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Confessions of the Fox

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,808 ratings  ·  374 reviews
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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 26th 2018 by One World
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biki576 Right before this passage is the sentence "She let me see her in all her historicity, all her ages at once" and right after he adds "she was slowly be…moreRight before this passage is the sentence "She let me see her in all her historicity, all her ages at once" and right after he adds "she was slowly becoming the woman who had come to straddle my hips." She wasn't in high school when she was dating Voth, but she told Voth about what she was like in high school, which is what's happening here. It's a quick background of her past.(less)

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Jessica Woodbury
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Dec 31, 2018 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbtq, historical-fic
Jack sheppard.jpg
(Jack Sheppard in Newgate Prison, artist unknown)

I was really excited to get this novel, thinking it sounded similar to Sarah Waters' books and it's been awhile since she's published anything. Confessions of the Fox, rather than reading like a Sarah Waters novel, is much more in line with J.J. Abrams' S.. It is a story within a story, and I'm not very fond of those. Even though I usually have more than one book I'm reading at a time, I still don't want to have two stories reading simultaneously
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I always find it strange how some books find you. Recently I started reading ‘Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl’. When I needed a bit of a break from that, I decided to go for the opposite end of the spectrum, and opt for historical fiction. Little did I know that not only is Jordy Rosenberg’s novel a trans take on the story of Jack Sheppard from Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, but that Andrea Lawlor is his “oldest and dearest buddy”.

Needless to say, I fell in love with ‘Confessions of the Fox’. W
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 ...more
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 ...more
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! ...more
Caidyn (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
My experience with this book was all over the map. It's a strange mix of genres: the frame narrative is a trans man academic who finds an undiscovered 18th century manuscript about a famous thief who was also a trans man. The majority of the story is the historical narrative with footnotes taking place in the academic's increasingly satirical / dystopian world. I was super into it at first but found my attention waning and feeling uncomfortable with the role women of colour played for white men ...more
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who love books with many, many, copious-many footnotes.
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
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 ...more
Morgan M. Page
Jan 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Jordy Rosenberg's debut Confessions of the Fox is an immensely accomplished addition to the growing canon of Trans Lit. Following the story of a manuscript discovered in a University library sale that purports to be an authentic biography of the life of English folk hero and thief, Jack Sheppard, the novel moves back and forth between the manuscript and the notes made by its transcribed - a trans man academic. The manuscript provides strange new details of Sheppard's life, suggesting that he him ...more
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.

Here is my review:
Over 1.5k words.

Source of the book: Print ARC from the publisher
Valerie Best
May 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2018-release
If you’re into criminals with hearts of gold and also really enjoy scholarly research and footnotes, you will love this book. It’s two stories in one—the first is about Jack Sheppard, a thief in 1724 London, and the second is about the present-day professor who is transcribing Jack’s manuscript, told entirely through footnotes. The professor’s interest is piqued when he realizes that Jack was a trans man, which is something they share in common. Jack’s story is mesmerizing, his exploits and esca ...more
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.
Luke Tolvaj
Jul 12, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: trans-authors
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
Uma Dwivedi
Nov 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gay
fucking glorious. the formal experimentation was effective, the prose stunning. this book has several theses/thrusts and all are robust, dear to me, and well supported. sexy (if sometimes uncomfortable: get ready for some solid piss kink material) and loving and trans and queer and rigorous and expansive and undercommunal and largely stunning.

i'm giving it only 4 stars because it is, at times, a bit too meticulously crafted. there are stretches (lol) where it becomes very clear that this is a no
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 ...more
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
A professor discovers and annotates the confessions of Jack Sheppard, infamous thief and goalbreaker of 1700s London--confessions which reveal that Jack Sheppard was trans. I struggle somewhat with things this book does intentionally: it climbs up its own butt in annotations and meta elements; the tone is painfully earnest--the queer/decolonialist agenda and hammy antagonists, but moreso the appeal to a marginalized community identity. But these erstwhile weaknesses also give birth to the streng ...more
Apr 27, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Wayland Smith
Feb 02, 2020 rated it it was ok
It took me a while to figure out why I didn't like this book more. After thinking on it for a few days once I'd finished reading, this is what I came up with: it's kind of got the "Mary Sue" thing going (twice over, arguably) and the format is really odd. The main story, which I liked, purports to be a document from the 17th century about a legendary thief who turns out to be trans and gets involved in some truly strange adventures. But, since it's presented as a scholarly research piece, the "f ...more
Feb 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
it's a common experience among trans people, especially those of us who read a lot, to start to get frustrated with the knowledge that none of the books we read are really For us.
it's hard to explain because of course not every book you read has to be For You, and in fact it's necessary and preferable to read books that are not explicitly For You because that's how you begin to understand the experiences of people who are different than you-- but at the end of the day, it's very lonely to read
Apr 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A promiscuous blend of metafiction, theory, and speculative history that makes you ask different questions, hard questions. I've never felt an 18th century more alive, more queer. And it's what we need right now: not just imagined futures but reimagined pasts.
Hal Schrieve
Things abt this book:
-Bess, the main cool woman character, is a south asian daughter of revolutionary fen dwellers and a sex worker
-jack, the main protagonist, is a trans man in the 1720s and dates Bess and steals things mostly for her; they love each other and want revolution but Bess is smarter than jack
-there is a subplot about transsexual pirates which turns into the main plot when it turns out these pirates synthesized testosterone from pig urine and now that they’ve been killed by the na
Jennifer S. Brown
I read this book in preparation for a panel at the Boston Book Festival, and I couldn't get out of bed this morning until I had finished it, because I was so caught up in Jack Sheppard's world that I didn't want to move. I am in absolute awe of this book. What Rosenberg put into the writing is so magical because it's so impeccably researched yet the story flows. The main manuscript is written in an older English, but after a page or two, I had no problem sinking into the language, and it was imm ...more
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
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was ok
This was such a disappointment and I DNF @50%. Conceptually I should love this book, as I love historical fiction, queered narratives, 18th century sex workers and thieves, found manuscripts/footnoted fiction, and have read all the Foucault and Marx on the emergence of capitalism, securitisation, surveillance etc that the author desperately wants you to. However the author manages to make all of these utterly boring, obvious, pretentious and entirely lacking in convincing story or characterisati ...more
Jun 29, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5*, rounded up.
This was my second excursion into "metafiction" this month, after Alex Landragin's Crossings, and was quite a departure from anything I'd ever read before.
The book opens with contemporary literature professor Dr. Voth absconding from his university's premises with a valuable old manuscript, which he seems to believe needs protecting from certain forces opposed to him. We then launch into the manuscript itself, a purported life story told by the notorious early-18th century Londo
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbt, historical
"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."

-- From Confessions of the Fox, p 166
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The Lit Show: Ep.3 - Historical Fiction 3 3 Apr 01, 2020 10:18PM  

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Jordy Rosenberg is an Associate Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he teaches 18th-century Literature and queer/transgender theory. He has received fellowships and awards from the Marion and Jasper Whiting Foundation, The Ahmanson Foundation/J. Paul Getty Trust, the UCLA Center for 17th- and 18th-Century Studies, the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University, and th ...more

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