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Barnaby Griswold makes a terrific living from foolishness. A New York investments player who does his research eating and drinking, a joyously well-to-do man with absurd instincts for the next deal, Barnaby senses possibility even in two Oklahoma car dealers across a dining room at La Cote. He joins those boys for a carousing flight to Oklahoma City, and there divines the imminent collapse of the oil boom and makes the happiest amount of money.

Then it all turns bad, and everything Barnaby has ever known is taken away from him. Not just his wife and daughters. Not just livelihood and connections and lunches at La Cote. No-Barnaby, without a nickel, is banished even from his boyhood summer home, the very last roof over his head.

He has nowhere to go but Oklahoma City once more, to take care of his stroke-addled ex-mother-in-law. And while carrying out those duties, God help him, he must try to win his way back to money, the East Coast, and redemption. How does Barnaby-a profoundly uncoordinated man, a spiritual adolescent, a soul with no history of success in love-ever hope to get back? As an athlete, a pilgrim, and a lover.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Barnaby Griswold is a fool. He knows it, and so do we, as Dillen takes us deep inside his troubled head. Barnaby "loafed and drank his way through good schools" and, lately, hangs out at a very special French restaurant in New York with lots of very special people having lunch. He makes his way in the world by magically predicting the market--until he loses everything. Dillen intercuts the story of how it all went bad for Barnaby--divorced, disgraced, broke--with descriptions of the 46-year-old, uncoordinated "fluffmesiter" sweating his way through an endless tennis match, fighting for his life, or at least his lifestyle. Because he has nowhere to go, Barnaby ends up in Oklahoma City, caring for his ailing ex-mother-in-law and searching for answers. Does he win the tennis match? Does he turn his life around? Dillen's writing is strong and intricate, and his character development is dandy. We may not exactly like the tragicomic Barnaby, but we can't ignore him. As compelling as a romping game of tennis. --Peggy Barber

Publisher's Weekly Review

Barnaby Griswold, the protagonist of this assured and sophisticated novel, is a fulfillment of his father's worst fear: a fool, an indulgent "fluffmeister." After his devious, get-rich-quick investment scheme is exposed, he loses everything: his home, his wife and children and, above all, the spoils of a New York lifestyle he once, albeit briefly, enjoyed. Barnaby's story begins at his rock bottom: a Labor Day weekend he spends relinquishing the last of his equity and beginning his suspension from the securities business. His divorce is final and his wife and daughters await his exit. Sitting alone in what was once his summer home, he gets a providential phone call from his ex-mother-in-law, Ada Briley, who beckons him back to Oklahoma City, the very place where he pulled off his ill-fated swindle. His enemies there are plentiful, and one in particular, a duped client named Peterpotter, stalks and torments him. But Barnaby is resilient, suffering Peterpotter's abuses while nurturing Ada, to whom he's become attached. As Ada's health deteriorates, she becomes intensely dependent on him, and their friendship suffers with his interest in a local waitress, Marian Winott, who hails from the same East Coast circle that now ostracizes Barnaby. His perception of himself as a fool crystallizes, and he must decide which path to chooseÄAda's love, Marian's potential or a chance to salvage his woebegone lifestyle, a surprising development that occurs when, in a brief visit to New York, his intuition predicts a "Christmas Crash." He warns his old coterie, saves them from financial ruin and earns back their respect, enough that they beg his return to Manhattan. The epiphany Barnaby experiences is somewhat suspicious, slipped between confusion and a sudden closure, casting his transformation in doubt. Dillen recounts his second novel (after the praised Hero) in a dense and darkly comic voice, offering flourishing passages, clever turns and tense, delightful confrontations between characters. But while Barnaby is an engaging antihero, readers may find Dillen's tone a bit cold, almost refusing Barnaby sympathy when he needs it most, in his last-minute moment of truth. First serial rights to Harper's. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Barnaby Griswold, the eponymous hero of Dillen's second novel (after Hero) is not just a fool but a jerk and a loser as well. His loss-to-win record is appallingÄthe first column includes his wife, daughters, fortune, homes, well-placed friends, lunches at La C“te, and reputation, while the second includes only a tennis championship at a shabby beach club, his ex-wife's dying mother, and early-bird suppers at the Dinner Box. A securities trader, Barnaby guessed wrong. Hearing of ex-mother-in-law Ada's stroke, he flies to Oklahoma City to help care for her. Bumbling, solipsistic, and sponging off Ada, Barnaby is excruciatingly annoying. Yet halfway into the book, a strange fondness stirs. By the end, the reader is cheering him on as he achieves self-knowledge and a chance at love. Dillen's prose is astonishing, manic, and repetitive, and much of it is stream-of-consciousnessÄalways Barnaby's. For most fiction collections where readers appreciate the unconventional.ÄJudith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



