FRANCINE PROSE American Authors Challenge April 2020

Converses75 Books Challenge for 2020

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FRANCINE PROSE American Authors Challenge April 2020

1laytonwoman3rd
març 30, 2020, 5:46 pm



Francine Prose has been a visiting lecturer in literature at Bard College since 2005, and currently holds the title of Distinguished Writer in Residence. She was born in Brooklyn in 1947 to two physicians, and has always been a New Yorker. She is married to sculptor Howie Michaels, and lives in a farmhouse in the Hudson Valley. She has two children.

Prose has written novels, plays, short fiction, non-fiction and book reviews, and has served as contributing editor for Harper’s. Her work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals. She has also translated the Holocaust stories of Ida Fink from the Polish. Her first novel, Judah the Pious, was published in 1973, and won the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. She has written many stories for younger readers based on Jewish folklore, and much of her fiction contains elements of fantasy and magic. One of her early novels, Marie Laveau is a hot item on the used book sites, with the cheapest paperback available being over $85.00 US. Luckily, with libraries being closed to us in many parts of the world right now, much of her work is currently available in less exorbitantly priced second hand editions, on Audible, and as e-books. Possibly her best known novel is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. Her most recent published title is Mister Monkey.

Prose’s career has not been without controversy, as she famously withdrew from the American PEN’s awards gala in 2015 (she had previously served as President of the PEN American Center) over its decision to award its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo. A letter she wrote to the Guardian on the subject was ultimately signed by 140 other authors, but drew the wrath of Salmon Rushdie, who accused her of lending support to radical Islam. In 2018, Prose again polarized the writing community by accusing Pakistani American author and film maker Sadia Shepard of plagiarism, in a Facebook post.

If you can’t get your hands on anything else, I’ll give full credit for fulfilling the challenge to anyone who listens to this 30-minute talk on why we read.

2alcottacre
març 30, 2020, 6:05 pm

I am in. I own Prose's Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife and will tackle it in April.

Thanks for hosting, Linda!

3laytonwoman3rd
març 30, 2020, 6:27 pm

>2 alcottacre: That one interests me, Stasia. I'll be waiting to hear what you think of it. I'm hoping to read some of her non-fiction myself.

4m.belljackson
març 30, 2020, 7:20 pm

>1 laytonwoman3rd:

"...lending support to radical Islam."

Was this because the international media refused to publish Mohammed cartoons?

I'll chose Women and Children First.

5alcottacre
Editat: març 30, 2020, 7:28 pm

>3 laytonwoman3rd: I will let you know once I have it read - or reread. I think I may have read it previously, but if I did, it was years ago!

ETA: I checked and I did read it, almost exactly 10 years ago (June 2010). I did not rate it though. It is high time for a re-read, I think!

6laytonwoman3rd
març 30, 2020, 9:25 pm

>4 m.belljackson: The information I could find was sketchy, Marianne. I tried to track down the actual letters, but didn't find them.

7cbl_tn
març 30, 2020, 9:56 pm

I have Reading Like a Writer somewhere in my TBR stash and hope to get it read in April.

8katiekrug
març 31, 2020, 9:26 am

I have several of Prose's works on my shelf/Kindle. Not sure what, if anything, I will get to. I seem even more averse to prescribed reading than usual... *sigh*

9laytonwoman3rd
març 31, 2020, 9:46 am

>8 katiekrug: I get that, Katie. I'm tending toward pure comfort reads right now myself.

>7 cbl_tn: I've ordered that one, Carrie. The video I linked to above sold me on it.

10weird_O
març 31, 2020, 6:08 pm

My New American Life is what I have to read. I just scanned the NYT review of it from back in 2011, and it made it seem entertaining. A 20-something Albanian immigrant gets a job—through Craigslist—as a nanny to a teenage boy in New Jersey. Okay, that could be good.

11kac522
Editat: abr. 2, 2020, 10:11 pm

I've started What To Read and Why, a 2018 collection of essays on reading, book reviews and literary criticism. It appears most of these were previosly published in books or periodicals.

12klobrien2
abr. 2, 2020, 10:49 am

I've got an ebook from the library -- Mister Monkey. Looks funny and sharp.

Karen O.

13alcottacre
abr. 5, 2020, 5:15 am

>12 klobrien2: I will be interested in your thoughts on that one, Karen. I have had it in the BlackHole for a while now.

