Hide Fox, and All After
Rites of Passage
In the month preceding the publication of Rafael Yglesias’s Hide Fox, and All After, his parents each published a novel too. It is such a charming feat—like nothing I can think of since Byron and the Shelleys agreed one autumn afternoon to write something set in their Swiss surroundings, out of which came “The Prisoner of Chillon” and Frankenstein—that it is hard not to think that at least one and maybe all three novels by the Yglesias family were written just to show it could be done. Rafael’s, written when he was fifteen, looks like such a work. It is short, amiably formless, one presumes autobiographical, about a few months in the life of a fourteen-year-old freshman at a pretentious private school in New York. But the wonder is not that it was written but that it is very good indeed, far from something one wants to congratulate because its author is young or because it may have been written because everyone else in the family was writing novels and Rafael decided to do one too.
What makes Hide Fox, and All After so admirable is the absolute trust Yglesias places in himself and in his material. On rare occasions an older writer has been more moving and perceptive about adolescence than Yglesias, but most who try fail because they need in some way to apologize or explain, to shape or to point ominously. Yglesias never comes close to doing any of these things. Near the beginning, for instance, is a series of conversations between the hero, Raul, and Alec, a boy four years older. The two take the occasion of their cutting school one day to discover they can become friends, and they do this by going at each other, ironically and earnestly, with all their knowledge of writers, actors, great men. Like this:
Alec became fatherly. “Ah, but who parts with his soul or being into fucking? Fucking, itself, is an art.”
“It’s an extension of art for you, I said that already. But I can’t fuck hypocritically. I have an infinite capacity for guilt.”
“But the way I make it into an acting part, why can’t you?”
“It would ruin all my imagery of loners, of insane blackness. It is the Hamletian rejection of Ophelia.”
“But Hamlet wasn’t mad.”
“He was mad in terms of the society. That makes him sane, of course. And that’s my madness—every time I see or hear about the embarrassments of adolescent sex, I am in real pain.”
“As long as a novel is about life in some time, some definite period, it must be about some class, because there’ve always been class struggles, and since it’s about some class, it’s social, and because it’s social, it’s political, and now you can relax and say it’s great art. Okay. But we’ve still got a little problem. What do you say about Beckett? There …
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