FOOL by Frederick G. Dillen


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Dillen’s second novel (Hero, 1994) is an eccentrically narrated, riches-to-rags story of the spiritual redemption of a fast-talker, wheeler-dealer, and, yes, fool. Fools are losers when they don’t know they’re fools, and Barnaby Griswold is no loser. Griswold is actually proud of his cowardly, rash, idiotic behavior through his nearly 50 years of life: he’s made money in the securities trade, stayed out of jail, and held together a shabby respectability at his New England athletic club. But he’s also separated from his wife and children, and runs his heart on the fumes of this or that deal. After becoming involved in the Oklahoma oil boom, Griswold accurately predicts its crash and sells before losing everything. His co-investors are none too pleased with Griswold’s new-found fortune, and they connive to strip him of his assets to kick him out of the trade, as well as force him to issue an open apology to all damaged parties. Humbled, Griswold takes up the care of Ada, his wife’s ailing mother, with whom he is at last able to forge meaningful intimacy. One of the few women who knows him for the fool that he is, Ada also genuinely—indeed, sexually—loves Griswold. He meets Marie in a diner, and finds contentment in dating her. When he’s called back to the country club to preserve his family claim to their sacred membership, Griswold guesses the stock market will crash overnight, calls a few select friends, and finds Marie again, the daughter of a club elder. The market crashes, Griswold is restored to social health, and ready to court Marie. His commitment to Ada, however, compels, his return to Oklahoma—just the foolish sort of thing he likes to do. A well-written tale of comic sensibility, sturdily but plainly plotted, with enough skew in it to make things unpredictable, if not quite compelling, for the reader. (First serial to Harper’s)

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1999
ISBN: 1-56512-234-8
Page count: 312pp
Publisher: Algonquin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1999