The big short
Last year’s Booker winner George Saunders’ new book is mini but mighty
Fox 8: a Story by US author George Saunders, is so teeny that even calling it a novella would be a stretch. It takes half an hour to read and only makes it to nearish 50 pages thanks to very generous page borders and diverting linedrawing illustrations by Chelsea Cardinal. Still, when it comes to delivering pathos, humour and character with trip-along efficiency, underestimate Saunders at your peril. The fox of the title is an actual fox, who has learned to speak “yuman” by sitting outside a bedroom window eavesdropping on a mother reading to her kids, and is now writing a letter to mankind to explain some recent heavy experiences — the disappearance of the “wuds”, the arrival of a “mawl” — and ask them, “What’s up?” The genre here is loosely a fable — “the fox who cried wolf” essentially, as his warnings about the arrival of mankind go unheeded — though the moral of the story is purposefully unresolved. Fox 8’s grasp of English is, as he might say, “crewd”, but his ear pricks up for contemporary dialogue, such as this overheard exchange between humans: “One woslike: OK, I will meet you at the Fud Cort when you are done with your lip waks. And the other woslike: if you are late I will total lee kill you, Meggen.” Not many writers could write convincing human dialogue through the filter of a semi-literate vulpine, but Saunders is a masta at werk.
Fox 8: a Story is out 15 November (Bloomsbury)