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Confessions of the Fox

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Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation. Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No o Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation. Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No one knows Jack’s true story—his confessions have never been found. That is, until Dr. Voth discovers a mysterious stack of papers titled Confessions of the Fox. Dated 1724, the manuscript tells the story of an orphan named P. Sold into servitude at twelve, P struggles for years with her desire to live as “Jack.” When P falls dizzyingly in love with Bess, a sex worker looking for freedom of her own, P begins to imagine a different life. Bess brings P into the London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with London’s newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of an oncoming plague abound. At last, P becomes Jack Sheppard, one of the most notorious—and most wanted—thieves in history. Back in the present, Dr. Voth works feverishly day and night to authenticate the manuscript. But he’s not the only one who wants Jack’s story—and some people will do whatever it takes to get it. As both Jack and Voth are drawn into corruption and conspiracy, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined—and only a miracle will save them both. An imaginative retelling of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, Confessions of the Fox blends high-spirited adventure, subversive history, and provocative wit to animate forgotten histories and the extraordinary characters hidden within.


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Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation. Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No o Set in the eighteenth century London underworld, this bawdy, genre-bending novel reimagines the life of thief and jailbreaker Jack Sheppard to tell a profound story about gender, love, and liberation. Recently jilted and increasingly unhinged, Dr. Voth throws himself into his work, obsessively researching the life of Jack Sheppard, a legendary eighteenth century thief. No one knows Jack’s true story—his confessions have never been found. That is, until Dr. Voth discovers a mysterious stack of papers titled Confessions of the Fox. Dated 1724, the manuscript tells the story of an orphan named P. Sold into servitude at twelve, P struggles for years with her desire to live as “Jack.” When P falls dizzyingly in love with Bess, a sex worker looking for freedom of her own, P begins to imagine a different life. Bess brings P into the London underworld where scamps and rogues clash with London’s newly established police force, queer subcultures thrive, and ominous threats of an oncoming plague abound. At last, P becomes Jack Sheppard, one of the most notorious—and most wanted—thieves in history. Back in the present, Dr. Voth works feverishly day and night to authenticate the manuscript. But he’s not the only one who wants Jack’s story—and some people will do whatever it takes to get it. As both Jack and Voth are drawn into corruption and conspiracy, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined—and only a miracle will save them both. An imaginative retelling of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, Confessions of the Fox blends high-spirited adventure, subversive history, and provocative wit to animate forgotten histories and the extraordinary characters hidden within.

30 review for Confessions of the Fox

  1. 3 out of 5

    Jessica Woodbury

    Historical fiction tends to be very cis, straight, and white. There are a few authors out there intent on changing that and Jordy Rosenberg's new novel is one of the most ambitious ones yet. It was pitched to me as Sarah Waters meets Vladimir Nabokov and I was like, "Sign me the hell up!" and it's a surprisingly good pitch. The story is from a discovered manuscript, full of thievery and action and lots of sex; and there is also a Pale-Fire-esque second narrative that plays out entirely through f Historical fiction tends to be very cis, straight, and white. There are a few authors out there intent on changing that and Jordy Rosenberg's new novel is one of the most ambitious ones yet. It was pitched to me as Sarah Waters meets Vladimir Nabokov and I was like, "Sign me the hell up!" and it's a surprisingly good pitch. The story is from a discovered manuscript, full of thievery and action and lots of sex; and there is also a Pale-Fire-esque second narrative that plays out entirely through footnotes in that manuscript. I never thought I'd see someone attempt another Pale Fire, and I certainly never thought they would pull it off. Dr. Voth's footnotes are occasionally simply academic in nature, complete with citations and thoughts on queer theory or history. But the footnotes grow more and more unhinged (and occasionally even speak to each other) as Voth's position at the university is put almost entirely in the control of a giant pharmaceutical-military-industrial-complex of a company that's subsidizing the university. Voth is also having a bit of a personal crisis that is only inflamed by the manuscript. Voth, like the manuscript's Jack Sheppard, is a trans man who loves a woman passionately, though Voth has lost his love. The manuscript opens up something in Voth, there is power in seeing yourself represented on the page after all, but the world begins to close in on him the way it does on Jack. Hijinks, of course, ensue. I am confident that there is an audience that will passionately adore this book and give it a kind of cult following and I would very much like for that audience to find this book. So who falls into this category? People who love academia and satires of academia, people interested in queer history, people who like nontraditional narratives, people who are super into 18th century history. As an extra bonus, everyone who reads this book will get a variety of swear words and slang for genitalia that may or may not actually be from the 18th century. (I couldn't tell you if these are real or just delightfully invented by our author, but they are all fantastic.) I enjoyed this book quite a lot, though sometimes I admired it more than enjoyed it. This is very much a subjective me-as-a-reader thing. I left academia long ago, I read virtually no 18th century writing and very little historical fiction, and my interest was almost entirely in the trans characters in the book, especially trans men who aren't represented as often as trans women. (And I'm an absolute sucker for a Waters + Nabokov hook, what can I say?) It took me a couple weeks to read it, but I stuck with it for a few chapters every night. For me it was best digested that way, a little at a time. Though in the middle, especially during Jack's scenes with Bess (so steamy!) where I would get really lost in the story. I really love a big swing, and this is a hell of a big swing. I'm excited that it exists and I'm thrilled that it found a publisher who is putting it out there.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Blair

    Jack Sheppard is a real historical figure, 'a notorious English thief and gaol-breaker of early 18th-century London'. In Confessions of the Fox, Professor R. Voth turns up a hitherto-undiscovered biography of Sheppard – allegedly an authentic original – at a university book sale, and sets about investigating and annotating it. What makes this story distinctive is that Voth is a trans man, and as he pores over the manuscript, he realises Jack is trans too. The manuscript tells of Jack's crimes, h Jack Sheppard is a real historical figure, 'a notorious English thief and gaol-breaker of early 18th-century London'. In Confessions of the Fox, Professor R. Voth turns up a hitherto-undiscovered biography of Sheppard – allegedly an authentic original – at a university book sale, and sets about investigating and annotating it. What makes this story distinctive is that Voth is a trans man, and as he pores over the manuscript, he realises Jack is trans too. The manuscript tells of Jack's crimes, his relationship with his lover Bess (who, in another detail absent from other historical accounts, is of South Asian heritage), and his efforts to evade 'Thief-Taker General' Jonathan Wild; but it is also the story of Jack becoming his true self, finding liberation through presentation, companionship, sex and love. Part clever satire, part subversive and audacious reimagining of history, the Jack portion of the book is outstanding. If the ways in which it plays with narrative are not always convincingly contemporary, it carries you along in a way that a) makes you feel this is all part of the game and b) is entertaining enough that it doesn't matter. It's also genuinely enlightening about trans identity and sexuality. At times it is hard to read, but that's the point. Some passages describing Jack's experiences with dysphoria brought tears to my eyes. He'd imagin'd this would be easy—this saying himself into being—but now it didn't feel entirely right or True. He became loosed from his Body, floating up to the splintered-beam ceiling of the pub. He look'd down quizzically at himself saying "Jack," and it seemed so ridiculous to have thought he could ever be Jack—and now she look'd at him quizzically too—and he wanted to slip through the ceiling-planks and fly out of the pub in Shame. Jack is a wonderful creation. His journey of self-actualisation, transformation and fulfillment, culminating in near-literal rebirth, will both break your heart and make you feel ecstatic. Voth's contribution, told almost entirely through footnotes, is unfortunately possessed of an unevenness that doesn't affect the Jack narrative. It starts really well: the prologue is fantastic. But as it goes on, Voth starts talking more about his personal life than the manuscript, and while I can see what Rosenberg is trying to do here, I think overall it's a misstep. Despite the increasingly villainous behaviour of the university, Voth comes off as pompous, sleazy and difficult to like. The intriguing developments in his situation towards the end feel unfinished; I wish we could've had more room for elaboration on this and less of him going on about his ex. So Confessions of the Fox isn't perfect, but it's a really exciting, important novel. People (me included) are always saying books are 'like nothing else' but, really – this is like nothing else. Not because of the story, exactly, but because of the unique way it conceptualises and contextualises the trans experience. At its heart, it's a bigger story than Jack Sheppard, an origin story with such scope it might be as close as it gets to universal. It's thrilling in a way most novels couldn't dream of being. I received an advance review copy of Confessions of the Fox from the publisher through Edelweiss. TinyLetter | Twitter | Instagram | Tumblr

