Jordy Rosenberg’s ‘Confessions Of The Fox’

Izabella Scott in The White Review:

It’s hot as fuck, said the friend who handed me Confessions Of The Fox, a faux-memoir set in eighteenth-century London. I was a little sceptical. After all, this was Jordy Rosenberg’s first novel. A queer theorist and historian of this period, he has re-written an eighteenth-century life from a trans perspective – a fool’s errand, murmured the cynic in me, to claim a world dominated by heteropatriarchy. Yet I found that as well as being hot as fuck, it was also something of a masterpiece.

The novel poses as a lost manuscript, authored by an outlaw named Jack Sheppard, and only recently discovered by an academic. Sheppard was once a popular hero: a celebrity thief, famous for picking the pockets of the rich. Born into poverty in 1702, Jack was sent to the workhouse at six to become a cane-chair maker, and by and by, became a brilliant carpenter. But he remained trapped in a system of exploitative labour, indentured by merchants until he rebelled, becoming a thief and, when he got caught, a jail-breaker. After a series of fantastic escapes from the law, he was publicly executed, aged 22. Even in his own lifetime, Jack was fast transfigured into fiction. At his hanging, a pseudo-memoir was sold among the crowd. Soon afterwards, his life was dramatised in plays and operas, with casts that included his great love, Edgeworth Bess, and his nemesis, Jonathan Wild – creating a rich body of literature to which Rosenberg refers as ‘Sheppardiana’.

More here.