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Posts Tagged ‘Francine Prose’

Trollope on the TV, and Other News

April 27, 2015 | by

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An illustration from Trollope’s Barchester Towers, which precedes Doctor Thorne in his Chronicles of Barsetshire series.

  • Rachel Kushner, Francine Prose, Peter Carey, and at least three other prominent writers have declined to attend the PEN American Center Gala on the grounds that it honors Charlie Hebdo, known for its scathing portrayals of Muslims and “the disenfranchised generally.” “I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo,” Prose said.
  • Julian Fellowes, of Downton Abbey fame, has announced plans to adapt Trollope’s 1858 novel Doctor Thorne for television. Love, real estate, alcoholism—this novel has it all. No word yet on who will play the Duke of Omnium.
  • If Silicon Valley scuttlebutt is right, “snackable content”—bite-size morsels of dubiously nutritious entertainment—is now the most popular stuff on the Internet. What we ought to do, then, is start to serialize novels again. “Publishers could release novels—either completed upfront or written month to month—on their own imprints or through periodicals such as People or The Paris Review.” (We can’t speak for People, but we’ve serialized two novels in the past few years, and we don’t intend to stop.)
  • Young writers get all the attention—and, more important, all the awards. But “age-based awards are outdated and discriminatory, even if unintentionally so. Emerging writers are emerging writers.”
  • Earlier this month, Adrienne Raphel wrote about the history of “Eeny, meeny, miny, mo” for the Daily—now she’s spoken to NPR’s “All Things Considered” about it.
  • Davide Monteleone, an Italian photographer, is working on In the Russian East, a series of “faces and uniforms” taken along the Trans-Siberian Railway—and a tribute to Richard Avedon’s 1985 book In the American West.

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They Never Slept, and Other News

January 15, 2015 | by

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  • Mona Simpson (a Paris Review alumna) remembers Robert Stone: “He’s certainly not sentimental about the counterculture, or for that matter about much else … In a sense he’s definitely writing about our confrontation with other cultures and what that does to the souls and psyches of the people who are doing that, who are not necessarily the people who plan to do that.”
  • Whatever became of the Pinkertons? The history of the nineteenth century’s premier “national detective agency”: “During the early 1890s, the Pinkertons, as they were more commonly known, had boasted a force of 2,000 active operatives and some 30,000 reserve officers. By comparison, the United States Army, which for decades had been primarily concerned with fighting Native Americans in the West, had fewer than 30,000 officers and enlisted men assigned to active duty. To their enemies—usually the labor unions—the Pinkertons were a private militia at the beck and call of industrialists, bankers, and other agents of capitalism. The state of Ohio outlawed the Pinkertons for fear that they could form an army outside the purview of the American government.”
  • Cangrande della Scala, an Italian nobleman and patron of Dante, died under mysterious circumstances in 1329; many have wondered if he was poisoned. The key to the mystery: his mummified feces.
  • Francine Prose was reading an e-book edition of Vanity Fair, until she got the news that e-book retailers can see what percentage of your books you’ve finished: “As soon as I get home, I’m putting away my e-book and opening my volume of Thackeray. I will happily bear its weight … I don’t like the feeling that a stranger (electronic or human) is spying on my sojourn in Vanity Fair. Whether or not I finish a book will be a secret between me and my bookmark, and someday my grandchildren may be interested (or not) to see when I quit dog-earing the corners of the pages.”
  • What can political cartoons do beyond messages of solidarity? We might look at how Arab cartoonists have responded to their own local and national conflicts … When Westerners were decapitated in Syria this past August, cartoonists made light of the Islamic State’s campaign of terror … While the world recoiled with revulsion at the executions, cartoonists unveiled imagery that shocked in order to shame the Islamic State jihadis and other extremists. This is offensive. This is also Muslims critiquing Muslims­­. Beheading cartoons are an answer to anti-Muslim chatter, and that vapid intonation of ‘Where are the moderate Muslims?’ They’re drawing.”

