Books »Poor George

poor george paula foxIf you read this blog often then you'll know that suburban ennui and the middle aged, troubled men who get caught in its wake is a theme that has struck our interest big time, and appears in many of our favorite books.

From John Updike's Rabbit series, to the work of David Gates, to Appointment in Samara, what we've termed “the asshole man story” has always been popular among writers.

In Poor George we have a similar tale, taking place in 1960s Westchester County suburbs, only this time, the writer is the terribly gifted children's book author, Paula Fox–and it reads like a woman wrote it.

Rather than self loathing mixed with self-fascination, Fox enters the life of a man in crisis with the smirk of a sly observer as well as unusual sympathetic kindness and tenderness. Plus she has a wicked sense of humor. The deft rendering of the female characters, who are complex and layered is another dead giveaway that there is a complex and layered woman behind the typewriter.

Poor George is a private high school teacher with no enthusiasm for his job, his students, or maybe even his wife. When, Ernest, a young miscreant enters his life, he finds a new passion for living; a calling to “save” the boy at the expense of everything else in his life.

I know, it sounds so dreary, and at times can be, but I was surprised by the wit and humor with which the small and large crisises of the book are handled. Fox is a masterful writer of snide descriptors and more than once I had to stop and appreciate the utterly simple beauty of her wicked sentences.

Strangely, despite being a beloved author of her time, this novel was only recently republished.

Soon Jim will be recommending a great companion piece to this, Revolutionary Road, a novel with similar themes set in the same time period.

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Posted on November 19, 2007

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