Blue Angel: A Novel

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9780060195410: Blue Angel: A Novel

It has been years since Swenson, a professor of creative writing at a small New England college, has published a novel of his own. It's been even longer since a student of his has shown a glimmer of talent. And academia, with its increasingly stifling politically correct environment, isn't what it used to be. Enter Angela Argo, a pierced, tattooed student with a rare gift for writing. Fearless and ambitious, Angela seems like the answer to Swenson's prayers. Better yet, she wants his help. What could be more perfect? However, as experience shows, the road to hell is paved with good intentions...

A sublime stylist and satirist, Francine Prose is one of the treasures of contemporary literature. No one writes more wisely about love and marriage, or about the many forms of seduction: the seduction of youth, Of fame, of literary success. Blue Angel is also a withering take on modern academic mores, a scathing tale of colliding cultures that vividly shows just what can happen when academic politics crashes head-on into political correctness -- and to the innocent (or not-so-innocent) men and women caught in the wreckage.

Blue Angel is that rarest of gems: a novel that is a delight and a pleasure to read, a comic tour de force by one of our most inspired and gifted writers. Blue Angel does for creative writing programs what Upton Sinclair's The Jungle did for the meat-packing industry.

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Review:

Francine Prose may never surpass Joyce Carol Oates in the Prolific Olympics, but she is one of those omnipresent writers whom failed writers hate. And surely she'll make new enemies with her hilarious and cruel 10th novel, Blue Angel, a satire of academia, specifically of English and writing departments. The setting is Euston College in rural Vermont, a place kids go to if they don't get into Bennington; a place where desperate novelists teach creative writing to rich kids who don't seem to read. Prose, who has taught at all the hotshot workshops, skewers both teachers and students in the way only a true insider could.

Swenson, her writing-teacher protagonist, once published a well-received novel but is now consumed by neuroses and repressed lust, and instead of writing tends to get drunk or morose, or both. But when a gifted student named Angela Argo enters his class, he feels like he is coming back to life. His resurrection into "believing" in writing again, and his eventual disappointment, form the core of the novel.

Prose's gift for satire is stunning as she directs her caustic wit at all the current academic debates: sexual-harassment policies warning against all manner of "touching"; deconstructionists versus Old School fuddy-duddies; women's studies teachers who bring everything back to the phallocentric Man killing us all. But Blue Angel's best passages come when the author is describing truly rotten writers. Here's a Connecticut rich girl, a member of Swenson's workshop, who likes to write about all those poor unfortunate nonwhite people. Her story is called "First Kiss--Inner City Blues" and is written from the point of view of a Latino woman who lives in a trash-strewn neighborhood full of gunfire and bad people. Here's the opening line: "The summer heat sat on the hot city street, making it hard for it to breathe, especially for Lydia Sanchez." It's a sentence so bad, it's almost a revelation. --Emily White

About the Author:

Francine Prose is the author of ten highly acclaimed works of fiction, including Bigfoot Dreams, Household Saints, Hunters and Gatherers, Primitive People, and Guided Tours of Hell. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, GQ, and The Paris Review; she is a contributing editor at Harper's, and she writes regularly on art for the Wall Street Journal. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, Francine Prose is a Director's Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the Sewanee Writers' Conference, and Johns Hopkins University. She lives in New York City.

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