  3. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    Confessions of the Fox has a fascinating premise: a recently heart-broken professor has uncovered and is annotating a long-lost manuscript that exposes the gender-defying true story about two notorious thieves who were lovers in 18th-century London. Unfortunately, this was just an overly tedious read for me. The seemingly never-ending footnotes acted as a third (or fourth?) plot line, and the back and forth between the notes and the story made it impossible to get immersed at all in any story wh Confessions of the Fox has a fascinating premise: a recently heart-broken professor has uncovered and is annotating a long-lost manuscript that exposes the gender-defying true story about two notorious thieves who were lovers in 18th-century London. Unfortunately, this was just an overly tedious read for me. The seemingly never-ending footnotes acted as a third (or fourth?) plot line, and the back and forth between the notes and the story made it impossible to get immersed at all in any story whatsoever. While this was definitely not my cuppa, it might be appreciated by those who enjoy a more challenging read. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing me with a free digital review copy.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Caidyn (SEMI-HIATUS; BW Reviews; he/him/his)

    This review can also be found on my blog! CW: racism, sex work, graphic sex scenes, surgery, and gender dysphoria All at once, this book was made for me but also not. It was a hard book for me to read and rate. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, so welcome to me rambling about the book. While reading this, I was under a lot of stress. (Still am stressed but a lot less than I was.) When I’m stressed, I don’t always pay attention to books I’m reading. I just, well, can’t focus. And this bo This review can also be found on my blog! CW: racism, sex work, graphic sex scenes, surgery, and gender dysphoria All at once, this book was made for me but also not. It was a hard book for me to read and rate. I’m still not quite sure how I feel about it, so welcome to me rambling about the book. While reading this, I was under a lot of stress. (Still am stressed but a lot less than I was.) When I’m stressed, I don’t always pay attention to books I’m reading. I just, well, can’t focus. And this book takes a lot of focus to read. I couldn’t dedicate my mind to it as much as it deserved. So, this is kind of on me. So, what is this book about? It’s told in two ways. One through the actual story of Jack Sheppard and Bess, a thief and a sex worker in 18th century England. The other through Dr. Voth, a college professor. Dr. Voth finds a manuscript in the library and takes it home, reading it and finding that it’s another work about Jack Sheppard, an infamous thief. But, this document isn’t like the others. Like Dr. Voth, Jack Sheppard is a transman. And his accomplice (usually a man) is an Indian or South East Asian sex worker. Obviously, it’s super diverse right off the bat. Even better, it’s ownvoices. Rosenberg is a transman writing a story with two transmale MCs. I mean, that’s amazing. I’ve talked about it before, but transmen get forgotten. We’re the invisible ones in the world. It’s not always bad, but it’s hard when you’re trying to find a role model. Dr. Voth tells his story — both his life story as a transman and his journey annotating this work — through footnotes. Now, I don’t like footnotes in fiction stories. I can barely tolerate them in nonfiction. Footnotes annoy me because they pull me out of the story in the middle of a sentence or paragraph. I can handle footnotes that are one word or a quick sentence, but the ones in this book can be pages long. I think I counted three pages one time. And I hated that. So, not only was I stressed, but I was reading a story told in a way that pulls me out of the story. It was also hard to read because Jack Sheppard’s story is written in 18th century English. Not easy to read at all, although it was easier to keep track of when there were no footnotes. This is also a very literary story. Dear Rosenberg is a professor of 18th-century literature and queer/trans theory. That’s what this book is largely about, too. I found it overwhelming because I don’t have any expertise. I actually recommended this book to my friend who studied queer/gender theory because I thought she might get more out of the story than I did. As a layman, it was overwhelming, though. A lot of it went over my head, admittedly. I also wasn’t crazy about the ending, although how much I liked the message. And that’s what it comes down to. I love the message but not the carry-out. I want to own the book to reread it at my leisure later, but the message is amazing. I actually texted myself something I thought of while I was reading the ending. And the ending got me a bit emotional, at least from Dr. Voth’s perspective. Jack’s, I wasn’t crazy about, but I liked what Dr. Voth got out of the story because it was what I thought of. But, here’s what I texted myself: We are here. We have always been here. It is you who have denied our existence and our humanity. But we have always been here. We have always been normal. Throughout history, queer and non-white stories have been suppressed and denied. As a transman, it’s like I’m some “new” and “radical” thing when, really, people AFAB (Assigned Female At Birth) but don’t fit the “normal” gender roles have always been there. I wouldn’t exactly call them transmen, but people who feel more comfortable in male roles have always been around. Same with non-white people. And that’s what this book is about at its heart. We have always been here. It’s just that the masses have tried ignoring us. In short, this book was one I thought I would love and give five stars to. But, due to life circumstances, the way the story was told, and the direction the story took, I didn’t love it. However, I think that if you want to read a very affirming ownvoices story about transmen throughout history, I highly suggest it.

  5. 3 out of 5

    Wotgermaine

    This is a queering and de-whiting of the historical legend of Jack Sheppard, the master gaolbreaker, thief, and carpenter of 1720’s London. Wait, it’s the framing narrative of the academic who finds and edits Sheppard’s journal. No, actually it’s the hot romantic account of Jack and his more-than-lover Bess as well as the erotic and professional wanderings of the academic. And also, it’s a monstrous ride down the Thames in a little boat, where maybe you can hear Moll Flanders, Oroonoko, Tom Jone This is a queering and de-whiting of the historical legend of Jack Sheppard, the master gaolbreaker, thief, and carpenter of 1720’s London. Wait, it’s the framing narrative of the academic who finds and edits Sheppard’s journal. No, actually it’s the hot romantic account of Jack and his more-than-lover Bess as well as the erotic and professional wanderings of the academic. And also, it’s a monstrous ride down the Thames in a little boat, where maybe you can hear Moll Flanders, Oroonoko, Tom Jones, and Tristram Shandy calling to each other in London cant from the shite-clogged, fogbound shores. I read Confessions of the Fox as an advance reader copy, knowing only that it was categorized as LGBTQ, thinking it might be a hist-rom, but knowing nothing more. It is SO much more that I won’t labor to (mis)place it in a genre. What you really need to know is that on several occasions---sometimes over the span of only twenty pages, sometimes in public places—I found myself gaping, saying “Oh my god!”, and smacking my hand to my forehead as I watched events unfold. The book is tied to the facts known about Sheppard’s life, and as with all queering, there is in that life ample territory that History has glossed over. Speaking of glossing, you may find old mates like Defoe and Spinoza (!) taking the mic, but also Marx, Foucault, and Felix Guattari. What and how, you ask? Wavy finger: you have to read it. When you do read Confessions of the Fox, know that you’re going to come unwrapped. Or come, unwrapped. You, like me, may have to take intensity breaks from time to time, just to grok the emotions and stop plastering yourself against the glass as you strain toward characters whose survival depends on dealing with the monstrous. In public but most importantly in private. Notes with different types of readers in mind: 1.) philosophy occupies this book at some points. The characters bring it up, so don’t let its philosophy-ness stop you. It’s how they think, and it adds to the mind-blow of the last 10% of the book. 2.) the book takes no prisoners (pun intended) when it comes to sex and politics, and some scenes approach a Grand Guignol feeling. For me, this added to the surprise, poignancy, and beauty of the book. Know that it will come. The best feature of the book (for me) is the narrative voice of the academic. Highly educated, sexy, neurotic, and incapable of protecting himself, his account rises and falls like a broken carnival ride. And he’s funny: “I know that technically speaking, I look like I could do someone pretty good. I’m aware that I have this sleazy but not creepy (says I!) demeanor. It’s sort of cultivated but it’s also just there—this wiry, wolfish aspect. You look at me and you just know you wouldn’t have to be embarrassed by any shit you wanted to do or get done to you because I’m already giving this kind of shameless, gross vibe. And clearly Ursula already knows everything about me, since she’s my pharmacist for crissake. So that’s a green light right there.” Four ½ stars: not light reading, but it’s a gorgeous graft of richness upon richness.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Valerie Best