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What We’re Loving: Gardens, Riches, and Kidneys

June 15, 2012 | by

The classical novel exists, in large part, to teach us how to imagine money—the more than we’ll ever have, the more than we’ll ever lose. Nobody today writes more convincingly about lucre than Jonathan Dee. You glance up from The Privileges thinking, Sure, I can imagine how it would feel to be that level of mega-filthy, godalmighty rich—it’s like grasping some exotic theorem—then you dive back in to watch the Moreys make even more. (For a round-up of moneycentric novels, check out Christian Lorentzen in the new Bookforum.) —Lorin Stein

I’m not a gardener—I can hardly tell tulips from forget-me-nots—but I have many friends who are, and I’ve just come across the perfect book for them. James Fenton’s A Garden from a Hundred Packets of Seed is short, witty, and useful. If you were starting a flower garden from scratch, Fenton asks, what flowers would you choose to grow in it? The names themselves are a pleasure to read: the Shoo-Fly Plant (also known as the Apple of Peru), the Pheasant’s Eye, the Iceland Poppy, the Blue Pygmy. Fenton also gives sound advice: “When handling seedlings, always hold them by the leaves, not by the stem”; and, “Forcefully remind your cat about the difference between seed trays and litter boxes.” —Robyn Creswell

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What We’re Loving: Sake Bars, Met Balls, and Rhubarb

May 4, 2012 | by

I’m hooked on The Briefcase, by Hiromi Kawakami, a sentimental novel about the friendship, formed over late nights at a sake bar, between a Tokyo woman in her late thirties and her old high school teacher. It’s interesting enough to read about an aging woman drawn to an older man; when this attraction comes wrapped up in Japanese nostalgia for old fashioned inns, mushroom hunting, refined manners, and Basho, how can a person resist? I can only imagine what wizardry must have gone into Allison Markin Powell’s translation. —Lorin Stein

There are so many intriguing events associated with the PEN World Voices Festival this week. One I’ll be catching for sure is this little-seen documentary on Diane Arbus, actually a taping of the photographer discussing a slide show of her work in 1970. The viewing will be followed by readings from Diane Arbus: A Chronology by Francine Prose, Michael Cunningham, and Arbus’s daughter, Doon. —Sadie Stein

The PULSE Contemporary Art Fair is here! Today through Sunday at the Metropolitan Pavilion, galleries from around the world are exhibiting the best of contemporary art. Whether your interest and pockets are shallow or deep, you could easily be held captive for hours, lost in the endless spectacles and hidden nooks. It’s an adventure, so may I suggest comfortable shoes? —Elizabeth Nelson

Two years ago I started reading (and devouring) the Smitten Kitchen blog. I have since made more than thirty of her recipes and have been waiting for her forthcoming first cookbook. This week she posted a sneak peek, so time to start some seasonal cooking—especially as farmer’s markets everywhere have the first spring produce, like asparagus and rhubarb! —Emily Cole-Kelly

Most people will eat fifteen hundred PB&Js before graduating high school. I’ve easily consumed twice that since then. I love peanut butter. I love the taste of it mixed with a good jam. Statistics about the sandwich are always fascinating: women prefer creamy and men crunchy (I only eat crunchy); the vast majority of people put the peanut butter on first (I do, too, but it just makes sense, right?). Leave it to Ruth Reichl to make a great thing even better. Who knew that a little salt and heat could improve upon perfection. —Nicole Rudick

My invitation to the Met’s Costume Institute Ball seems to have been mysteriously lost in the mail, but reading through the gorgeous companion volume to the Schiaparelli and Prada exhibition is (I’m sure) every bit as interesting, and nearly as glamorous. —S.S.

