Blue Angel

Prose, Francine. Blue Angel. HarperCollins Publishers (New York: 2000).

Blue AngelIn honor of International Women’s Day, Francine Prose is an author not to be missed. In Blue Angel, she takes on the point of view of a cynical, aging professor of creative writing in small New England college. Swenson hasn’t published a novel for years, and it’s been even longer since any of his students showed promise. When a pierced, tattooed student in his workshop reveals a rare talent for writing, he’s anxious to help, but also finds himself increasingly obsessed with her. Through a series of missteps, his secure life unravels, culminating in a disastrous sexual harassment hearing. Wickedly funny and fatalistic, and yet with compassion. For writers: Prose manages to be funny without diluting the tension, akin to Jonathan Franzen but less widely known, and makes us sympathize with someone we might condemn if the point of view were reversed. The story within a story by the talented student shows just how seductive good writing can be. Writers should also be sure to check out Prose’s pointed send-up of writers’ workshops – she perfectly captures how painful the bad ones can be.