    Recently dumped college professor, Dr. Voth, discovers the diaries of 18th century master thief Jack Sheppard. The novel is Dr. Voth’s painstaking transcription of the manuscript and their own increasingly frantic personal footnotes. So, ultimately, what you have is two stories, kind of cunningly layered over each other. I’ll be honest, it felt like a little too much work at first, but, I’m a sucker for footnotes, and, by the end, I was into it. Jack’s story is the one more extensively told. It’s Recently dumped college professor, Dr. Voth, discovers the diaries of 18th century master thief Jack Sheppard. The novel is Dr. Voth’s painstaking transcription of the manuscript and their own increasingly frantic personal footnotes. So, ultimately, what you have is two stories, kind of cunningly layered over each other. I’ll be honest, it felt like a little too much work at first, but, I’m a sucker for footnotes, and, by the end, I was into it. Jack’s story is the one more extensively told. It’s of an orphan, P, who is sold, essentially, to a man who makes tufted footstools for aristocratic pets. After years, P figures out how to escape and begins to build their identity as Jack Sheppard, master thief. Jack’s story was interesting and really colorful, and taught me a bunch of 18th-century words for prostitute, but, as the book went on, I actually found Dr. Voth’s story more compelling. Which is, I assume, the risk you run, layering stories, rather than shifting narrators. This is not a drawback, necessarily, just a note. Both stories were compelling, I just tend to gravitate toward smaller, more intimate stories, and I liked Dr. Voth’s run of Thomas Pynchon-bad bad luck. The way they break the fourth wall to directly address the reader, the casual fury with nonsense academia, the revolt against the giant monolithic corporation trying to commandeer the manuscript, their palpable (and darkly hilarious) decent into paranoia and madness, excitement about discoveries about the manuscript while transcribing the manuscript, making the book feel like a living thing—it all worked for me. Dr. Voth’s excitement about the manuscript concerns its significance as the first known account of a transgender writer, and their desperation to authenticate the manuscript feels like it has significance far outside the fiction of Dr. Voth. This is a hugely ambitious novel, and I think it works best if you check expectations at the outset. Oh, probably being familiar with Brecht’s Three Penny Opera wouldn’t hurt either.

  7. 3 out of 5

    M.

    An experimental alternate-history anti-colonial prison-abolitionist hella-queer (and very sexy) feminist trans novel. It's thrilling to watch Rosenberg at play. Among other things (form (the interaction of the 'old' and new texts provides not just a critical framework but an affective one, too) and character (I love Jack and Bess separately, and together)), I was wowed by what seems like pyrotechnic linguistic skill -- and invention -- and a tightly sprung, magnificently orchestrated plot. Whew! An experimental alternate-history anti-colonial prison-abolitionist hella-queer (and very sexy) feminist trans novel. It's thrilling to watch Rosenberg at play. Among other things (form (the interaction of the 'old' and new texts provides not just a critical framework but an affective one, too) and character (I love Jack and Bess separately, and together)), I was wowed by what seems like pyrotechnic linguistic skill -- and invention -- and a tightly sprung, magnificently orchestrated plot. Whew! And making so much more space for what 'the trans novel' can be and do. (Not to suggest it's *only* a trans novel but that it is one, thoroughly and explicitly.) TEN STARS

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    What is this? Well, a damn hard book to review, to start. On one level we have what is presented as the 'recently discovered autobiography' of Jack Sheppard, real-life petty thief and escapee from jail in early 1700s London. Sheppard lived fast and died young, then proceeded to become an enormously famous figure in English folklore, probably most recognizable today as the inspiration for "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" in The Threepenny Opera. But Confessions of the Fox is in fact a novel, and th What is this? Well, a damn hard book to review, to start. On one level we have what is presented as the 'recently discovered autobiography' of Jack Sheppard, real-life petty thief and escapee from jail in early 1700s London. Sheppard lived fast and died young, then proceeded to become an enormously famous figure in English folklore, probably most recognizable today as the inspiration for "The Ballad of Mack the Knife" in The Threepenny Opera. But Confessions of the Fox is in fact a novel, and though it otherwise mostly stays close to the facts and dates (as we know them) of Jack's life, here Jack is a transman, his girlfriend Bess is the daughter of a South Asian man who was press-ganged by the East India Company before escaping into an independant communal society hidden away in the fens of East Anglia, and his best friend Aurie is a black gay man. Just to be clear, I am all for this presentation of a multiracial queer history. A second level of story is presented through footnotes, much like House of Leaves (though infinitely less confusing than that book, since we only have two levels of story here rather than the four or five in House of Leaves). This narrator is Dr R. Voth, a professor of English literature who is editing Jack's "autobiography" for publication and who is a transman himself. Voth alternates between telling mundane stories of his life – his ex, his job troubles, his attempts to ask out a neighbor – and citing genuine academic sources to provide context for Jack's story. Voth is fictional but his sources are not, which makes for an unsettling mixture of truth and imagination; I think I would have assumed the academic footnotes were also fictional if I hadn't happened to recognize several early ones. I've read Gretchen Gerzina's Black London: Life Before Emancipation and Walter Johnson's Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, among others, and seeing them mentioned by a fictional character was like water to the face, confusing my assumption of what was real and what wasn't. As the story goes on, "P-Quad Publishers and Pharmaceuticals" in association with "Militia.edu" attempts to take control of Jack's autobiography and Voth's work on it, leading both levels of Confessions of the Fox to become critiques of the commodification of the body and its experiences, capitalism in general, the history of the discovery and modern patenting of synthetic testosterone, and how historical biographies enter (or, more often, don't enter) the archive. Which leaves us in an odd place. If you didn't instantly recognize what I meant by The Archive in that previous line, if you're one of the vast majority of humans on Earth who haven't read Appadurai's "Commodities and the Politics of Value", then I'm not sure this book is interested in talking to you. Certainly if Rosenberg ever bothered to explain any of these concepts in an introductory way I missed it. On the other hand, if you, like me, are an overeducated liberal who can nod pretentiously at sentences like "A commodity is an entity without qualities", then I'm not sure Confessions of the Fox has anything new to say to you. It restates various queer, postcolonial, and Marxist theories without adding anything to them or combining them in interesting ways. Like, sure, we all agree with Foucault that prisons form the model for surveillance and discipline by the wider society, but so what? Do something with that idea, expand upon it, challenge it, or else there's no reason to read Rosenberg's book if you've already read Foucault's. So then who is Confessions of the Fox for? I have genuinely no idea. The love story between Jack and Bess or the adventure of Jack's exploits should have been enough to carry their half of the story. I love me a good historical thriller of criminals and the whores they adore. But we didn't really get that here; we see Jack and Bess's first meeting and first night spent together, but then we jump ahead to them as an already established relationship without seeing how they grow together and build trust and affection. Similarly, we never see Jack learn to pick pockets or burglar houses; he's just an innocent apprentice and then suddenly a famously skilled thief. He meets Aurie once and then we're told they're brothers-in-arms without ever seeing their friendship. Etc. In addition to all this, it's hard to love characters who are more living examples of theories than they are three-dimensional people, particularly when they keep bursting into dialogue like this example: Bess stood, speaking to the entire room. “Plague’s an excuse they’re using to police us further!” She looked out. Most continued to quaff and quarrel amongst themselves. “All of you! They’re panicking the people delib’rately. It’s a securitizational furor they’re raising to put more centinels on the streets. Can’t you see that?” It's not even that I disagree with the concept of "security theater", but it's not good fiction to have your characters straight-up define it, and then POINTING OUT IN A FOOTNOTE THAT THE 1720-ISH DATE WOULD MAKE HER THE FIRST TO DO SO IS EVEN WORSE, OH MY GOD, DON'T PRAISE YOUR OWN FICTIONAL CHARACTERS FOR THE MODERN LANGUAGE YOU GAVE THEM. Ahhh, I don't know. I agree with all of Confessions of the Fox's politics, I want to support histories (fictional or not) with more accurate, multiracial, and queer portrayals of the past, and I've certainly read far, far worse books, but in the end I just didn't much enjoy this. The worst I can say is that it's unengaging; I found my attention constantly drifting whenever I tried to read, and even put it down for a few weeks before finally coming back to finish it. But no matter what its good intentions, that doesn't make for a book I'd recommend. In the end Confessions of the Fox has a fantastic concept, but unfortunately doesn't pull off the execution. I read this as an ARC via NetGalley.

