10 Mar


Back to the Fireflies GSP Promo. Today we welcome, Hugh Fox.


Hugh Fox was born into an Irish-Catholic family in Chicago. He is a writer and one of the founders of the Pushcart Prize for literature. He has been published in numerous literary magazines and was the first writer to publish a critical study of Charles Bukowski. He became interested in literature and the arts at a young age, and attended Chicago’s Jesuit college, Loyola University. After receiving a master’s degree in the humanities, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of Illinois.

In 1958, he began teaching at Loyola University of Los Angeles. Three years later, he served as Visiting Professor of American Studies at the University of Sonora in Mexico, and during 1964 and 1965 he was a visiting professor at several universities in Caracas, Venezuela, including Universidad Católica Andrés Bello and the Instituto Pedagogico. Also a specialist in pre-Columbian Amerindian religion, Fox lectured throughout South America under the sponsorship of the United States Information Service. It was at this time that he worked on the manuscript for his novel The Taffy Hills, which was never published.


His book we are highlighting today is Camel-Lion.


Get ready for a jump into hallucinatory LSD dream-/nightmare-writing here. Fox takes his own marriages (to a Peruvian, a Kansan and a Brazilian) and all his years in Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain and the rest of Europe and turns them into what may have begun as autobiographical and turned into fantasy stories.

His immersion in opera, film and theater since he was a kid, along with a fascination for world literature and a special interest (nightly for 7 years!) in French film, transformed Fox from a Chicago-born gremlin into an artistic internationalist. There’s also his obsessiveness with ancient archaeology; drawing cultural lines between the ancient Andes and the ancient Middle East. So get ready for trips to Istanbul too, a cultural historian turned fictioneer (referring here especially to the first story in the book, the one that gave the book its name, Camel-Lion).

Tucked inside these pages you’ll also find allusions to Fox’s years spent in art galleries; from the Art Institute in Chicago (specializing in French impressionism) to the Louvre in Paris, the Uffizi gallery in Florence, the National Gallery in London, the Nelson Atkins gallery in Kansas City—none of them escaped him. Lots of the time you feel you’re inside fictionalized art-galleries . . . or classical music concerts (“Salvation”).

Let’s not forget Fox’s childhood and early adulthood captivation with fanatic Irish Catholicism and then later in Judaism, when he discovered the grandmother who had raised him was a hidden Jew (“Suede and Velour”) You’ll find Fox always getting to the inner heart of things—a maniacal scholar-artist, as it were.

Always (“Unsprung”) you’ll note Fox’s special obsession with his favorite city, Paris . . . the Parisian; the internationalism; cultural history infatuation; an insane fascination for all of the arts, history, archaeology, world-religion all of which he transforms into somewhat autobiographical fiction.