In the morning on the way to Ada's, in the middle of the best part of Driscoll Hills, the part with real trees, Barnaby felt better. For a man who had once regularly busied himself with late evenings, Barnaby maintained an unlikely affection for morning. If he had no idea how things would turn out, in the morning anything was possible. If he was lacking all company and purpose outside of his struggle with Ada and Happiness and pilgrimage, in the morning he remembered that at least he was not in jail, at least he had not run into anyone from the scene of his apology. If no one at the gas station or in the produce aisle had yet seemed to have any idea who he was, in the morning he remembered what a good thing that was. And just like that, he saw Peterpotter driving a gang mower down the slope beside the Methodist Church where TJ had been senior something when he lost his car lots and had his heart attack. Barnaby knew it was Peterpotter instantly, and right away felt a shine of pleasure because it looked as if Peterpotter belonged on the mower, as if Peterpotter had found his right self and his place in life. Everybody likes to see those kinds of harmony. Barnaby stopped the car, rolled open the window, glad to have a window that did roll open, and stared up the broad slope down which Peterpotter's seven-wide, linked, tractor-towed brace of cutters came in their John Deere-green guise of farmness with a slow, reassuring rush of clatter, with the splendid smell of cut grass for wake. Barnaby did love a lawn. He wondered much more than casually if lawn work might be the best course for himself. Was that the morning's glorious possibility, a whole new career choice? That and Peterpotter? That, by God, and the fruition of much of his pilgrimage. Because here it was: he saw Peterpotter, and he felt only generous feelings. Here was a day with suddenly (or not so suddenly-three months, after all) the fruition of things vibrating in the very dew. Was it possible that Barnaby had in fact completed the equation of his penance? Forget lawn work. If Barnaby could smile at the notion of Peterpotter, at the fact of Peterpotter, then Barnaby might nearly have won the chance to go home. Which meant that somewhere, everywhere, but basically in New York, his deals and all the real parts of his life were waiting for him with the open, welcoming arms he hadn't known he would ever see again. Then he remembered that Peterpotter had ruined his life. Barnaby's life. Barnaby felt the outrage come up in him like a roar. He had been marinating in venom, and now the venom boiled. No. Holiness stand forward. Outrage flamed up in him. Quench it. Put it out. For a soul such as Barnaby, this had to be made an opportunity. It all boiled into the base of his throat. Let it go. Let it all go. This was the test. Be a pilgrim. He got out and swung the door shut behind him and was surprised to hear it latch properly closed. He looked back at the old station wagon, and the door was in fact closed, and Barnaby felt a bubble of affection. It was not a door that closed all the way very often. It was a station wagon that anyone would have thought destined to rust into its oblivion on Winott Point, but it had made the drive all the way here to Oklahoma, to the prestigious heart of Driscoll Hills this morning, and this very morning the driver's side door had just closed like the door of a new car. Barnaby appreciated effort and good faith in all God's creatures but especially in individuals of a foreign tribe, and automobiles were the tribe most foreign to Barnaby. It was a sign. God's will was loose. The sky was blue. The smell of new grass was rich enough to make a bishop drunk. In other directions from the clean, shapeless bulk of the church were ranks of deep-lawn houses, a number of them on sale at fifty cents to the dollar but still surrounded by tended yards and by full-sized trees. Yes, many of the houses had doors that were peculiarly enormous; where there had been oil, doors were always enormous. Barnaby allowed the doors. He was more pleased than he could have said that he'd seen Peterpotter and that he'd stopped, that he was ready to forgive, that he could add such a powerful goodness to the caregiving that was his primary errand of goodness. No, the caregiving was not something he did just because there was nowhere else on earth he was needed. Tolerated. It was not something he did because Ada insisted he buy his groceries on her tab at the Center Market. It was not even something he did because of his horror at neglecting his own mother. No, those reasons and a lifetime of others were there, but Barnaby had finally made himself beyond reason into a genuine pilgrim, and this was a morning for all things right, and he walked across the lane toward Peterpotter's broad, green, Christian pasture. Peterpotter had seen him and stopped in his course down the hill, but the tractor still idled, the mowers all still shook and clicked at a distance. Barnaby stepped over the curb onto the grass. The enveloping, new-mown fragrance of life, a fragrance that Peterpotter of all people was orchestrating, lifted Barnaby and carried him up toward the tractor. In the exhilaration of it, he wished by God that instead of khakis and a plaid shirt he had real robes to wear. The robes of forgiving transcendence which he might