  9. 3 out of 5

    Amanda Van Parys

    I don't know what to say about this book except it is a truly unique historical romp that is also connected to the present through footnotes. The subject material (past and present) was engaging, complex, and rang true. The organic unfolding of this story takes you through several layers of realization and was seriously a treat to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Monika

    Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I'm in complete awe of Jordy Rosenberg's command over language and this absolutely genius book. I don't think any review I give could do it justice, so I'll just say you need this in your life.

  11. 3 out of 5

    Bogi Takács

    This was not for me, and for different reasons than I'd expected. Review coming soon IY"H. Sorry it took me such a long time to read, I would have DNFed were it not for the ARC and the fact that several people asked me for my opinion of the book. Update! Here is my review: http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/nove... Over 1.5k words. Source of the book: Print ARC from the publisher

  12. 3 out of 5

    Bandit

    Normally I attempt to avoid reading plot summaries and reviews too much to maintain some element of surprise, but this one I did check out and it sounded irresistible, something straight out of Sarah Waters’ realm of queer historical fiction. Then again that was probably setting the bar much too high. This book does have a lot of the same ingredients (queer characters, historical setting, specifically England early 1700s, small crimes, grand love story, adventures, etc.), but prepared by a very Normally I attempt to avoid reading plot summaries and reviews too much to maintain some element of surprise, but this one I did check out and it sounded irresistible, something straight out of Sarah Waters’ realm of queer historical fiction. Then again that was probably setting the bar much too high. This book does have a lot of the same ingredients (queer characters, historical setting, specifically England early 1700s, small crimes, grand love story, adventures, etc.), but prepared by a very different chef in a very different way…and that, of course, makes all the difference. The author used a real figure of English folklore, a young rogue with criminal tendencies whom no jail was able to hold, but reimagined him as a transgender character. The novel tries to stay authentic to its setting, even employing some of Olde English and the atmosphere and scenery is appropriately grimy for the times. The characters are interesting and the love story is, well, lovely. So far so good…but then the author decided that a single narrative would be too simplistic? and decided to present the story as a research project and his fictionalized (possibly barely so, because it comes across very autobiographically, a transgender professor…but who knows) and that just really didn’t work for me. Essentially it took an engaging picaresque and drenched it in unnecessary footnotes, overwhelmingly personal asides (because it’s confessions, get it, so everyone confesses) and personal sociopolitical gender policy agenda, which, well intentioned as it certainly was, just about tanked the book. There is nothing wrong with talking about these things, in fact it is important to do so, but in the middle of the book (even a relevant book) it just doesn’t work, it completely takes you out of the story for one thing. Imagine watching a movie and someone pausing it every so often to talk to you about themselves in tangentially relevant situations. Yeah, it’s like that. And I can’t stand footnotes to begin with, I’ll tolerate them in nonfiction when I must, but in fiction it’s just a no no. If the author managed to separate his ego from his work, this would have been pretty good. In its present form I didn’t care for its structure, it didn’t work as a gimmick as some split narratives do or as an omniscient interjecting storyteller (most books don’t). Seems like a work of fiction if done well can easily deliver a message on its own without the extraneous assistance of personal parallels. I suppose I just didn’t like the way the book was used as a platform for a message (no matter how much I may agree with the message) instead of letting it be an imaginative historical adventure it might have been. And in footnotes, those freaking footnotes, such nuisance, so not cute or clever as they might have been conceived. It’s Book, Interrupted…with the author seemingly trying to steal the limelight from its characters. And I had such expectations from this one. Thanks Netgalley.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Luke Tolvaj

    I was lucky enough to win a copy of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg. Confessions of the Fox is a story within a story, converging over two very different timelines. The first story is the main bulk of the novel, while the second story takes place primarily in the footnotes. The two stories have unifying threads that connect in the shared theme of found family within resistance. As a trans man, I was really interested to read an own voices historical fantasy book about trans men consider I was lucky enough to win a copy of Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg. Confessions of the Fox is a story within a story, converging over two very different timelines. The first story is the main bulk of the novel, while the second story takes place primarily in the footnotes. The two stories have unifying threads that connect in the shared theme of found family within resistance. As a trans man, I was really interested to read an own voices historical fantasy book about trans men considering how often we are erased from history. There were many things about this book I really enjoyed. I found the depiction of Jack’s dysphoria relatable. Rosenberg did a great job of capturing that experience of dislocation from your body. He also captured the tiny patches of euphoria you experience when something affirms you and you lose that sense of dislocation. It was powerful to see Jack find that, have it shattered, but find it again. I really appreciated such an honest depiction of the highs and lows and how alone it can feel. Jack’s starvation for anything that reaffirmed his gender was palpable. I also really enjoyed the depiction of transition in 18th century London. Some portions were hard to read and very graphic. However, it was refreshing to see Jack find, in whatever way he possibly could, a course of action to create a home in his body. His moments of happiness and fullness were very powerful. The love story between Jack and Bess was also enjoyable. It was one of the main strengths of the novel as it showed both of them being utterly alone in different regards, but finding a source of comfort and connection together. This concept is touched on in the second story of the novel, where Dr. Voth comments that this manuscript is very clearly for those queer people who have been dropped by the wayside and forcibly rejected from (or forcibly lost) their families. I really enjoyed this. Some aspects of the novel I liked less. The concept of the collective narrative was interesting but did not feel fully fleshed out. In the same vein, I wanted to see more of Aurie and his relationship with Jack but he was barely touched on throughout the novel. In general, I wasn’t a fan of Dr. Voth. Some aspects of his anxiety were relatable but I found a lot of his behavior creepy. If this was intentional, it worked well. His storyline contained some interesting narrative parallels to Jack’s story. Those parallels were never explored. They diverged, became confusing, and lacked closure. Throughout both stories, this novel explores the necessity of resistance. It’s a story of transition, of language and body, of love and coming around to understanding, and of revolution against the commodification of people. It’s a story about queer people being together in aloneness and fighting back against the thrashing waves of a violent world, finding safety and refuge within each other. Edit: Please read Bogi Takács's review of this book, as it goes more into depth about many of the things I disliked: http://www.bogireadstheworld.com/nove...

