Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A distinguished Prose style

My life-and-works essay on the novelist Francine Prose has been brought out from behind Commentary’s pay wall, since it leads the list of Essays and Opinion at Arts & Letters Daily this morning. I hereby apologize publicly to Miss Prose for causing her the queasy ambivalence of being praised in the “intellectual home of neoconservatism.”

11 comments:

R. T. said...

I have linked to your Prose piece at "Novels, Stories, and More," hoping that more people will have an opportunity to discover and read your essay.

Manolo said...

Such felicities that your essay was linked by the A&L, and not hidden behind the paywall, for it lead the Manolo to your blog, the archives of which the Manolo has been examining for several hours now!

The happenstance wonders of the internet can occasionally be sublime.

Claudius Vandermeer said...

Queasy ambivalence and apology? Goodness me, I was about to congratulate you. (Nevertheless good, as they say, on ya.)

D. G. Myers said...

It says nothing whatever about her greatness as a novelist that the first critic to give Prose her due happens to be a wingnut.

Paul said...

Prose is lucky to receive that kind of notice anywhere. I doubt that she'll complain. On the recommendation of this essay, I grabbed my copy of BA and in the first few pages have read phrases like "rapes an uncooked chicken" (can you "rape" something dead?), "throbbing hard-on" (is this a letter in Penthouse?), "glacial beauty of an African princess turned supermodel" (I have no idea what she is saying), and "an arsenal of chains, dog collars, and bracelets," (a dog collar or bracelet is a weapon?). I'm not encouraged but will keep reading.

D. G. Myers said...

Hang in there, Paul. Your faith in Prose (and her praiser) will be rewarded.

Claudius Vandermeer said...

On the strength of your recommendation I also toddled to our library and picked up Blue Angel—I've been laughing all day. What a delightful, witty, humane book you've foisted on me—thank you! Contra Paul, I'm enjoying myself immensely.

Paul, one of the things that struck me is how very un-transparent this narrator is—keep in mind how deeply satirical our view through his eyes is supposed to be, both at the expense of this campus grotesquerie and of himself. This really takes the irritation out of what would, in a less ironic text, be fairly provocative.

(Chag sameach, by the way.)

Jim said...

Professor Myers< I enjoyed your piece on Prose (I found it through artsandlettersdaily)--which led me to your commonplace blog.

Are you familiar with David Shields and his book "Reality Hunger"? I've not read the book, but as someone who retired two years ago at 47 years of age from a soul-killing career of practicing law in order to devote myself full-time to reading serious fiction, I found Shield's essay (posted earlier this week on The Millions website), in which he states that we live in a "post-narrative, post-novel world" disturbing. Perhaps you can do a piece responding to his assertions--I'd be interested in your thoughts on the topic. Personally, I think he misunderstands the purpose and value of the novel as a work of art.

millicentandcarlafran said...

Great essay! Prose was long overdue for this treatment. Blue Angel is tremendous for its humor, economy and restraint. It's nice (especially given the critical success of splashier and messier writers) to see that self-erasing brushwork acknowledged rather than overlooked.

Paul said...

Claudius,
I too enjoy the satire, especially of the private liberal arts college's penchant to the un-liberal, in fact, to be so slavish to the enrollment and PR marketplace as to be authoritarian. Students and faculty alike almost always minimize the meaning of "private" in favor of "college," assuming that college is college and speech is protected everywhere. In fact, private colleges are like private businesses, respecting what they wish. Egotism, whether individual or institutional, whether liberal or conservative, hardly even masks the authoritarian impulse into which it often turns. I enjoy the satire of that. I've satirized it myself.
My problem is Prose's frequent recourse to the cute, cliche, dumb, or just vague. When you read Prose's READING LIKE A WRITER, which I teach and respect very much, you expect to find in Prose's fiction a very "careful" writer. The slip-ups I refer too I don't believe are a function of POV, for it is not first person, although I could be wrong. With her other novels I'm not familiar.

kevin said...

In case you haven't seen Prose's bit on Keilson in the NY Times:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/08/books/review/Prose-t.html

Cheers,
Kevin