Jordy Rosenberg is a transgender writer and scholar. He teaches 18th century literature and queer/transgender theory. He is clever as all get out, well-researched, funny, and overflowing with empathy- all of these things brought into vivid color in his debut novel, Confessions of the Fox. I’ve selected “UnCannon” for this Bingo Square- but it was close call between UnCannon, Debut, Violet, and Pandemic (plague ships ahoy). I also almost gave it an “I Wish”, because good gravy, do I wish I could sit in on any of his classes!
This novel is so many things; a work of meta-fiction, a re-telling of the perpetually white stories of London past, an anti-capitalist manifesto, a study of gender fluidity, a reworking of a traditional English folk-tale, a frequently funny and often filthy love story- this book has it all! It took me longer than usual to read this book, as it is chock-full of annotations. Luckily, the annotations aren’t overwhelming -looking at you, House of Leaves – they add an incredible amount of depth and factual commentary on the fictional tale. There is an enormous “Resources” chunk at the tail end of the book, and it gives a remarkable list of pieces mentioned in the book as well as continued recommendations. Come for an 18th century adventure romp, stay for Angela Davis, Assata Shakur, Frederick Douglass, and many other thinkers, fighters, and leaders – and also horrifying medical texts of the time. Every page of this tale leads to another fascination.
Aside from just being footnotes, another story is being told through annotations throughout the text; while you read about the adventures of Jack Sheppard and his carousing cohorts, you also get the story of the man who found this “manuscript”. Jack Sheppard is busy picking pockets, exploring his gender identity, romancing his lover, breaking out of jail, and embarrassing the police, Dr. Voth is transcribing this new treasure, dealing with the end of a relationship, and fighting against a monetized and privatized education system.
Confessions of the Fox is, as many things are right now, eerily timely. Folks on both sides of the story are fighting for their lives, autonomy over their bodies, the right to love and be loved, and the right to safely exist as a person of color. They’re fighting colonialism, conformity, mass incarceration, and the militarization of the police. The players may be fictional, but their words are steeped in fact and true history. If you are looking to start revolution in your head, open this book then take to the streets.