Saturday, August 26, 2006

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

I picked up Blue Angel by Francine Prose because I had heard that it was about MFA workshops. It is not. It is about a creative writing teacher at a college that does not even offer an undergraduate major in creative writing. It does, however, feature many delightfully torturous scenes of the undergraduate creative writing workshop. Also, I like Francine Prose's prose style (awkward sentence alert!) and was impressed with her reading at Tin House last summer, where she was the inaugural speaker, and was introduced by Elissa Schappell. I haven't worked with Francine, but I have studied with Elissa, who is an excellent teacher. Anyway, back to the novel.

Blue Angel is a thoroughly enjoyable read, if you like academic novels, or novels about writers, or novels about protagonists who make terrible mistakes and must live with the consequences. I like all of the above. Plus, it is funny, in a dark and wicked way. Also, it is an expose' of the terrifyingly stupid world of the academic witchhunt, told from the point of view of the very guilty witch, in this case a teacher who has had sex with a student. A student who is clearly using the teacher for her own benefit. Did I believe that the poor schlub would actually be so dumb as to fall for her? Yes indeedy.

If you are looking for a sensitive book about how wonderful teaching creative writing is, and how life-enriching it is to be in the classroom, read something else. But if you are ready to be amazed and delighted by the wit and acumen of a clear-sighted writer who has herself taught many many creative writing workshops, and knows their dark side, then this is the book for you, pal.

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