14katiekrug
abr. 5, 2020, 10:16 am

I've started Mister Monkey on audio. So far, so good - but I've only listened to about 45 minutes!

15alcottacre
abr. 5, 2020, 10:18 am

>3 laytonwoman3rd: Linda, here is my review (from my thread) on Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife.

This was a reread for me, but my initial read of the book was almost 10 years ago, so the reread was due; In this book Prose's stated purpose is to 'consider her Anne Frank's from a more literary perspective' and argue for Anne's talent as a writer. Prose herself states that she got more than she bargained for in her attempt to write 'a simple little book.'

The first two parts and the final part of the book, which discuss the life that Anne was living and the book she was writing, and how to use the diary for educational purposes, I found to be the most interesting parts of Prose's book. For those who do not know, what we think of as Anne's diary today is not the diary that she originally wrote. It was revised by Anne herself, at 15 years old, when she was a more mature young woman and writer, than she was when the diary began at age 13.

"Putting herself in her state of mind of two weeks before she went into hiding. That is precisely what Anne is doing - that is how memoirs are written, in this case in the form of a diary or a series of letters. Anne was not trying go fictionalize but rather to give the most accurate chronological record of the person she was and the person she became, and of everything and everyone that helped bring about that change."

The sections dealing with the play and the movie versions of the movie, although well-written, just do not interest me as much. The section dealing with the Holocaust deniers, I find frankly horrifying.

If you have any interest in Anne Frank at all, I highly recommend this one. (4.25 stars)

"Anne herself had a sensibly and understandably mixed view of human nature. Among the most impressive aspects of her diary is the way in which its author is able to entertain and even embrace two apparently irreconcilable ideas about mankind. Anne's book is a testament to certain individuals' ability to develop, at an early age, a sophisticated moral consciousness, and to maintain compassion and humor under the most intense stress."

I hope that I do as well being loosely confined to my home as Anne Frank did living in that tiny annex for 2 years.

Oh, and if you have not read the definitive version of Frank's diary, by all means, do so!

16cbl_tn
abr. 5, 2020, 11:20 am

>15 alcottacre: Holocaust literature is one of my special interests. I hadn't come across this book yet. Happily, it's in the public library's Overdrive collection and available for checkout so I have checked it out. And I agree with you about the definitive version of Anne Frank's diary. I'd encourage everyone to read it. The audio version is outstanding for those who like audiobooks.

17laytonwoman3rd
abr. 5, 2020, 11:21 am

>15 alcottacre: That's a great review, Stasia. And it does make me want to read Prose's book, as well as revisiting Anne's diary, which I last read probably 50 years ago, and it was not the "critical edition" that came out in the 1980's sometime. Does Prose deal with the question of Otto Frank's contribution to the version we read back then? He edited it before its original publication, I know.

18alcottacre
abr. 5, 2020, 1:14 pm

>16 cbl_tn: I hope you enjoy the book when you read it, Carrie.

>17 laytonwoman3rd: Yes, she does deal with Otto's contributions to the diary, Linda, as well as his efforts to get both the book published and a play produced based on the diary.

19laytonwoman3rd
Editat: abr. 17, 2020, 5:03 pm

I've finished (mostly....see below) The Lives of the Muses, which showed me that I like Francine Prose's...prose...her wit, her insight, and her attitude. So that's good. But the subject matter just made me uncomfortable most of the time. I find I don't want to know about the often icky relationships between artists and their "muses"...usually male artists and female muses who seem more servants than inspiration, at least in this collection. The exceptions, women who struck out on their own (photojournalist Lee Miller is the most notable example) or were actual collaborators in the artistic process (ballerina Suzanne Farrell, who worked so closely with George Balanchine that neither could have produced their masterpieces without the other) are truly interesting. In several instances, however, I found knowing what was going on behind the scenes absolutely spoiled my appreciation for some of the resulting creations. Most of these pairings were temporary, based on questionable sexual dynamics and doomed to failure, serving neither artist, muse, nor Art in the long run. I confess to skimming or abandoning at least 3 of the sections, and to finishing a couple more only because the writing is that good.