  Ghosts Again

     Wekkm weekm Hesysm giwta diubg?” he asked, as the door opened. “Comment ça va?” All beaming and up—a man made of scones and gooseberry jam, frozen yogurt heaped over and swirled with chocolate, curly fries sprinkled with garlic powder, chocolate chip and bran muffins; Chinese noodles and filet mignons, but not looking bad for seventy. Fat was anti-wrinkles, gave the old man a certain jellied bounciness.
     Not that Renée, his daughter, was that much thinner. You could see the parentesco between them: same face and double chin and ample hams. She was sexy, though, in just the right light, with her head held up, tensing and tightening her underjaw, romantic; a cross between Blesséd Damozel pre-Raphaelite and the most Rubenesque Pillsbury dough woman nudes.
     “Come on in,” Renée greeted, bounteous as a barn, as welcoming as bands and banners; ushering him into the Beowulfian mead hall of a house, brown and raftered, with its big sofa and braided rug, “let me take you to your room. How was the drive up?”
     “Great. It’s nice to have a little more than just enough. I rented a car at the airport and followed your instructions,” he said, pulling her letter out of the inner left pocket of his Sherlock Holmesian tweed jacket. A man who loved tweeds and a pipe—although the pipe had gone the way of all medical controversies years and years earlier—he followed her back to the farthest room inside the house, overlooking the lake. A huge bed covered with a patchwork quilt that she must have made herself, pillows like big puffy breasts; and he loved the reddish-brown woodiness of the walls, the sound, however faint, of the slightly lapping lake outside. “I expected it to be colder . . .” Just a dusting of snow on the ground, but under the snow the ground itself still black, unfrozen velvet.
     “It’s been nice. I like hazy sun on the water, a little fog . . .”
     “And Jorge?”
     “Down in town with the kids getting some special things. He likes you a lot.”
     “And me him!”
     Putting his bags on the bed, he stole a glimpse at himself in the mirror. How did he manage to stay so blimpy on a diet of cottage cheese, grapes and tuna fish . . . and bagels . . . bran muffins . . . frozen yogurt . . . well, he didn’t starve himself, but . . .
     “So you want to take a little nap?”
     “No, then I won’t be able to sleep later,” he said, looking at the big fat patchwork quilt-swaddled bed, longing to envelop himself in the coverlet. But it was true: if he took a daytime nap, unwinding into sleep later would be even more tortured than usual. “Maybe I could sit on the terrace for a while in the sun.”
     “You’ll get a cold, and I’ll have a sick man on my hands.”
     “No, I’m multiple-layered, and the coat’s lined.”
     Brown suede his coat, like a tent. And a brown tweed hat. He looked like he’d been born for libraries and word processors.
     “Okay, I’ll make some coffee. Amaretto. Decaf . . .”
     “Great, great . . .”
     Was there anything more beautiful than sleep? Better than food, better than sex, better than carnivals and rich old late-harvest Riesling; the last grapes off the vines, raisins, really, the ones all the other pickers had missed, the richest, gummiest, most syrupy of all wines.
     “I’m glad to have you here,” his daughter said, a little tentatively, like she was unsure of—ashamed of—raw unfiltered emotion with all the scales still on it.
     “Me too . . .”
     Another little kiss and she went off into the kitchen; so many years of no kissing after the divorce, when her mother played martyr while she was buying rental property all over the landscape, making up for lost time/time lost now . . . as if you could . . . Moving out on to the back veranda just overlooking the water, he looked at the sun—still up some thirty or thirty-five degrees above the horizon. He had a couple of hours of light left. He’d never understood astronomy; if ancient star-chart navigators had depended on him as pilot they would have been lost forever at sea. If he’d been the calendar-maker for the ancients, they would have planted their crops at Christmas and harvested starvation.
     Finding an aluminum tube chair with a plastic webbed seat and back, he sat, forgetting for a moment where his daughter had gone, before remembering: coffee, yes. White slips of mist rose from the lake surface and drifted toward him; he half-closed his eyes, heavy with much-earned sleepiness. If he died right then he wouldn’t have cared, his old grandmother drifting in toward him with a cup of steaming tea in one hand, a big bran muffin on a plate in the other, “So how are you doing?”
     “I wanted to tell you, it was soo crazy, you know; I married the German girl and we started going to Germany, I got all involved learning German, and then the children . . . Hilda wanted to get a Master’s in Education . . . all the years . . .”
     Regret rose up inside him like an unflushed load in a plugged-up toilet. He hadn’t seen her for, what? Fifteen years before she died; he flew over her head and around her, but it never even occurred to him to re-route a little and visit her; life was like successive chapters of a novel, he’d felt, you keep moving on and on . . . until now, near the end, suddenly the binding was gone and all the pages were being flung at him simultaneously. . . .           





One Response to “Camel-Lion…..”

  1. chalaedra March 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm #

    Reblogged this on Chalaedra's Weblog and commented:
    Camel-Lion, a short story anthology by the late Hugh Bernard Fox, Jr.

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