Editor's Note: Book Lust Rediscoveries is a series devoted to reprinting some of the
best (and now out of print) novels originally published between
1960-2000. Each book is selected by Nancy Pearl and includes
an introduction and discussion questions. Fool is the most recent Book Lust Rediscoveries pick.
There are people who
find big, bumbling Barnaby Griswold to be perfectly repellant.
Which is ridiculous.
Barnaby, the protagonist in my novel Fool, is
self-centered, greedy and entitled. He’s wasted the gifts his privileged family
gave him. His work is to uncover dreadful investments and pump them up and then
unload them on the unsuspecting. He does most of this work while drinking
largely in New York’s most expensive restaurants.
What’s not to like?
Okay, fine, his wife has gone off, and he barely knows his daughters, but really, Barnaby is at
bottom happy. He loves what he does. He’s not a numbers guy, not even exactly
an instinct guy; rather he follows the path of greatest foolishness, which he
has found to be natural for him and terribly successful. Truth to tell, it’s
all fun, and he’s nearly rich enough to give a library to his boarding school.
What’s more, when he loses
everything, he tries to do the right thing. No, absolutely he does, although he
mostly does it because foolishness coincides at moments with good behavior.
Does he sometimes lose his high spirits when he is forced to confront all he’s
lost, which was a lot to lose even by his own foolish standards? Sure, but then
he sees a ridiculous hope that any sensible soul would be ashamed to notice,
and he wanders toward that hope with every expectation of bounty. Also, as a
function of his natural happiness with himself, he’s inclined to a happy
kindness toward others – except of course when business forbids, and even then
he hopes to be liked by the people he’s bilked. The fact is he wants to be
liked by everybody. Actually he assumes that everybody does like him.
A dope like Barnaby, sooner or
later, you almost have to root for him. All right, you don’t mind seeing him
take it on the chin, but then he takes it on the chin with such foolish good
cheer, except at times, and we all have times.
What happens, though, when
finally he reaches the end, when he is alone and hated and physically beaten,
when the horizon holds no hope whatever? What does his foolishness do for him
then? Can foolishness lead Barnaby to redemption?
Please. That is asking too much. Despite his
amusingly louche charms, Barnaby Griswold will never deserve so much as a shred