very well wear when he went back downtown. He extended his right hand to shake the hand of his enemy. He knew as soon as he saw his hand before him that it was unusual because he still had a ways to walk to the tractor and then would have to negotiate around and inside the mowers to get that hand to Peterpotter, but so what. He kept his hand out and felt medieval or Shakespearean, or both if you could be both. The feeling had vividly to do with carrying a flag of good intentions across a battlefield littered with carnage, a flag that offered, that cried out for, that commanded with the gods and the children and the mothers, peace, peace and good fellowship now and evermore. Maybe Peterpotter had in fact been enough distressed by TJ's death to lose his bearings. Maybe TJ had not, as Barnaby thought, been camouflage for Peterpotter's obsessive recrimination simply because Peterpotter blew his own car lots through bad investments. Maybe Peterpotter really believed that Barnaby had wronged him, and if so, then maybe the apology had been good. As this was good. Both of them had lost everything (though Peterpotter did apparently have a fine mower), and so the apology, painful as it was, had been prelude to this blessing. He held his hand ahead and went up the hill slowly. Not as slowly as a king (regardless of Shakespeare, those days were gone; besides, his rank was of a different sort now), only slowly enough so that he could keep from falling down when his feet caught in the pitch of the slope. Peterpotter sat on the tractor and waited for him, exactly as Barnaby would have had it. And it was a different Peterpotter, which was also as Barnaby would have had it. It was Peterpotter in a sweatshirt with the arms torn off, a return to the roots that Barnaby had always imagined for Peterpotter. But it was also Peterpotter in blue jeans and very expensive, very worn out loafers with no socks. From the waist down, which was determining territory in some respects, Peterpotter looked like an eastern gentleman on his fake, weekend farm. Barnaby's father had had precise and fixed definitions for such things, but for Barnaby, if someone looked remotely like a gentleman, that was usually enough. Barnaby hoped that he himself appeared as much a gentleman to Peterpotter. He reached the tractor with his hand still extended and thought that he did. It was meet and right. That echoed from one liturgy or another and sounded just the note Barnaby intended. He wondered if he should say it aloud. He wondered if, along with forgiveness, he needed to offer another, real apology. He felt as if he could. He stepped past the small, but not that small, front tire, and looked up over his hand into Peterpotter's tanned face. Peterpotter had aged and lost a good deal of weight. Good. Good. Barnaby suffused his own face with gravitas and spoke just one word at first to Peterpotter. He said, loudly enough to sound out with truth above the reverberating clatter of the idling tractor, an old and rusting tractor as it turned out, he said, "Peace." Peterpotter shouted back two words. Much louder than the tractor. Far louder than Barnaby. "Fuck you." Barnaby was taken aback, but he had so much momentum that he could not quite stop playing the event into which he thought he'd brought them both. He addressed Peterpotter and was surprised to hear anger in his voice and surprised not to hear more anger. He said carefully, "It is meet and right," and right away he wondered what the hell it meant. "Fuck you," Peterpotter shouted back. "You ruined my life, you piece of shit." Along with outrage in a voltage that made him shake from his ankles to the top of his head, Barnaby felt some surprise that Peterpotter's Oklahoma cadences had taken on the nasty urbanity of one coast or the other. Peterpotter had been watching too much television. Dry spit was at the corner of Peterpotter's mouth. Peterpotter also had stolen Barnaby's line, and that Barnaby would not stand for. "You ruined my life," Barnaby said, shouted, and only now thought to bring his hand of peace back to his side. Inside him, his father's voice said icily that this was a guy you had to hit. A Peterpotter was somebody you punched, and not just one swing. But Peterpotter, without taking his eyes from Barnaby, slammed his own fists at whatever were the gears around his knees and his crotch, and the tractor lifted itself in a roar that drowned even the sound of outrage from inside Barnaby's ears. The mowers joined their noise with the tractor. There was nothing pastoral in that when you were close to it. It was loud like the end of the world. As he tried to think how to reach Peterpotter with his first punch, Barnaby shouted again, in vain against the noise, "My life." But that wasn't the issue. Or it was. The tractor was in motion. Peterpotter was making a long, silent bellow of attack from inside his machinery's horror of grating, clanking, ever-faster churning, and the mowers were upon Barnaby. Use of this excerpt from FOOL may be made only for purposes of promoting the book, with no changes, editing, or additions whatsoever, and must be accompanied by the following copyright notice: Copyright c 1999 by Frederick G. Dillen. All rights reserved. Excerpted from Fool: A Novel by Frederick G. Dillen All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.