prescient explorations of suburban anomie, and a riotously disturbing cast of supporting characters, Poor George is a classic American novel—further reminder of Paula Fox’s astonishing literary gifts.
With an introduction by Jonathan Lethem.