Fox 8: A Story
Random House 2013
Reviewed by Bob Wake
According to the L.A. Times literary blog Jacket Copy, George Saunders chose to leave “Fox 8” out of his recently published collection Tenth of December because he felt it was “asking one stretch too many from the reader.” I get that. In fact, I much prefer reading the occasional Saunders story in The New Yorker rather than compiled in short story collections. His stories, artfully spun and eccentrically self-contained, can seem overly precious and “worked up” when set side by side. That said, he’s written more than his share of masterful short stories. “Fox 8,” which began life as a failed children’s book, is as memorable as anything Saunders has written, which is to say it will stay with you because of qualities it shares with timeless, even mythic storytelling.
The story is narrated by a visionary fox struggling to convince his starving den comrades that their only chance for survival is to strike out in quest of food at the newly constructed shopping mall that has displaced their habitat. “Fox 8” is actually an epistolary fable, written as a beseeching letter to the humans whose language Fox 8 has learned, if not precisely mastered, as a kind of earthy Chaucerian Middle English: “Stay in your awesum howses, play your music lowd, however you make it play so lowd, yap your Yuman jokes, sending forth your crood laffter into the nite.” Also worth noting about this very cool 99-cent ebook are the wonderful illustrations by graphic designer Chelsea Cardinal (the sharp cover design is hers as well).