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Paula Fox (1923–2017)

Author of The Slave Dancer

42+ Works 7,724 Members 139 Reviews 7 Favorited

About the Author

Paula Fox was born in Manhattan, New York on April 22, 1923. She briefly studied piano at the Juilliard School and spent 3 years at Columbia University but didn't graduate. Before becoming a writer, she worked as a salesgirl, a model, a worker in a rivet-sorting shop, a lathe operator at Bethlehem show more Steel, and a teacher of troubled children. She wrote books for children and adults. Her children's books included Maurice's Room, Traces, Blowfish Live in the Sea, One-Eyed Cat, and The Eagle Kite. She received the Newbery Medal for The Slave Dancer in 1974 and the Hans Christian Andersen Award for her body of children's work in 1978. Her books for adults include Poor George, The Widow's Children, A Servant's Tale, and The God of Nightmares. Desperate Characters was adapted into a film starring Shirley MacLaine and Kenneth Mars. She also wrote two memoirs entitled Borrowed Finery and The Coldest Winter: A Stringer in Liberated Europe. She died on March 1, 2017 at the age of 93. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Works by Paula Fox

The Slave Dancer (1973) 2,422 copies
One-Eyed Cat (1984) 1,331 copies
Desperate Characters (1970) 910 copies
Monkey Island (1991) 417 copies
Borrowed Finery (2001) 390 copies
A Likely Place (1967) 217 copies
The Village by the Sea (1988) 208 copies
The Widow's Children (1976) 152 copies
Radiance Descending (1997) 132 copies
A Servant's Tale (1984) 132 copies
Western Wind (1891) 129 copies
The Moonlight Man (1986) 118 copies
Poor George: A Novel (1967) 99 copies
Maurice's Room (1966) 96 copies

Associated Works

The Best American Short Stories 2004 (2004) — Contributor — 548 copies
The Top Ten: Writers Pick Their Favorite Books (1997) — Contributor — 294 copies
Granta 84: Over There: How America Sees the World (2004) — Contributor — 227 copies
The Antiquaries Journal 99 (2019) — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge




Ron DeSantis and those who are afraid to have white children traumatized by the slave trade will try to go back in time and and ban this, but it is a chilling tale deserving of its Newbery Medal awarded in 1974. While playing his fife in New Orleans in the 1840's, an impoverished thirteen year old boy, Jessie, is kidnapped and brought aboard an American slave ship, The Moonlight, and forced to play music to keep the captured African men, women, and children from Benin in motion. Most of the sailors hate their lives and the officers aboard the ship, and when all hands but Jessie and Ras, an African boy his age, drown in a shipwreck, the reader will feel little remorse. The book is based upon actual historical documents and is probably best suited for 6th graders and up, and should be incorporated into a school lesson.… (more)
froxgirl | 37 other reviews | Apr 19, 2023 |
"...she was still smiling as the cat reared up on its hind legs, even as at struck at her with extended claws, smiling right up to that second when it sunk its teeth into the back of her left hand and hung from her flesh so that she nearly fell forward, stunned and horrified...."

Otto and Sophie Bentwood live in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. Otto is in the process of dissolving his longtime law partnership with Charlie Russell. Cracks are beginning to show in Otto and Sophie's marriage, and outside, all around are signs that civil society is falling apart.

One evening after dinner, Sophie gives a saucer of milk to a stray cat on their back porch. As she bends down to pet the cat, it viciously bites her. Over the next three days she ponders, Will she get rabies and die? or Will nothing happen? Sophies ambivalence was said, by Jonathan Franzen in the forward to the edition I read, to resemble Hamlet, a "morbidly self-conscious character who receives a disturbing and ambiguous message, undergoes torments while trying to decide what the message means...." Over the three days as Sophie tries to decide what to do, then waits test results, the book builds enormous suspense. I found the writing to be exquisite, and I underlined many phrases. (I will probably put a few at the end of this review). I will definitely be searching for more to read by Paula Fox

4 1/2 stars

Incidentally David Foster Wallace called this book "A towering landmark of postwar Realism." And Jonathan Franzen says this book and Fox are better than her contemporaries Updike, Roth, and Bellow.

First line: "Mr. and Mrs. Otto Bentwood drew out their chairs simultaneously."

Last lines: "The voice from the telephone went on and on like gas leaking from a pipe. Sophie and Otto had ceased to listen. Her arms fell away from his shoulders as they both turned slowly to the wall, turned until they could both see the ink running down to the floor in black lines...."

Here are a few more quotes:

"What the owners on the street lusted after was recognition of their superior comprehension of what counted in this world, and their strategy for getting it combined restraint and direction."

"All around them were official buildings, with the peculiarly threatening character. of large carnivorous animals momentarily asleep."

Otto and Charlie were like "smiling people in a swimming pool, kicking each other under water."

"She had only recently realized that one was old for a very ong time."
… (more)
1 vote
arubabookwoman | 38 other reviews | Dec 10, 2022 |
This was a tough read. I think it would be a real challenge for children. Very gritty and real world. A good education. I thought the writing was excellent. I will look for others by this author.
njcur | 37 other reviews | Jul 29, 2022 |
Pretty great story of a modern (circa 1970) NYC marriage, bookended by a feral cat bit and whether or not the wife has rabies. In the course of the short book, we have a window, mostly into the wife, her affair, her ennui, her discomfort with her unhappy husband. Wondering if there is any more- but both wife and husband are so empty ... just trying to go on and this is so well portrayed. The lack of connection between them is finally broken with the husband's outrage at his former law partner (yelling into the phone and the world) and he sees an ink bottle and throws it violently against the wall. The wife flung her arms around him so tightly that for a moment he could not move. Pretty beautiful. I heard about this because of the tv show called You.… (more)
1 vote
apende | 38 other reviews | Jul 12, 2022 |



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