Paula Fox Dies

9780689845055Newbery Medal-winning author Paula Fox has died at 93.

9780312425197She wrote over 20 novels for young people, including her 1974 Newbery winner, The Slave Dancer (S&S/Atheneum; Penguin Audio/Listening LibraryOverDrive Sample), about the African slave trade. She won the National Book Critics Circle award for her 2001 memoir Borrowed Finery (Macmillan/Picador; OverDrive Sample). She also won the Hans Christian Andersen Award and a PEN Literary award. One of her best-known novels for adults, Desperate Characters (Norton; OverDrive Sample), was adapted into a film starring Shirley MacLaine.

9780393318944In spite of early accolades, her work was largely forgotten, writes the LA Times, until Jonathan Franzen called Desperate Characters an overlooked masterpiece in a 1996 Harper’s magazine piece about American fiction headlined “Perchance to dream.” That in turn caught the eye of a young Norton editorial assistant, Tom Bissell and the publisher reissued all of Fox’s adult novels, with introductory essays by Franzen, Jonathan Lethem, Frederick Busch, Andrea Barrett, and others. David Foster Wallace was also an admirer, calling Desperate Characters “A towering landmark of postwar Realism. . . . A sustained work of prose so lucid and fine it seems less written than carved.”

The NYT says “Her characters are complex, self-contained and often withdrawn, but their ruminative interior states lend the narratives a quiet luminosity … As a stylist, she was known for her impeccable, almost anatomical, depictions of the material world. In the Paula Fox universe, objects take on heightened importance, as if rearing up to fill the gaps left by characters’ failure to make real connections.”

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