  14. 4 out of 5

    K

    This book is an extremely niche bit of revolutionary fun. I strongly recommend this book for readers with familiarity with either of the following: major trends in humanities scholarship (especially the contradictions of teaching literary history in neoliberal institutions) and readers with an interest in queer or trans topics. This story is fun, but there are two intertwined stories which confused me at first: Jack Sheppard (from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, written in 1728) and Dr. Voth (the This book is an extremely niche bit of revolutionary fun. I strongly recommend this book for readers with familiarity with either of the following: major trends in humanities scholarship (especially the contradictions of teaching literary history in neoliberal institutions) and readers with an interest in queer or trans topics. This story is fun, but there are two intertwined stories which confused me at first: Jack Sheppard (from John Gay's The Beggar's Opera, written in 1728) and Dr. Voth (the literature professor who tells his story of editing the book you read via footnotes and editorial notes). I'm clearly in the unique position of sitting at the intersection of these two readerships, which is probably why I absolutely loved this book. This is metafiction, and that kind of thing normally turns me off (I'm looking at you, DFW and Junot Diaz). Actually, I take that back. Metafiction works really well in genre fiction, especially Sci-Fi/Fantasy/YA because those genres don't aspire to be hyper-intellectual. (Actually, Redshirts is fun and meta while also betraying seriously intellectual aspirations...) This book works because it simultaneously pokes fun at the contradictions of working in the academy in the early 21st century while also leaving plenty of room for truly revolutionary thinking. It makes some of the weirdest, most abstruse ideas from literary theory tangibly relevant in ways that an academic monograph or journal article never could (Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, Bataille, Foucault, etc). And as an academic, it gave me a very clear sense of hope even if the fun of this book might not operate at that register for all readers. Also, the book is really feminist. At one point, one of the characters tells her story for PAGES without any footnotes (and let me tell you, the footnotes of this book are where it's at), and then once she's done, the editor indicates that he intentionally didn't make any notes because he doesn't interrupt a woman while she's talking. It made me laugh and cry at the same time. What a book!

  15. 3 out of 5

    Nadine

    I was excited to get my hands on this book, since it rings two of my favorite fun-reading bells, 18th century fiction of the bawdy, funny Fielding/Sterne variety, and gender creativity. Happy to say I wasn't disappointed - and I got the added bonus of the corollary story of the 'editor's' life, told in footnotes - a technique I loved in Pale Fire, although this editor doesn't go nearly as far off the rails as Kinbote. There's all kinds of nods to post-colonial and queer thought both in the plot I was excited to get my hands on this book, since it rings two of my favorite fun-reading bells, 18th century fiction of the bawdy, funny Fielding/Sterne variety, and gender creativity. Happy to say I wasn't disappointed - and I got the added bonus of the corollary story of the 'editor's' life, told in footnotes - a technique I loved in Pale Fire, although this editor doesn't go nearly as far off the rails as Kinbote. There's all kinds of nods to post-colonial and queer thought both in the plot of the Confessions and in the editor's commentary, but you can immerse yourself in them as deeply or (like me) as shallowly you want - either way they give depth and meaning to both story lines without killing the plot, the pacing or the fun. I did get a bit lost in the 'Archives/Stretches', but I wasn't bothered by it - that's what archives are for anyway.

  16. 5 out of 5

    charlotte

    Galley provided by publisher Actual rating 3.5 Confessions of the Fox is a reimagining of the legend of Jack Sheppard, a thief and gaol-breaker of the early 18th century in London, in which Jack is a trans man. It is told in the form of an authentic manuscript, found by Professor Voth, whose annotations of the manuscript in themselves tell a parallel story. To be honest, I found it a little hard to get into the manuscript story. Mostly because it's written to emulate actual 18th-century writing and Galley provided by publisher Actual rating 3.5 Confessions of the Fox is a reimagining of the legend of Jack Sheppard, a thief and gaol-breaker of the early 18th century in London, in which Jack is a trans man. It is told in the form of an authentic manuscript, found by Professor Voth, whose annotations of the manuscript in themselves tell a parallel story. To be honest, I found it a little hard to get into the manuscript story. Mostly because it's written to emulate actual 18th-century writing and I find that hard to read in general, but also because, until about 65-70 pages to go, there's not much action really happening in it (defining action as adventure! explosions! risk of death! those kinds of things). On the other hand, I got really quickly into Professor Voth's story told in his footnotes. Which was kind of a problem, because that was a much more minor part of the book than the manuscript. But overall, the story was definitely good, just not really great until the last part (although there was a good bit in the middle which was absolutely Chaotic in both the manuscript and footnotes so). Pretty central to Jack's story is his relationship with Bess, but I felt like I didn't get enough of a development of that in the manuscript. I realise it's not in first person so couldn't really give an insight into his feelings (although it's kind of an omniscient third person so did actually do insights from time to time - it also had multiple POVs/focuses which was a bit strange given that it was supposed to be Jack's confessions, and it's not really explained, but for a (potentially paranoid or obsessive) conjecture near the end, but anyway), but the relationship happens fairly rapidly. Like, we're told they mean a lot to each other but it doesn't always feel like there's a lot in the text to back that up. But that may have actually been a byproduct of the writing style. Who knows. I have to confess, finally, that I was getting a little bored around the 70% mark, because it is a bit of a slow story - the real action comes in the last 20%, although the action in Voth's story is enough to keep you reading if just to know what happens next in that. It's also fairly ambiguous how Voth's story ends (or at least I found it to be) - is he just paranoid and obsessed with the manuscript, or is there really a mysterious group of people sitting outside of time? And, to preempt anyone looking up Jack Sheppard and seeing his fate, this book does have a happy ending.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tracy Rowan

