Francine Prose: “She wrote a best-selling book on the craft of writing.”

From The Writer’s Almanac:

Today is the birthday of American novelist Francine Prose, born in 1947 in Brooklyn. She is best known for her novels Household Saints, about an Italian butcher and his schizophrenic daughter, and Blue Angel, a witty and dark satire on academia and writing workshops.

Prose graduated from Radcliffe College, but dropped out of graduate school after reading Gabriel García Márquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, which inspired her to write in earnest. Her first novel, Judah the Pious, was published in 1973, and she’s gone on to write over 30 books of fiction and nonfiction, including two young adult books, Touch and The Turning.

Prose is a frequent reviewer of books for New York Review of Books and teaches at Bard College. She wrote a best-selling book on the craft of writing, Reading Like a Writer, in which she advises would-be writers to read widely. She said, “The advantage of reading widely, as opposed to trying to formulate a series of general rules, is that we learn there are no general rules, only individual examples to help point you in a direction in which you might want to go.”

Her best-selling novel, Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, was inspired by a series of photographs by Hungarian-French photographer Brassai. The novel features a cross-dressing heroine, auto-racing, and the backdrop of Jazz Age Paris. Pablo Picasso makes an appearance, as do several other real-life artists. Prose doesn’t consider it a historical novel, saying, “To be perfectly honest, by the time I got through writing the novel — five years — I was no longer precisely sure how much was ‘real’ and how much I’d made up. I see the book as a contemporary novel that happens to be set in the past.”

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