Francine Prose, celebrated author and President of PEN American Center, visited Tulane on February 5 for a public reading in Cudd Hall. Prose has written fifteen novels, including Blue Angel, a finalist for the National Book Award, and most recently, Goldengrove, released in September 2008 to wide critical acclaim. Her nonfiction work, including Reading Like a Writer, has also received high praise.
A New York Times bestseller, Reading Like a Writer has already become an invaluable teaching source. The New York Times calls it, “a primer both for aspiring writers and for readers who’d like to increase their sensitivity to the elements of the writer’s craft.” In the book, Prose encourages teaching writing through reading, and lots of it. The title of the book’s first chapter, “Close Reading”, emphasizes how essential it is to her approach. Reading Like a Writer cites 100 books, from historic heavyweights such as Dostoyevsky, Chekhov, and Austen; to current authors such as Le Carré and ZZ Packer, Tulane’s Fall 2007 Distinguished Writer-in-Residence.
Prose read a not-yet-published short story entitled “A Simple Question” for her appearance at Tulane. Told from the perspective of a jeweler, the fictional story detailed his encounters with an eccentric commander in Nazi-era Holland. After the reading, Prose took questions from the audience on topics such as the current state of the publishing industry, the writing process, and her book Household Saints, which was adapted into film.
Students and faculty alike were impressed by Prose’s visit, noting her creativity and wry humor. Dr. Luongo, Dean of the Tulane Honors Program, called Prose a “representative of literary culture and free expression,” and encouraged students to observe her approach to her craft. Prose described her approach to close reading in a recent interview for The Atlantic, “You don’t have to have this grand opinion and you don’t have to read this with a view to figuring out how the writer screwed up in some way. It’s just about the pleasure of language.”