    What a strange book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I requested it from Net Galley, though the premise sounded intriguing; a retelling of John Gay's Beggar's Opera (the original source for Brecht's Threepenny Opera) with some gender-swapping?  Okay I'm game.  The book recounts the short, intense life of one Jack Sheppard, a notorious 18th century footpad, and his love, Edgeworth Bess.  But in this version, Jack is a young woman who has always identified as male, Bess is an Anglo-Indian sex work What a strange book. I wasn't sure what to expect when I requested it from Net Galley, though the premise sounded intriguing; a retelling of John Gay's Beggar's Opera (the original source for Brecht's Threepenny Opera) with some gender-swapping?  Okay I'm game.  The book recounts the short, intense life of one Jack Sheppard, a notorious 18th century footpad, and his love, Edgeworth Bess.  But in this version, Jack is a young woman who has always identified as male, Bess is an Anglo-Indian sex worker, and they exist in a community of marginalized people who are given so few options in society that their only recourse is sex work or theft.  There are subcultures within subcultures, queer and otherwise. The story is told in the Found Manuscript format with footnotes from the professor who is annotating it, first for himself, and later for a company that's essentially coercing him into using it to sell their product.  Dr. Voth is himself a transgender man, so the project is close to his heart, and he resents them wanting to use it commercially when he believes it should belong to the queer community.  Throughout the course of the book, his annotations become more and more personal, and less about the manuscript itself, and it's within these increasingly impassioned annotations that the real theme of the story presents itself. In the end the book is a heady mix of Hogarthian grotesqueness and Brechtian political satire, an often difficult book to like, and even to assimilate.  It is sometimes pedantic, often heavy-handed, and the message sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.  It can be amusing, it can be off-putting, but it does contain some important truths about what it is to be different in a society that values sameness. Bottom line: Not for everyone, and not for people who don't care to think about the deeper questions of what they're reading.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Wow, this book is weird and subversive and bursting with lust and revolutionary energy. Even with some queer theory bits that got too weirdly abstract for me, and some threads of meta story that seemed to fall by the wayside unresolved, the "manuscript" is engrossing and like nothing I've read before. The "explanation" for it makes sense in the end, but with or without that commentary it's just a wild ride through an un-white/cis/straightwashed history. I went into this knowing not a one of the Wow, this book is weird and subversive and bursting with lust and revolutionary energy. Even with some queer theory bits that got too weirdly abstract for me, and some threads of meta story that seemed to fall by the wayside unresolved, the "manuscript" is engrossing and like nothing I've read before. The "explanation" for it makes sense in the end, but with or without that commentary it's just a wild ride through an un-white/cis/straightwashed history. I went into this knowing not a one of the references to historical figures until I did some wikipedia-ing halfway through; still holds up if you picture all these folks only existing in a world invented by the author.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Josh Hereth

    This was truly such a brilliantly crafted book and I can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say about it. This historical fiction reimagining notorious eighteenth-century thief Jack Sheppard as a trans man will keep you hooked, but the abundant use of arcane eighteenth-century vocabulary and writing style will keep your speed in check— and trust me, you don’t want to finish this book too fast. Did I mention that the novel itself is a found, unpublished manuscript while our transcriber, Dr. This was truly such a brilliantly crafted book and I can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say about it. This historical fiction reimagining notorious eighteenth-century thief Jack Sheppard as a trans man will keep you hooked, but the abundant use of arcane eighteenth-century vocabulary and writing style will keep your speed in check— and trust me, you don’t want to finish this book too fast. Did I mention that the novel itself is a found, unpublished manuscript while our transcriber, Dr. Voth, tries to prove the legitimacy of story inside? I promise, you want to read this book!

  20. 3 out of 5

    Rana

    Whoa, doggie. This was something else. Both a super story and a fascinating form of story-telling. But ugh. Why do ebooks (and maybe the paper book??) not link footnotes? Is this a tablet issue? An app issue? A publisher issue? This 100% took me out of the story each time I had to flip back and forth. If a footnote is essential for the story, PUT IT AT THE FUCKING BOTTOM OF THE PAGE, ASSHOLES.

  21. 5 out of 5

    just.one.more.paige

    This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge. The first time I saw this available on NetGalley, I clicked right past it. The blurb sounded intriguing (I do love stories about the “underbelly” of society) but I try to only request from NetGalley when something truly strikes me, so that my TBR there doesn’t get too backed up. However, right after that, I saw someone rave about it on bookstagram (I need to starting writing these accounts down when they inspire me, This review originally appeared on the book review blog: Just One More Pa(i)ge. The first time I saw this available on NetGalley, I clicked right past it. The blurb sounded intriguing (I do love stories about the “underbelly” of society) but I try to only request from NetGalley when something truly strikes me, so that my TBR there doesn’t get too backed up. However, right after that, I saw someone rave about it on bookstagram (I need to starting writing these accounts down when they inspire me, so I can remember who to credit later). Included in that rave was a note about how it really gives voice to a hitherto marginalized voice, historically and today. Well, I’ve been trying to branch out my representation in reading…so that, combined with the original intriguing synopsis, pushed me over the edge. And here we are. Although I missed the chance to actually publish this review prior to official publication (this is why I try not to request on NatGalley too much – it’s so easy to get buried!), I hope you’ll forgive the tardiness. Confessions of the Fox is a vibrant historical fiction centered around the life of Jack Sheppard. Sold into servitude as a child, P spends years imagining a different life. One not only of freedom from indenture, but freedom of body and identity. When P meets and falls in love with Bess, a prostitute (or doxy, in the lingo of the book), she is pulled into the London underworld, transiting into a life as Jack Sheppard, the famous goal-breaker and thief extraordinaire, the person that has always been hidden inside. Throughout the novel, Jack and Bess get into a number of scrapes and adventures together, all while illuminating history, which has long been cis-white-washed, and learning to love themselves and each other along the way. As an added layer the entire story is rife with footnotes from Dr. Voth, the contemporary academic who found this transcript and is translating for us, the reader. His notes on/additions to the text, as well as the commentary related to his personal life, provide perspective to and parallel Jack’s story a way that makes for a much more profound reading experience. First and foremost, I need to spoiler alert that this is the most fantastically bawdy book I’ve read in some time. And that is probably an understatement. The terms for body parts, sexual acts, and more are tossed about often and colorfully. The sheer volume of them was almost mind-boggling (in a good way). At times, since things are mostly described in historical vocabulary, there were euphemisms that had me laughing out loud. So it’s a different kind of bawdy than a typical romance novel, but definitely one of the most defining pieces of the book. Moving past that surface lewdness, this was actually a phenomenally intellectual novel. In fact, for full disclosure, there were a few times that the more philosophical explorations lost me a bit. This could be as a result of me skimming them, which is a bad habit I have when reading or because I was reading this novel on a plane and was quite tired at times or just simply because these discussions were truly over my head. Regardless, the amount of research involved in writing this book was clear throughout – prodigious and impressive. The mix of these two types of styles, academic and vulgar, might seem like an odd pairing, but it works wonderfully in this case. Since one of the main topics of the story, for Jack, for our translator Dr. Voth, and in the dramatic encounters/struggles experienced by them both, is based in gender identity, it really makes sense. The philosophy behind gender identity, the individual right to feel the way you want about who you are and the ability to present that intrinsic persona to the world in whatever way you want, is something incredibly internal. The intellectual side of the writing represents that personal/inner piece. On the other hand, there is the coarse language of the London underbelly, which is all about the physical and the sexual, which is the side of gender identity that is less…pretty? And I do not mean that in regards to looks or as a judgement on the physical appearance of any gender-non-conforming person. I mean that to refer to the way gender identity is treated by society, in the way that anyone who identifies as queer, transgender, or is intersex, has always been considered “less.” And, with those last two, the obvious connection between crudity and the gross fascination of the cis- population with the body parts of transgender and/or intersex people is addressed head-on throughout the novel (and expertly handled, may I add). It’s horrifying and terrible, but it is historically (and presently) accurate. And of course, the interplay between the two, internal/academic and external/vulgar, is difficult, stress-inducing (to say the least) and otherwise, exemplary of the struggles faced daily by anyone identifying as queer. This novel tackles an incredible breadth of difficult topics and themes in a proficient and remarkable way. I don’t know if most people read the afterwards, but this is one book where I highly recommend it. The author talks through the extensive research and work that went into this novel, both on his own and collaboratively. Particularly of note is his discussion about his goal of shining a light on the parts of history that are completely, as I mentioned earlier, cis-white-washed, and providing a history to people today that have truly never had one for themselves. I realize that’s pretty much all of history (which he mentions as well), but this novel is definitely a beautiful start at working to combat that. Although this topic comes up throughout the novel in Dr. Voth’s footnotes, the author really elaborates and connects it to “real” life in the afterward. It’s an inspiring and moving reflection and I appreciate both it, and the author’s efforts, from the bottom of my soul. Overall, this novel is a gorgeous piece of writing. One that it is clear the author poured his all into. It’s fully realized, exceptionally thoughtful, and beyond significant. Although, as I mentioned, at times the philosophy itself got to be a bit too much for me, the action and emotion are both omnipresent enough to balance that out, and I found this book both page-turning-ly enjoyable and thoroughly educational. As the story builds to the denouement, both in the past and the present, we are left with an ending that, for both, serves as a magnificent metaphor for the joy and relief of finding a place where you belong, are accepted, and can be your true self. Everyone, EVERYONE, deserves that. Let’s talk about how many things I highlighted while reading (SO MANY). Enjoy: “The body does not pre-exist love, but is cast in its fires.” “There are some things you can only see through tears.” “There are moments that do not arise as the result of Conscious determination or thought. Such moments – far more than plann’d ones – are those that shape the course of a Life to come. Such moments alter a being in ways that plotting, synthesizing, and future-izing can never do. That is to say, a reaction to Chance is the only method for developing character.” “They take everything from you. Even your imagination. Then and now.” “Whatever Blur he’s lived in for every year and every moment up to this one, was lifting and sparkling into Nothingness like fog in the sun. All of Jack’s molecules were scrambled and rearranged, and something new was taking shape. Someone new. He was becoming Jack Sheppard. He was entering History.” “And then he fell into sleep Unseen. As he did every night. Every single night, like a Pebble falling silently to the bottom of a dark Pond. Alone. Alone. Always alone.” “Why couldn’t his own Ceiling change color, deepen, shoot through the sun? … Would the black-capped horizon of his Imagination never prism into color?” “…would spray out of him, would fog the room with a million crimson Petals, with a wave of soft silver gunshot, with a rolling meadow of grass-green fire, heaving under them and pouring over them and it would bury them, in the best ways, together, and alive.” “I’m editing this for us – those of us who’ve been dropped from some moonless sky to wander the world. Those of us who have to guess – wrongly over and over (until we get it right? Please god) – what a “home” might feel like. So forget the held ones just for a second, they’re doing fine; I’m speaking to you – to us – to those of us who learned at a young age never to turn around, never to look back at the nothing that’s there to catch us when we fall.” “Sometimes – albeit rarely – but especially when one is young, Revelry is the verso face of misery and Terror.” “She breathed life down my throat – she with the tip of her tongue, like a Hummingbird giving syrup back to the flavor – and just as some flowers open only at night, as did I open only with her tongue in my mouth.” “None of us will be free unless all of us are free.” “Robbers, Rebels, Lovers. Wait. Wait under waters she said. History will find us. History will avenge us all.” “When a woman regards you with her inevitable Expression – the one that says: I’m waiting for you in the future; catch up, catch up¬ – you will liberate yourself from every pre-existing bond, body, and name you ever had. And go with her.” “There is no trans body, no body at all – no memoir, no confessions, no singular story of “you” or anyone – outside this broad and awful legacy. So when they ask you for our story – when they want to sell it – we don’t let them forget. Slavery, surveillers, settlers and their shadows.” “In the name of those who came before, who fought the police; those whose names we know, and those whose names we can never know. In the name of those who came after, who will never know our names –”

