Paper Trail

Sigrid Nunez revisits Paula Fox’s 1970 novel Desperate Characters; Claire-Louise Bennett on family heirlooms

Paula Fox. Photo: HarperCollins UK 

For T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Sigrid Nunez writes about Paula Fox’s 1970 novel Desperate Characters. It begins with Sophie Bentwood being bitten by a stray—and possibly rabid—cat; readers are “kept in suspense,” Nunez writes, as to “why Sophie, an intelligent and educated woman, would rather deny the problem, even as her hand swells and throbs, than seek medical advice.” After reading the novel in 1991, Nunez recommended it to Jonathan Franzen, who helped bring about the 1999 reissue. Fox, who also published over twenty books for children, reflected on her newfound popularity in 2001: “It’s not that I thought so well of my books, it’s that in some way I think so well and highly of truth, and I know that my novels have a tiny bit of truth in them.” Nunez will discuss Desperate Characters with Kate Guadagnino at a free event on August 4.

At The Atlantic, a look at Elon Musk’s attempt to not buy Twitter anymore and the social-media company’s lawsuit trying to get him to follow through on the purchase. Derek Thompson writes about the strange position the two sides find themselves in: “Twitter’s board is bound by its fiduciary duty to enforce a merger neither Musk nor Twitter’s employees seem to want. It’s an awfully strange twist to the marriage-plot genre: I hate your guts, now marry me! This is shareholder capitalism as romantic comedy.”

Tonight, Triple Canopy hosts “Executive Fiction,” a discussion featuring Richard Beck, Ari M. Brostoff and Sean McCann about the novels Bill and Hillary Clinton have written in collaboration with best-selling authors.   

In the New Yorker’s special digital issue on family, Claire-Louise Bennett considers whether a cowbell can be considered a family heirloom: “Heirlooms aren’t really something you dig up, are they? An heirloom is a treasured object that has pride of place in the home and is brought out and buffed up on special occasions.” 

On Monday, Elliott Bay Book Company in Seattle will present Leyna Krow, author of the debut novel Fire Season, in conversation with John Larison.