A New York Times Editors’ Choice: “A mind-bending romp through a gender-fluid, eighteenth century London . . . a joyous mash-up of literary genres shot through with queer theory and awash in sex, crime, and revolution.”
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The New Yorker • HuffPost • Kirkus Reviews • Finalist for the Lambda Literary Award • Shortlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize • “A dazzling tale of queer romance and resistance.”—Time
Jack Sheppard and Edgeworth Bess were the most notorious thieves, jailbreakers, and lovers of eighteenth-century London. Yet no one knows the true story; their confessions have never been found.
Until now. Reeling from heartbreak, a scholar named Dr. Voth discovers a long-lost manuscript—a gender-defying exposé of Jack and Bess’s adventures. Is Confessions of the Fox an authentic autobiography or a hoax? As Dr. Voth is drawn deeper into Jack and Bess’s tale of underworld resistance and gender transformation, it becomes clear that their fates are intertwined—and only a miracle will save them all.
Writing with the narrative mastery of Sarah Waters and the playful imagination of Nabokov, Jordy Rosenberg is an audacious storyteller of extraordinary talent.
Praise for Confessions of the Fox
“A cunning metafiction of vulpine versatility . . . an action-adventure tale with postmodern flourishes; an academic comedy spliced with period erotica; an intimate meditation on belonging.”—Katy Waldman, The New Yorker
“Confessions of the Fox is so goddamned good. Reading it was like an out-of-body experience. I want to run through the streets screaming about it. It should be in the personal canon of every queer and non-cis person. Read it.”—Carmen Maria Machado, National Book Award finalist for Her Body and Other Parties
“A hat tip to Moby-Dick . . . a running footnote hall of mirrors to rival Borges . . . one of the most trenchant calls for progressive action that I have read in a very long time.”—The New York Times Book Review
“An ambitious work of metafiction, a sexy queer love story . . . a bold first novel.”—Entertainment Weekly
Academic intrigue meets the 18th-century underworld in Rosenberg's astonishing and mesmerizing debut, which juxtaposes queer and trans theory, heroic romance, postcolonial analysis, and speculative fiction. The story appears in the form of an ostensibly historical document and lengthy discursive footnotes. In a 2018 not entirely recognizable as our own, transgender university professor R. Voth happens upon an apparently unread 1724 manuscript entitled "Confessions of the Fox." It purports to be the memoirs of real-life 18th-century British folk hero Jack Sheppard, whose crimes and jailbreaks transfixed his contemporaries and inspired works including Brecht's The Threepenny Opera. But this Jack was born female, falls in love with a mixed-race sex worker, and clashes with a ring of conspirators attempting to monetize a potentially priceless masculinizing elixir. Some of the footnotes Voth appends as he edits the manuscript cite scholarly references. Others are glosses on the 18th-century slang with which the swashbuckling and often sexually charged action is narrated. Still others recount Voth's own travails: broke and lonely, he must also contend with a shadowy publisher-cum-pharmaceutical company hoping to cash in on the manuscript's value. Rosenberg is an ebullient and witty storyteller as well as a painstaking scholar. Like the Sheppard of most earlier tellings, his Jack is an entertaining "artist of transgression" who sheds shackles with ease. Yet the novel is most memorable when evoking the pain behind such liberations: the constraints of individual and collective bodies, and the infinite guises of the yearning to break free. , Correction: this review has been edited for clarity.