  22. 3 out of 5

    Jennifer

    There is so much to say about this book, I'm not even sure where to begin. In many ways, the book is groundbreaking and fascinating. I've truly never read anything like it. But did I ENJOY it? Man, that's hard to say. I'll be honest, this book was challenging to read. For one, the structure is complicated. On one level you have the relationship of Bess and Jack (EASILY the best part of the book). Then there is our author and his parallel story about finding the story about Bess and Jack and inte There is so much to say about this book, I'm not even sure where to begin. In many ways, the book is groundbreaking and fascinating. I've truly never read anything like it. But did I ENJOY it? Man, that's hard to say. I'll be honest, this book was challenging to read. For one, the structure is complicated. On one level you have the relationship of Bess and Jack (EASILY the best part of the book). Then there is our author and his parallel story about finding the story about Bess and Jack and interpreting it (nearly all told in the footnotes). Then there is a (possible nefarious?) corporation who tries to take over the author's project, which necessitates the narrator's boss ALSO getting inserted into the story and debating with the author in the footnotes as well (which was pretty amusing.) Had the book been merely about Bess and Jack and Jack's experience in the world as a trans man, (plus all of those narrative layers) that might have been cool. But Jack and Bess's story goes all over the place and is complicated too. There are ghost plague ships, and a Lion-Man, and Jack's fantastical ability to hear objects, and some sort of mysterious elixir made out of pig urine. Added on top of that is a larger (conspiracy?) the narrator uncovers and discusses at length in the footnotes about how this story we're reading even came to be. At times I almost felt like I maybe wasn't cool enough to be reading this book--like perhaps my brain wasn't quite big enough to truly get it. (I'm sure some other reviewers will simply say this was a weird book they didn't like.) I do know that, due to its originality, I will be able to remember this book long after I've finished it. And I applaud the author for taking so many risks (even if it resulted in me getting sometimes lost and confused). In other words, I have no idea how to distill this sucker down into a star rating. I think the vast majority of easy readers who want straightforward plot and typical characters would hate this book. I think marginalized communities, and trans people in particular will find it revolutionary. Me? I guess I'm going to come down in the middle and go with 3 stars. Loved the moxie and the reach, but didn't always love the ride. Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.

  23. 3 out of 5

    J. F.

    Book Review: Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg Being a voracious reader, I was curious: the debut novel of an author "..writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov..", and described to be "...an audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent". The genre: LGBTQIA. Jack Sheppard, the story's protagonist, was the 18th century’s most notorious robber and thief. His spectacular escapes from various prisons made him the most glamorous rogue in London Book Review: Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg Being a voracious reader, I was curious: the debut novel of an author "..writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov..", and described to be "...an audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent". The genre: LGBTQIA. Jack Sheppard, the story's protagonist, was the 18th century’s most notorious robber and thief. His spectacular escapes from various prisons made him the most glamorous rogue in London at that time. An autobiographical "Narrative", thought to have been ghostwritten by Daniel Defoe, was sold at his execution, quickly followed by several popular plays. Mr. Dafoe is course is the author of "Robinson Crusoe" and many other classics. Enter "Confessions of the Fox". Although it is well-documented that Sheppard had an equally notorious lover and female companion, a prostitute, Elizabeth Lyon, also known as Edgeworth Bess, the author writes a speculative approach to recorded history wherein he proffers the discovery of a long-lost manuscript within which Sheppard, "the Fox", confesses to be a transgender, thriving in queer sub-cultures in London. The author "...sought to oppose the ahistorical tendency of much fiction to imagine early modern London as a uniformly white city..." and that the "... novel draws heavily on histories of mass incarceration, racialization.." And further, notes that "...just as this book was being completed, Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike won demands, and Chelsea Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera got free". The political agenda thus laid out, open-mindedness is a must for some readers to enjoy the well-crafted storytelling or to strive to even finish the book. No doubt the book is hard to read, much less speed-read, with the proliferation of arcane terms and 18th century style of writing, many parts of which seem to be lifted from existing text, although the author gives ample credit to referenced works as well as provides an arduous if cumbersome glossary at the end of each chapter when such terms are used. Still, I would rate it an interesting read, a bit of an endeavor but quite a treat, at least the one to try if one were to tiptoe and test the waters in such genre. Definitely not for everyone. Review based on an ARC (advance reading copy) presented by NetGalley and Random House.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie

