Friday, January 20, 2017

Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, a publisher of literary work in hybrid genres, and a founding member of Poems While You Wait, a team of poets and their typewriters who compose commissioned poetry on demand. She teaches English and Creative Writing at DePaul University and is the author of eight books of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction, including the novel O, Democracy! (Fifth Star Press, 2014) and the novel in poems Robinson Alone (Gold Wake Press, 2012). With Eric Plattner, she is the co-editor of RenĂ© Magritte: Selected Writings (University of Minnesota Press, 2016 and Alma Books, 2016). A winner of a Ruth Lilly Fellowship from Poetry magazine, her reviews and criticism have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, The Chicago Tribune, The New York Times Magazine, The Rumpus, The Nation the Poetry Foundation website and elsewhere. She lives in Chicago with her spouse, the writer Martin Seay, and her second novel, Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk, will be published by St. Martin’s Press in January of 2017.
Fall 2016 Library Journal Editors' Pick

It’s the last day of 1984, and 85-year-old Lillian Boxfish is about to take a walk.

As she traverses a grittier Manhattan, a city anxious after an attack by a still-at-large subway vigilante, she encounters bartenders, bodega clerks, chauffeurs, security guards, bohemians, criminals, children, parents, and parents-to-be—in surprising moments of generosity and grace. While she strolls, Lillian recalls a long and eventful life that included a brief reign as the highest-paid advertising woman in America—a career cut short by marriage, motherhood, divorce, and a breakdown.

A love letter to city life—however shiny or sleazy—Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney paints a portrait of a remarkable woman across the canvas of a changing America: from the Jazz Age to the onset of the AIDS epidemic; the Great Depression to the birth of hip-hop.
The cover was the first thing that attracted me to this novel. Not only was it sophisticated and subtle, but it promised to bring something more to the table. I loved the simplicity of it, palette and most of all the faceless woman with the red lipstick... It felt like a read about an iconic woman who will engage and move me.
Little did I know that the description stated exactly that. Lilian Boxfish Takes a Walk is a profoundly deep and ground shaking read. It is partially based on the life of Margaret Fishback, the highest paid female poet and advertising copywriter of the 1930's who actually worked for R. H. Macy's. I wouldn't put it in the biography section, thou, because it greatly influenced by fiction and full of wisdom that can only be transported on paper through imagination.
The main character/protagonist is Lilian Boxfish, a woman I bonded with so easily that I was caught by surprise. She was a strong, independent career woman, but what is more is she remained true to her ways and beliefs even at age 86, when she the pain plot line actually revolves. I enjoyed her flow of thought and her moments of sassyness; but most of all I find interest in the interconnections she builds between the stories random strangers tell her on her way dinner and events that happened in her own life. 
I have old parents, you know, my Dad is 70, and he was a grand man himself...The way he tells stories is more or less identical, so I want to loudly applause Mrs Rooney doing an excellent job in conveying this lifelike ability to her character. While reading I couldn't shake this Canturbuty tales feeling that smiled at me in-between the lines of the novel. I was a companion to this wonderful, respectful and full of life true lady, on her pilgrimage to memory and youth. I wish there more fictional examples for this rank nowadays, it would be way easier for young girls to pick idols and model themselves as self-respecting individuals, who know their own true value and drive.
I admit finding some similarities between the two of us, especially when it comes to life philosophy: "things are the way they are". Criminals and muggers in the city? So be it! Didn't stop Lillian from walking! Mrs Boxfish takes life as it comes, and embraces it fully. If I allow my self to quote another full of wisdom favourite of mine: 
“Newt Scamander : "My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice."”
― J.K. Rowling, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay
Lastly, I think it is in order to say that this book is for all people, I would never risk restrict it to women, because the men out there will benefit greatly from reading it. It is an easy 5 star for me. I wish I could forget it completely, so can experience reading it for the first time again.5FOXGIVEN