I also read a children's book Prose wrote, called The Demons' Mistake, which is a take on Jewish folklore that I thought fell a bit flat. I thought it lacked the old world charm, black humor, and sinister cleverness that should mark a story like this, and compared it unfavorably to a similar work that I really enjoyed, Herschel and the Hannukah Goblins by Eric Kimmel.

20kac522
Editat: abr. 17, 2020, 1:09 am

I've finished (also mostly!!) What to Read and Why, a 2018 collection of 32 book reviews, book introductions, and a few literary essays. Like >19 laytonwoman3rd:, I like Prose's prose. And I especially enjoyed those essays that were about works and/or authors I have read: Austen, Great Expectations, Middlemarch, Little Women, Frankenstein, Charles Baxter, Rebecca West, Mavis Gallant, to name a few. They were insightful pieces, and gave me new light on authors and works I thought I knew well. I'd say I was familiar with about half of the works and/or authors mentioned. There were several literary essays (on short stories, writing clearly and a couple others), that helped me to understand the process of writing and the writer.

But like >19 laytonwoman3rd:, I skimmed about half of the essays featuring authors and works I didn't know. Most had similar "uncomfortable" themes and just downright depressing characters and story lines. Maybe it's these stressful times that makes me avoid these head-on approaches to the nitty-gritty of life. So maybe bad timing on my part, but there wasn't a single "new" author that I've added to my "Wishlist" or that I have any desire to pursue. Still it was worthwhile to spend the time to read her perspective on some of my favorites.

21katiekrug
abr. 17, 2020, 9:23 am

I just realized I never reported back on my Prose read. I listened to Mister Monkey on audio. The brief comments I made on my thread:

"I am not sure how to describe this novel which follows several different characters tangentially connected to a children's play in New York City. The writing was excellent and the character studies vividly drawn. Very funny in parts, just not sure I understood it as a whole. Also good on audio."

I gave it 3.5 stars

22witchyrichy
maig 2, 2020, 10:06 am

I sometimes think I should stop doing challenges and just read but then I wouldn't have discovered Francine Prose.

Like many lifelong readers, I hold the dream of writing a great novel. I think I am really a personal essayist but I haven't given up completely. I chose Reading Like a Writer. Prose shares her love affair with literature and writing in chapters that offer guidance and examples of the bones of creating compelling fiction including characters, dialog, and gestures. Her books to read makes me want to ditch all the challenges and dive in. You can find it here: https://www.giraffedays.com/?page_id=5899 I've read many of them over the years but never with the fine toothed comb practice by Prose. I have been trying to apply her techniques to the books I am reading.

23cbl_tn
maig 2, 2020, 11:07 am

I have Reading Like a Writer in my TBR stash, but I ended up borrowing and reading Anne Frank: The Life, the Book, the Afterlife after reading Stasia's comments in >15 alcottacre:. I read a lot of Holocaust literature, and I gleaned a lot from this book.

24laytonwoman3rd
maig 2, 2020, 2:36 pm

>22 witchyrichy: I never learned the technique of "close reading" in all my college courses, Karen. I need to slow down and do that. Many of the books on Prose's list can hardly be fully appreciated any other way. Thanks for posting the link to it.

>23 cbl_tn: I want to read that one too.

25laytonwoman3rd
jul. 1, 2021, 1:23 pm

26Caroline_McElwee
jul. 1, 2021, 4:18 pm

>25 laytonwoman3rd: Interesting...

27weird_O
jul. 1, 2021, 4:47 pm

>25 laytonwoman3rd: >26 Caroline_McElwee: Interesting article about Prose in a recent NYTimes: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/28/books/francine-prose-vixen.html

She looks very dour in the two photos of her. (Unlike this thread's topper).

>10 weird_O: Despite what I said in this post, I didn't work through My New American Life. Just closed the cover and said to myself I'd take it up another day. That day hasn't yet arrived.

28katiekrug
jul. 1, 2021, 7:27 pm

"She looks very dour in the two photos of her."

Yeah she should smile more 🙄

29laytonwoman3rd
jul. 1, 2021, 8:20 pm

>27 weird_O:, >28 katiekrug: I dare either one of you to tell her to "Smile!"

I really want her library steps, though. And I don't even have shelves that tall.

30weird_O
jul. 2, 2021, 12:06 am

>29 laytonwoman3rd: Oh me too, Linda. Judi needed those steps not only for book shelving, but in the kitchen to access the top shelves in the cabinets.