Fox 8 by George Saunders

published 2018


Who knows where George Saunders’ head is coming from? I loved his Lincoln in the Bardo, which resembles no other book. And I love this short story, Fox 8 – beautifully tricked out as a mini-book here, with seductive illustrations by Chelsea Cardinal – which is also out on its own.

I thought of finding fox pictures in my usual blogpost manner, but it seemed a complete waste of time when these ones were so perfectly matched with the text.

This may be a children’s book, or just a book for everyone. It’s narrated by Fox 8, who gambols around his neighbourhood with a great interest in everything. By creeping up on a house where a parent reads to the children, he has learned to talk and also read what he calls Yuman. His version is largely phonetic (but, y’know, better than our knowledge of fox language) and thus full of strange spellings and sentences that you have to take a leap at. I am the first to complain about this usually, but in this case I was completely entranced, and absolutely fell in love with Fox 8 and his vivid imagination and keenness to make friends (and yet I can feel that I am making this sound twee and childish, when it SO isn’t.)

His neighbourhood is severely affected by the building of a mall, and his crew of foxes are running out of food. He and a friend try to get some food from the mall… but this goes wrong. Eventually he finds a new set of foxes and lives happily with them.

No, it’s just impossible to describe without making it sound like the kind of book I normally hate. Or too much like Watership Down.

But Fox 8 says ‘Why did the Curator do it so rong, making the groop with the gratest skills the meenest?’

 And he ends up ‘If you want your Storys to end happy, try being nicer.’

Fair comment.

He’s a lot more real than most fully-rounded characters in most modern novels. I will remember him for a long time. He and his world are so well-imagined. His turn of phrase is so brilliant.

Once long ago I daydreemed those Yumans invited me in and let me hold there Baby. And that Baby luvved me so much, we soon jerneyed to Collage together, whering are little Collage Hats! It was grate!...

But when I came home and told my Foxes about going to Collage with the Baby, they did not beleeve me. To proov it, I decided to show them my Collage Hat.

Which was when I remembered I had daydreamed the hold thing.

The only Collage Hat I had was in my brane!

Tray embarrassing.

The story takes less than half an hour to read, and I would recommend it to anyone. It can be instructive to read negative reviews of a book you like, and it is clear that some people were annoyed beyond reason by the style of this book. I gave it to someone recently as a birthday present and he hated it, and had no qualms about telling me so. 'Couldn't make head or tail and the illustrations could have been done by a child of four. I seem to remember the rabbits in Watership Down were a lot more articulate...' But you would lose nothing by trying it.

Hola Fox8, may you live forever with Fox SmallNose/Alert+Funny, and the pups.


  1. What an interesting-sounding story, Moira! I don't think I've ever read a story before that was narrated by a fox! And it sounds as though he has some good things to say, too. Hmm.....very different to things I usually read, but so interesting!

    1. It really is. And - as I keep saying, and always a recommendation to me - nice and short.


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