NYS Writers Institute Reading, March 28, 2005
FRANCINE PROSE, author of twelve inventive, comic novels, is one of America's sharpest cultural satirists. Her newest book is A Changed Man (2005, HarperCollins ISBN 0060196742), the story of Vincent Nolan, a 32-year-old, former neo-Nazi skinhead who becomes a media celebrity after publicly renouncing racism. The charming, but imperfect and drug-addled Nolan is also befriended by Meyer Maslow, a Holocaust survivor and director of the humanitarian foundation, World Brotherhood Watch. Maslow arranges to have Nolan move into the suburban home of the foundation's publicist, Bonnie Kalen, a single mom with two teenage sons. Meanwhile, Nolan's old friends in the Aryan Resistance Movement are out for revenge.
"Prose tears into this unusual premise with the piercing wit that has become her trademark…. Her lively skewering of a whole cross-section of society ensures that this tale hits comic high notes even as it probes serious issues." - Publisher's Weekly
Prose's humorous novel about sexual politics and academic life, Blue Angel (2000, HarperCollins, ISBN 0-06-019541-X), was a finalist for the National Book Award. Set in Euston College, a fictional place where kids go if they don't get into Bennington, the novel follows the misadventures of Ted Swenson, a self-absorbed writing instructor who failed to produce much after his first successful book. Swenson falls in love/lust with one of his students, the talented Angela Argo. The affair becomes the flashpoint of an explosion of academic politics involving a host of current issues, from sexual harassment to conflicts between schools of interpretations (deconstruction vs. common sense, for example).
"A peerlessly accomplished performance, at once tingingly contemporary and timelessly funny." - "Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
"Prose once again proves herself one of our great cultural satirists." - Kirkus Reviews
Her other works include Guided Tours of Hell: Novellas (1997), Hunters & Gatherers (1996), A Peaceable Kingdom (1993), Primitive People (1992), Bigfoot Dreams (1986), Household Saints (1981), which was made into a 1993 movie starring Tracey Ullman, and Judah the Pious (1973).
Prose recently penned her first young adult novel, After (2003), the story of a high school transformed into an Orwellian "re-education camp" after a Columbine-style shooting.
"a chilling examination of controlling forces undermining individual rights." - "Publisher's Weekly" (starred review)
Prose is the author of the nonfiction book, The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired (2002), which features profiles of Yoko Ono, Samuel Johnson's companion Hester Thrale, Salvador Dali's wife Gala, and Lewis Carroll's young friend Alice Liddell.
"the book's achievement is its quiet reevaluation of the received notion that genius is solitary in nature." - "New Yorker"
Prose is also the author of the book-length meditation, Gluttony (2003), published as part of the Seven Deadly Sins series of Oxford University Press. The book considers the relevance of "gluttony," as defined in Church doctrine, to America's obesity epidemic.
"thoughtful and elegant book…. Her style is cool, detached, urbane, knowing." - The London "Observer"
Prose is the editor of Best New American Voices 2005, a collection of some of the finest short stories authored by students in University writing programs across the country. She is also the author of six children's books on Jewish subjects, including the soon-to-be-published, Leopold, the Liar of Leipzig (2005).
A recipient of numerous grants and awards, including Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, Prose was a Director's Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She has also served as contributing editor at Harper's, and writes regularly on art for the Wall Street Journal.
Francine Prose was also a guest at the NYS Writers Institute on October 24, 2000.
"Blue Angel is a smart-bomb attack on academic hypocrisy and cant, and Francine Prose, an equal-opportunity offender, is as politically incorrect on the subject of sex as Catullus and twice as funny. What a deep relief it is in these dumbed-down Late Empire days, to read a world class satirist who's also a world class story-teller." - Russell Banks
"Francine Prose has been steadily producing novels, short stories, and criticism shot through with corrosive wit and searing intelligence, and Blue Angel represents a high-water mark in her estimable career. This is a gorgeous novel, the literary life laid bare in the tradition of George Gissin and John Updike, academe presented with the lofty compassion that Randall Jarrell brought to PICTURES FROM AN INSTITUTE, and a comedy of sexual manners that not only had me laughing out loud, but writing with suspense." - Scott Spencer
"Part Orwell, part Crucible, Blue Angel is a darkly funny look at the paranoid star-chamber world of sexual correctness in the American university system--Dobie Gillis plunged into Dante's Inferno.
Against a backdrop of tenure-clutching terror, Francine Prose is once again the great defender of the all-too-human: the weak-willed, the inconsistent, the hungry-hearted and all other sinners caught between their own personal demons and the mandates of our increasingly Puritanical culture.
A defiant and compassionate novel by a great writer." - Richard Price
Other books by Francine Prose
Writers Online Magazine Article
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or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.