Confessions of the Fox

Confessions of the Fox

A Novel

Book - 2018
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"Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation. Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No one knows Jack's true story--his confessions have never been found. That is, until Dr. Voth discovers a mysterious stack of papers titled Confessions of the Fox. Dated 1724, the manuscript tells the story of an orphan named P. Sold into servitude at twelve, P struggles for years with her desire to live as "Jack." When P falls dizzyingly in love with Bess, a sex worker looking for freedom of her own, P begins to imagine a different life. Bess brings P into the London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with London's newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of an oncoming plague abound. At last, P becomes Jack Sheppard, one of the most notorious--and most wanted--thieves in history. An imaginative retelling of Brecht's Threepenny Opera, Confessions of the Fox blends high-spirited adventure, subversive history, and provocative wit to animate forgotten histories and the extraordinary characters hidden within"-- Provided by publisher
"Jack Sheppard and Edgeworth Bess were the most notorious thieves, jailbreakers, and lovers of eighteenth-century London. Yet no one knows the true story; their confessions have never been found. Until now. Reeling from heartbreak, a scholar named Dr. Voth discovers a long-lost manuscript--a gender-defying exposé of Jack and Bess's adventures. Is Confessions of the Fox an authentic autobiography or a hoax? As Dr. Voth is drawn deeper into Jack and Bess's tale of underworld resistance and gender transformation, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined--and only a miracle will save them all. Writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov, Jordy Rosenberg is an audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent."--Publisher's description
Publisher: New York : One World, [2018]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©2018
ISBN: 9780399592270
Branch Call Number: FICTION ROSENBERG 2018
Characteristics: xiv, 329 pages ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Like in Pale Fire there is a whole story in the footnotes. Also, thrilling and original historical fiction in the body of the text.

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Dec 27, 2019

Caleidoscopic tale of 18th century London underworld. (Transgender, academic, joyous mash-up of literary genres)

Aug 28, 2019

When Dr. Voth is handed an old book at a campus library clear-out sale, he never expects it to be Confessions of the Fox, the true-life memoirs of famed 18th-century British jailbreaker Jack Sheppard. Nor does he expect to find, within those pages, a vibrant queer community and Jack Sheppard named as trans himself, all earlier than any other record of queer and trans identities in the Western world. Haunted by the specter of P-Quad Publishing Company, who appear as a double metaphor for administrative oversight in academia and the privacy violation of the trans community by the prying, inappropriately-curious cis gaze, Voth treads the tightrope of providing an authentically queer reading of the work without giving P-Quad the invasively “what do his genitals look like” view of the story they so blatantly desire.
I did like the story quite a bit, as might be clear from the above synopsis, but the footnotes, which were supposed to be the most interesting part of the book, detracted instead. Often I’d be reading through Jack and Bess’ adventures and be sidelined for an unrelated footnote about Voth’s former girlfriend for a page and a half. Not exactly a smooth transition. And it would make me worried I’d forget what was happening in the main story as I tracked through the footnote. My other complaint regarding this piece was the rather abrupt ending. As the footnotes started on the mother of all tangents, the main story started to fizzle out, and never gave me a satisfactory ending to Jack’s story. The book did motivate me to learn more about Sheppard, however, who I had never heard of before reading this work.

Jan 20, 2019

A professor of 18th century literature finds an 18th century manuscript about a renowned transgender thief (loosely based on "Three-Penny-Opera" and transcribes it with footnotes. The novel becomes a palimpsest, sexual adventure, and survival story of marginalized people. Tantalizes with 18th century slang, details of squalid London life, and the parallel plot surrounding the professor (also transgender). Blurs the line between miracles, legend, and social revolution. "Imaginative" is too bland a word for this book.

SnoIsleLib_LindseyA Oct 27, 2018

This book will not be for everyone. If you're not used to old English slang, you may find this a difficult read. Footnotes prove to be a double-edged sword. Pausing the story to read these can make it drag, especially when Dr. Voth, the fictional translator goes on tangents, but you will gain historical insight and learn the definitions of slang such as "smish" (shirt) and "bat house" (brothel).

That said, I loved it, and I firmly believe this book will have a passionate audience. It's a literary adventure, a loving satire, a reclaiming of history for marginalized people, and it's full of skullduggery and romance. Rosenberg is quite a writer. He wields fantastic, inventive metaphors, and there's an earthy eroticism to his writing that I find very rare.

I was drawn to this book for its reimagining of a historical figure (Jack Sheppard, 18th century master thief) as a transman. I left it feeling clearheaded in a way, and with so much love for these characters.

Sep 09, 2018

Rosenberg takes us on an energetic expedition into Dr. Vox's (trans)lation of an 18th century manuscript about a famous thief Jack Sheppard. The reader follows the escapades and capers which then is followed by Vox's footnotes and telling of his own present circumstances. The vivid description of characters and rich and wild escapades are sure to take you on a ride full of gaudy, amusing, and incredibly inventive narrative.

Aug 26, 2018

I loved this book. It was exciting to encounter such a heady mix of ideas, humour and resistance in a very good story.

Aug 25, 2018

I hope the author had as much fun writing this as I had reading it. I had to stop and laugh a few times. And he even refs 2 sf novels by SRD in a footnote that are among my favorites! What else could one want?

JCLTamiT Aug 15, 2018

I had a hard time selecting a star-rating for this one. It started out hard to put down. I really enjoyed the early part of Jack's story, and even liked Voth's story in the footnotes. As the book went on, though, I found it harder and harder to pick back up. Voth's story got extremely convoluted, academic, and a bit too meta for me. Jack's story remained pretty entertaining (though the best was definitely the first part), and was what got me to finish the book. There are some interesting themes, but maybe it just tried to say too much.

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