    Is it possible to write a deeply anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, anti-imperial, anti-binary hopeful novel that is simultaneously metafictional and gripping? Yes, ladies and gents and everyone in between and outside, yes, it is. This is what political fiction looks like. Small quibbles aside, this was an enormously clever conceit and well-executed, too. While I do think that some of Bess's dialogue, in particular, was on the nose (see her "securitizational furor" speech in the pub), I'm letting it Is it possible to write a deeply anti-capitalist, anti-colonial, anti-imperial, anti-binary hopeful novel that is simultaneously metafictional and gripping? Yes, ladies and gents and everyone in between and outside, yes, it is. This is what political fiction looks like. Small quibbles aside, this was an enormously clever conceit and well-executed, too. While I do think that some of Bess's dialogue, in particular, was on the nose (see her "securitizational furor" speech in the pub), I'm letting it slide because it's so rare to see such radical commentary in fiction at all. And I love meta-fiction, so I'm more than happy to follow along in the footnotes with Dr. Voth's secondary plot, though I also wish there had been more of a consistent arc in the plot there—things get a bit rushed toward the end. How Voth escapes the oversight of the Director of Surveillance and arrives at his final destination is a bit too elided for my tastes, while things with his ex weren't interesting to anyone but him, really (there's ways to remark upon love writing the body without devolving into confessions about an ex; those footnotes would have been better spent in filling the lacuna of Voth's escape ... that was hardly moment for Douglass's "cloud").

  25. 4 out of 5

    Yzabel Ginsberg

    [I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.] Mmm, I really had a hard time staying focused on this one. The premise of a Jack Sheppard actually being a trans man (well, probably an intersex person for starters, considering the genitalia alluded to here and there when he’s concerned) was definitely good, since I would like to see this kind of character more often in general. Not to mention my soft spot for rogue-type protagonists, and the 18th seedy London [I received a copy of this book through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.] Mmm, I really had a hard time staying focused on this one. The premise of a Jack Sheppard actually being a trans man (well, probably an intersex person for starters, considering the genitalia alluded to here and there when he’s concerned) was definitely good, since I would like to see this kind of character more often in general. Not to mention my soft spot for rogue-type protagonists, and the 18th seedy London depicted throughout the novel. The relationship between Bess and Jack was interesting in many ways: Bess’s childhood, Jack’s indenture, both characters having been victims of men in authority and now finding freedom and power with and in each other… The novel explores acceptance in a way that I like, not as something that comes to be, but as something that is : there is no “period of adaptation” during which Bess learns to love Jack the way he is: she loves him, it’s natural, they’re two human beings attracted to each other. No need for that condescending “acceptance” that too often is, in fact, patronising and not so accepting when you think about it. “He’s always been there,” indeed, and then they find each other. Just like Voth has always been there, and many other people that tend to get ignored because it’s more “convenient” that way. However, I found the the academic-sounding footnotes rather disrupting, and to be honest, I wasn’t really interested in the running commentary when it diverged from Voth’s own personal life (probably because I haven’t read the works mentioned in said footnotes, so whatever clever ‘a-ha!’ moments there were to catch, I completely missed them). I guess it takes quite a lot of focus to read this story, and it’s not something I’ve had much this summer. Perhaps I should’ve read it at another time. Another problem I had was how Jack’s story felt more about concepts than about actual characters—developing some events more, showing more of his ties with Aurie for instance, or more moments when he learnt his trade, would’ve helped flesh him. This would’ve been a good way of highlighting the message “we’ve always been here”: as human and not simply literary beings. So, my 2 stars are mostly because I know I wasn’t the right audience for this book at the moment, not because I think this novel is “bad”.

  26. 3 out of 5

    Brooke Banks

    Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Content Warning: Racism, Transphobia, Ameteur Surgery, Prision, Crimes Against Humanity Reminds me of The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman and The Gentleman by Forrest Leo with the story in the footnotes, the unique slang, and critique on society. Only Confessions of the Fox is from a trans*male perspective and blows everything else out of the water. It's only 352 pages but there's so so much inside and I highly recommend taking it slow. It's worth savoring and really Amazing. Absolutely amazing. Content Warning: Racism, Transphobia, Ameteur Surgery, Prision, Crimes Against Humanity Reminds me of The Half-Made World by Felix Gilman and The Gentleman by Forrest Leo with the story in the footnotes, the unique slang, and critique on society. Only Confessions of the Fox is from a trans*male perspective and blows everything else out of the water. It's only 352 pages but there's so so much inside and I highly recommend taking it slow. It's worth savoring and really digesting it. This is something worth studying and re-reading for sure. It's a great story within a story that I love to death. Jack and Bess are amazing and adorable. Dr. Voth is the relatable awkward academic torn between survival and morals. I had no idea what would happen next and I was so excited to find out. It's intersectional balm against our fucked up capitalist society in a way Robin Hood couldn't even dream of. I've never read, studied, or honestly heard of The Threepenny Opera before. I'm a laywoman feminist. But I had no trouble picking up what Rosenberg is putting down in here. There's also an impressive list of resources in the back that I will be checking out to help my education along.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Orláith

    Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg is truly something else. It is wonderfully written #ownvoices metafiction that tells the tale of early eighteenth century thief, Jack Sheppard, and his lover Bess. In this retelling, Jack is transgender, as is the scholar who is annotating the manuscript. This annotation leads to two very different stories running simultaneously throughout the book and as a self-confessed sucker for footnotes, I adored this. If you decide to pick up a copy of Confessions o Confessions of the Fox by Jordy Rosenberg is truly something else. It is wonderfully written #ownvoices metafiction that tells the tale of early eighteenth century thief, Jack Sheppard, and his lover Bess. In this retelling, Jack is transgender, as is the scholar who is annotating the manuscript. This annotation leads to two very different stories running simultaneously throughout the book and as a self-confessed sucker for footnotes, I adored this. If you decide to pick up a copy of Confessions of the Fox, be aware that it is NOT YA and that it has some very sexually graphic wording. Other than that it's a really interestingly different read. Many thanks to @atlanticbooks for sending me a free review copy of Confessions of the Fox!

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. Danvers

    Sweet, charming, silly and serious, tackling important issues in a lighthearted way coupled with a serious, contextualized way, and also meta. as. hell. LMAO The writer is trans and the fictional person annotating the fictional manuscript is trans and the protagonist of the fictional manuscript is trans. I'm not the intended audience although I hope I am an ally of the intended audience, but I am SO GLAD that this book was written. More delightful fiction needs to be written for every audience o Sweet, charming, silly and serious, tackling important issues in a lighthearted way coupled with a serious, contextualized way, and also meta. as. hell. LMAO The writer is trans and the fictional person annotating the fictional manuscript is trans and the protagonist of the fictional manuscript is trans. I'm not the intended audience although I hope I am an ally of the intended audience, but I am SO GLAD that this book was written. More delightful fiction needs to be written for every audience out there. Thank you Jordy Rosenberg for giving voice to some of my friends who have few if any writers who are writing for them.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Laura Jean

    I have just been struggling too much. It's a cerebral book, but mainly I think I need to read it in an alternative format. The footnote font is KILLING ME. So I will most likely try this again as an ebook or perhaps audiobook, though that will introduce other issues. This should not reflect on the book. It's freaking genius.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hugh Minor

    This book was so good - yet hard to describe. On the surface, it was a great, fun, rollicking story. Beneath the surface, it "explained" or "explained" trans & queer theory through historical fiction. It reminded me of both Middlesex and Wicked, Oliver Twist and the Princess Bride with maybe a little Wizard of Oz. Oh, and A.S. Byatt's Possession!

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