News of the World
Paula Fox
“News of the World”

“News From the World,” is from Paula Fox’s book by the same name (W. W. Norton, 2011), a collection of stories and essays written over many years. Fox is the author of many children’s books and six novels, including DESPERATE CHARACTERS (1970). David Foster Wallace championed the novel, which had fallen out of print by the early 1990s, calling it “A towering landmark of postwar Realism. As in her books, Fox’s stories examine themes of loss, childhood, and memory. Fox, 88, lives in Brooklyn, New York.


Fox described how she came to write the story: Over half a century ago I lived a mile or so outside of the village of Wellfleet on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in a house my husband of those years had had built on the ocean side of the Cape. In the twenties my father and his Spanish wife, my mother, had lived in a small house on Commercial Street that was eventually burned to the ground by a local arsonist. My father had been a member of the Provincetown Theater Group, a collection of actors, directors and playwrights, among whom was the very young Eugene O’Neill.

He told me many stories in a melancholy tone of voice as if everything important was long over; what happened was always in the past.  From this steaming, vivid living mass of lives I plucked a few elements and wrote “News From the World.”

Ultimately, there is no explanation for the act of telling stories. A few reasons, perhaps. The impulse to record stirs in you; you write. The ingredients are extracted from a thousand impressions. At first quiet and isolated they begin to pulsate, take recognizable forms and emerge like genii from a rubbed bottle.  There is a primary urgency in writers – to tell, to record. Beyond that there are specific concerns.  In”New From The World,” there is my personal fear of environmental doom.  Polar bears, glaciers collapsing, toad species disappearing, birds, ants, tigers, and in the end, us. We too might well disappear.

Human relationships have wonder and meaning. But they, too, end. There is a hint of larger meaning: I was walking one early autumn day along the shore in Wellfleet. I saw something gleam. I bent to pick it up.   It was a dime. Next to it was a penny. “Summer losses,” I said to myself.

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