Thursday, March 16, 2017

RIP Paula Fox

I am sad to write another “RIP” post, but it is important to me to stop and take note of writer’s lives and deaths, and to pay tribute to the work they did and the art that they have left to the world. Paula Fox was the author of several novels, two memoirs, and more than 20 books for children and young people. Her most famous book for adults was “Desperate Characters” (1970), a devastating novel about the end of a marriage. Her children’s books won many recognitions, including the very prestigious Newbery Medal. In 2013, she received the Paris Review’s Hadada Award for lifetime achievement. Fox had a difficult life, starting with being born unwanted and shuttled around to various relatives and friends during her childhood, and continuing with a couple of unsuccessful marriages and a mugging that left her with brain damage that it took years to overcome, among other misfortunes. It is therefore perhaps unsurprising that her work, as the New York Times obituary (3/3/17) put it, “illuminated lives filled with loss, dislocation, and abandonment.” I remember being fascinated, in a sad and depressed way, by “Desperate Characters,” which I read at an impressionable age, but also being struck by her sharp observations, her depictions of the minute details of her characters’ lives and surroundings. Even her children’s books did not shy away from difficult and painful topics, as Fox believed that “we do them [children] no service by trying to sugarcoat dark truths.” Fox died on March 1, 2017, in Brooklyn, at the age of 93.
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