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Staff Picks: Chad Harbach, The Mets, Masters of the Sob

May 27, 2011 | by

Last Sunday I stayed in bed till one P.M.—then stayed up till two A.M.—reading the galleys of Chad Harbach’s first novel, The Art of Fielding. To say it’s the best novel I’ve read about a college shortstop would be true, as far as it went, but it’s about more than that: “For Schwartz this formed the paradox at the heart of baseball, or football, or any other sport. You loved it because you considered it an art: an apparently pointless affair, undertaken by people with a special aptitude, which sidestepped attempts to paraphrase its value yet somehow seemed to communicate something true or even crucial about The Human Condition. The Human Condition being, basically, that we’re alive and have access to beauty, can even erratically create it, but will someday be dead and will not.” —Lorin Stein

I’ve been reading Jeffrey Toobin’s New Yorker article about New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon with mixed feelings. What Wilpon says about his players makes one wonder if he’s trying to sabotage his own team (which is also mine). Carlos Beltran is overpaid, David Wright is overpraised, José Reyes is always injured. These are opinions an owner should keep to himself. But when Wilpon says, “We’re snakebitten, baby,” he sounds like a true Mets fan to me. —Robyn Creswell

If you haven’t read any of Diana Athill’s work, I highly recommend Midsummer Night in the Workhouse, a collection of her short fiction recently released by Persephone. Funny, engaging, and unexpected. —Sadie Stein

I very much enjoyed Francine Prose’s short essay “Other Women” in the new feminist-themed Granta. Prose was secretly writing her first novel as a graduate student. She joined a feminist consciousness-raising group, and, after selling the book, she left her husband and moved to San Francisco. Somehow, she says, she became a feminist. But was it before or after she discovered her husband had slept with nearly every single woman in the group? —Thessaly La Force

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Francine Prose on ‘My New American Life’

May 13, 2011 | by

Photograph by Stephanie Berger.

Francine Prose is a pleasure to interview. She is quick-witted and gracious, and there is this way that she says my name—“Oh, Thessaly, that’s an excellent question”—that makes me feel, for a split second, as if I’m the award-winning novelist that has something interesting to say. Her latest novel, My New American Life, is about a young Albanian immigrant named Lula, who is working as a nanny for a teenager in a quiet, New Jersey suburb. Her boss has offered to help her get a green card, so Lula waits and waits, until one day, three visitors, unannounced, knock on the door. Will Lula be deported? Are they long-lost Albanian family? Through Lula’s eyes, we see the promise of the American dream as well as the ways it might never come true. Prose and I spoke on the telephone not long ago.

Your protagonist is a twenty-six-year-old Albanian immigrant named Lula who lives in New Jersey. Why Albania?

If you are going to write a novel, I would not suggest that you pick an Albanian unless you are an Albanian. I was writing about immigration, and I wanted to pick someone from the most psycho-isolated Eastern-bloc country. If you go to the Czech Republic now, it is deceptively easy to forget what happened there. But if you go to Albania now, you are not going to forget it— you just can’t; then is now.

In a strange way, the novel began ten years ago, when I was staying at this really crappy Hilton in Tampa, Florida, for a weekend. We got there and there was a plate of food outside someone’s door in the corridor. It was there when we got there and it was there when we left, and I thought, This is just like Eastern Europe, because no one really cares if you ever come back again. In the late eighties, I went with my family to former Yugoslavia. We showed up at some restaurant, ordered dinner, and the waiter came back two hours later and said, “What? I had to eat my dinner.” End-stage capitalism and Eastern-bloc communism have a lot of things in common, as Lula discovers in the course of the book.

So you visited Albania?

I did. I got about forty pages into the novel and I couldn’t go any further. It turns out that you can’t find out about Albania on YouTube as much as one might like to. I mean, you can learn about people’s vacations and weddings and so forth, but not much more. So I went on a trip with the State Department. I was there for about two weeks and I just loved it.

Do you think one has to acquire experience to be a novelist?

Well, I would, because nothing has ever happened to me. I had to go to Albania; I couldn’t make it up. It more often happens the other way around. It is not as if you go around saying “I think I will have a love affair, and then I will write about one.” It’s more “Blah-blah broke up with me and said the most cruel thing,” and ten years later you find a way to put it into a book.

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