cover image Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang

Joyce Carol Oates. Dutton Books, $21 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-525-93632-9

``It was between the ages of thirteen and seventeen that I belonged to FOXFIRE and FOXFIRE made sacred those years.'' Madeleine Faith Wirtz narrates Oates's 22nd novel in first-person promiscuous, chronicling intimately the violent comings and goings of a communard and her female teenaged outfit: Foxfire, a gang set up in smalltown, upstate Hammond, N.Y., during the 1950s. Maddy and her four cohorts find strength in numbers. Together they assault and kill, their main victims being adult men who have have exploited them. The novel is written years afterward from the vantage point of skeptical adulthood when Maddy has gone respectable and looks over the notebooks she had kept during her Foxfire days. In the course of reminiscing, Maddy recovers the group's ardor, the sense of oppression and reckless abandon, and then tempers it. The novel is true to Oates and her oeuvre, revisiting some of the themes of her earliest work--female delinquency and survival--while seeking to expand the canvas into a group portrait. The author grittily evokes the hectic, heated power surges of self-taught feminist anarchists; in her prose she walks a delicate line between the raw and the literary, the wildly ignorant and the wisely knowing. Major ad/promo; Literary Guild selection; author tour. (Aug.)