Arts in New York City: Baruch College, Fall 2008, Professor Roslyn Bernstein
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Falling In Love With Prose!

            “She was so beautiful and doomed and she had a death wish” no, this is not Francine Prose but Myra, an insane character from “Hansel and Gretel”; one of her short stories from the collection “The Peaceable Kingdom”. The real Francine Prose held the audience captive during the reading with her soft, deep intonations. Her hair curtained her face as she drew it back occasionally to reveal the intelligence and wit written not only in her story but also on her face. She peered up to regard the audience that was intentionally shocked into attention by the image of Hecuba and her cat.

                During the talkback, Prose stated she started writing stories as an indirect result of the unruly children she had to babysit as a child. Her face drew back in a smile when she recalled she “did a lot of ghost stories” to entertain the children. Her use of logic and sense of humor led her to discover that if they were scared they might be less restless. Many of her ideas for novels including “Hansel and Gretel” came from personal experience. Prose explained, “As a child I was a huge reader”. She readily cited the highly relevant Hans Christian Andersen and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott Her influences were a revelation. Hans Christen Andersen’s tales even though irreverent, sometimes have dark undertones just like her work. Alcott’s novel is an almost biographical account of a female writer who falls into “vortexes” and “writing fits” and supports herself with them. Francine Prose’s character is such that she remembers staying up all night to start a novel. Initially to her writing was not so much about the freedom of expression but also her livelihood. She admitted she could not “imagine doing anything else” and “just didn’t have a chance for writer’s block”. Her approach to her profession is not only realistic it is admirable

 Her independence is admirable and her spirit shows in her book “Reading Like A Writer”. Prose emphasizes the importance of reading not just for plot but also for the originality of the writer. In opposition to the nature of a short story, a novel focuses more on the character development.  To Francine Prose writing is a novel is “scarier” because there is a chance that it might not go anywhere”. When questioned about her writing methods,” I just write on sentence after another” Her approach at writing maybe considered unorthodox. Yet when she writes, every word is deliberate, and every thought is concise, even at times humorous, just like her. 


1 Kamellia Saroop { 11.17.08 at 2:50 am }

It was great of you to include how her experiences as a teen shaped her writing. You really explore the different influences on her work in this review and thus give your reader a good sense of who Prose is as a writer. The photo you used of her is also artistic and professional.
Your last sentence states that she is indeed humorous. I think this side of her could have been revealed more if you elaborated on the instance with Hecuba and the cat in “Hansel and Gretel.” But this piece still shows Prose as she is; great writing!

2 Craig { 11.17.08 at 3:17 am }

Hi Katie, don’t forget to use the “More” tag to split your post after the first or second paragraph. I’m enjoying your posts!

3 Keyana { 11.21.08 at 12:50 am }

I like your detailed descriptions, I could just imagine seeing and hearing Fracine Prose reading her piece again. You really captured her personality in your direct quotes. Glad to see you enjoyed it as much as I did.

4 Abdul Siddiqui { 12.02.08 at 3:27 am }

Thank you mentioning her humor. I think intelligent humor goes unappreciated these days. In the days of the old, we had physical humor because that is all movies could do. Now, when we have surround sound, we still rely too much on physical humor. For me, intelligent verbal humor is a breath of fresh air and I am glad that somebody else notices it too.