Helen Oyeyemi's Mr. Fox is one of the more delightful, and delightfully complex, selections on Amazon's
"http://www.amazon.com/Best-Books-of-the-Month/b/ref=bhp_bb0309A_botm5_A?ie=UTF8&node=390919011&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=browse&pf_rd_r=1F5TTT01DM5R43YJG8M6&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1321415182&pf_rd_i=283155/ref=blogs_omni_link">October Best Books of the Month. It's the fourth novel for Oyeyemi, who
was born in Nigeria and raised in London, and it's garnered a great deal of praise from national media, including NPR and the Boston Globe.
What's it about? Many intricate, tangled-together things. As Amazon's Heather Delieepan wrote, "[The novel] uses a series of interconnected vignettes
to capture the love triangle between wry, self-absorbed writer St. John Fox, his wife, Daphne, and his imagined muse, Mary Foxe. As his muse Mary takes
form on the page, St. John struggles to maintain his already tenuous marriage. Through different time periods and characters, he writes and rewrites
Mary Foxe as an embodiment of unrequited love"¦Through them all is the shared and often feverish complexity that comes with sustained relationships"¦.With
clever, tender, and often poignant prose, she captures the magic and heartbreak of the love story."
The novel mixes folktales and a certain meta-element, but those elements are really just a jumping off point for the novel's main conflict. As
Oyeyemi replied when I asked her about the idea of focus in the novel, "Yes, there're lots of disguises going on, appearances and disappearances and
reappearances; I took care not to abandon my interest in the central dispute between Mary and Mr. Fox"”the one about love and stories; Mary's very
serious about both, and Mr. Fox claims not to be serious about either. With a few of the stories I had to rewrite bits over and over until I felt both
sides had been addressed."
The very nature of Mr. Fox seems to indicate a continual process of discovery on the writer's part. When asked what surprised her the most while
working on the novel, Oyeyemi told me "Its unruliness, the way all the story's influences met and mixed together so that (to me) the book has an amiable
silliness to it rather than an anguished, conflicted personality. There are the fairy tale variants, the essays on fairy tales, the despairing gaiety I
get from reading Dorothy Parker, the maniacal logic of certain
Witold Gombrowicz stories, then Kharms...that nervous, inscrutable http://www.amazon.com/Daniil-Kharms/e/B001HOMAQA/ref=blogs_omni_link">Kharms,
some candidness that I wish was like Barbara Comyns' but is
probably just my own, plus wholesome Mills and Boon romances from the 1930s, and some fiddling about with the trope of the femme fatale, some Bronte
stuff... technically Mr. Fox ought to be unreadable."
And yet, it is instead much more than the sum of its parts, and for Oyeyemi "the only novel I've written that I'm still able to look at post-
publication without groaning overmuch. I only wish my mind didn't show through quite so much in this one. On the other hand, when I'm much older I'll be
able to look back and say "huh...so that was my idea of romance"”"
One of the best of the next generation of writers working in the interstices of realism and the fantastical, Oyeyemi seems set to keep delivering up
thought-provoking, emotive, and unclassifiable fiction for a long time to come. Indeed, she is already working on the next novel, which she says is
"completely different" from Mr. Fox.