Sunday, July 23, 2006

"A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them"

The aptronymic Francine Prose's new book, Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them, is due out in August.

Jessica Murphy interviewed Prose for The Atlantic; the entire interview is available online for non-subscribers. Click here to read it.

Here's one passage from the exchange:

[JM:] At one point in the book you say, “I discovered how reading a masterpiece can make you want to write one.” You’ve given countless examples in the book of places where there’s inspired word choice, brilliant sentences, telling literary gestures and dialogue. I wonder if you could offer up an example of a masterpiece that really made you want to write one.

[FP:] The first time I read One Hundred Years of Solitude. Not that I could ever imagine writing anything that extraordinary myself. But it’s hard to read that without becoming just infected by the joy of storytelling. I mean, seeing what it’s like to create an entire world and have things come back around and characters appear and disappear and what you can do on the page. That was a real revelation for me.

Or reading Anna Karenina, in which on practically every page there’s something that you’ve noticed about character and the world or that you’ve seen someone do, and that you never thought anyone else had ever noticed before. And here’s this Russian nutcase who’s been dead all these years capturing it all perfectly.

I may have to give this book closer scrutiny when it is available.

I've read two of Prose's novels and think highly of both.

The latest is A Changed Man. Here's the publisher's description:
What is charismatic Holocaust survivor Meyer Maslow to think when a rough-looking young neo-Nazi named Vincent Nolan walks into the Manhattan office of Maslow's human rights foundation and declares that he wants to "save guys like me from becoming guys like me"? As Vincent gradually turns into the sort of person who might actually be able to do this, he also transforms those around him: Meyer Maslow, who fears heroism has become a desk job; the foundation's dedicated fund-raiser, Bonnie Kalen, an appealingly vulnerable divorced single mother; and even Bonnie's teenage son.
Click here to read an excerpt.

The other novel is Blue Angel, which was a National Book Award finalist in 2000. Here's the publisher's description:

It has been years since Swenson, a professor in a New England creative writing program, has published a novel. It's been even longer since any of his students have shown promise. Enter Angela Argo, a pierced, tattooed student with a rare talent for writing. Angela is just the thing Swenson needs. And, better yet, she wants his help. But, as we all know, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. . . .

Deliciously risqué, Blue Angel is a withering take on today's academic mores and a scathing tale that vividly shows what can happen when academic politics collides with political correctness.

Click here to read an excerpt.

--Marshal Zeringue