Author: George Saunders
Type: Fiction, short story (Kindle single)
I read it: March 2016
Our book club just finished discussing Tenth of December, and someone commented about how the medium of the short story encourages artistic ambition when it comes to form. Saunders is all about form and the lyricality of language (not to the detriment of emotional impact, thankfully) which is further evidenced by a conversation between him and David Sedaris. He talks about following the story where it leads, and how avenues and detours can hinge on a single sentence, word, or syllable.
“Fox 8” is a letter written by a fox. It’s a completely misspelled, completely charming tract from an animal who discovers a “most amazing sound. Turns out, what that sound is, was: the Yuman voice, making werds. They sounded grate! They sounded like prety music!” Well, Mr. Saunders is in full command of his skills, because what he creates sounds amazing and prety and grate.
Plotwise, the story is kind of a super tight Watership Down, about a lower mammal coming to terms with encroaching humans. The poor fox has a childlike outlook, full of optimism and wonder (“Yumans! Always intresting.”), which inevitably sets him up for crushing despair. He basically wants to know wtf is up with human contradictions. You can see some of Saunders’ pet philosophies slipping in here, like when the fox wants to make peace with bears (bares) and “give them a speech about being nise.” A similar line popped up in “Tenth of December” when a dying character was regretting that he’d never be able to give his speech on compassion. Saunders did give that speech.
I read this story twice, because after the linguistic ticks lodged into my brain I wanted to keep hearing that music. Not to mention letting the beautiful and devastating realizations sink in, which can make you float on a sunny day or pop and descend so heavily. Sometimes it all hinges on a werd.