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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Rediscovered US literary great Paula Fox dies at 93

Fox was mostly known as a children's writer who frankly explored abandonment and loss until she was championed by a new generation of US writers in the 1990s

AFP , Tuesday 7 Mar 2017
Paula Fox
Paula Fox
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The writer Paula Fox, whose novels had fallen out of print until she was hailed as a forgotten great of American letters in her seventies -- has died in New York. She was 93.

Fox was mostly known as a children's writer who frankly explored abandonment and loss until she was championed by a new generation of US writers in the 1990s.

One of them, Jonathan Franzen, author of "The Corrections," called her masterpiece "Desperate Characters" about a couple stuck in a loveless marriage, the greatest realist novel of the postwar era.

Fox -- grandmother of rock star-turned-actress Courtney Love -- died at a hospital near her Brooklyn home, her daughter, Linda Carroll-Barraud, told The New York Times.

Abandoned by her bohemian parents, who left her in a home for abandoned children when they went off to travel, she spent her childhood being passed between friends, family and a poor small-town preacher.

They later reclaimed her but at 16 she left home to follow her own path.

A few years later Fox herself was forced to give up her own daughter Linda -- Love's mother -- for adoption when she became pregnant at university.

Fox would later write about not being wanted by her glamorous mother and alcoholic father, a Hollywood screenwriter.

After a brief spell at New York's prestigious Juilliard School for musicians, she became a freelance journalist in devastated postwar Europe, an experience she revisited in her 2005 memoir, "The Coldest Winter."

Over her long career, Fox penned more than 20 books for young people and six aimed at adults.

They were tied together by her spare style and interest in the breaking down of things -- from families to health to love.

Her own chaotic childhood flitting between Manhattan, Malibu and Cuba was laid bare in her critically-acclaimed memoir "Borrowed Finery."

She was awarded the Newbery Medal, the top children's literature honor, in 1974 for "The Slave Dancer." The controversial novel centered on the Atlantic slave trade in the mid-19th century.

Four years later Fox was awarded the Hans Christian Andersen Award for her body of children's work.

But her career took an unexpected upward turn when Franzen chanced upon a copy of "Desperate Characters" which he hailed as a masterpiece in a 1996 article in Harper's magazine.

"It struck me as plainly superior to any novel by Fox's contemporaries John Updike, Philip Roth or Saul Bellow," he wrote. "It struck me as obviously great."
Married twice, she is survived by her husband, two children and several grandchildren.

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