BLUE ANGEL by Francine Prose


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Prose (Guided Tours of Hell . . ., 1997, etc.) returns with a characteristically sly and biting send-up of academia and the political correctness that plagues our days. Ted Swensen is a well-reviewed novelist procrastinating on his own next book by teaching creative writing at a small New England college. Happily married to the college nurse, Sherrie, Swensen is a kind of academic everyman: Needful of the salary and freedom his job gives him, at the same time he’s resentful of his perceived failure to live as a big-time, big-city author. Into his dull if contented life comes a pierced and punked-out student named Angela Argo, who, Swensen discovers, can actually write. Confusing his love for good writing with affection for the writer (and factoring in some good old midlife sexual ennui), Swensen works himself into an obsession for Angela that culminates in near intercourse in a dorm room and a halfhearted promise to show his beloved’s book to his New York editor. In this withering take on ivory-tower mores, Prose skewers some of our most dearly held beliefs: that men are aggressors, that young women are sitting-duck victims, that high intellect has any relationship whatsoever to high moral behavior. Her Swensen is not exactly likable, but in his bumbling self-destruction, he becomes lovable. What happens when a more-or-less moral, not particularly demanding, average-ly self-involved, middle-aged man crashes headlong into both academic politics and political correctness? When Prose is doing the imagining, you can count on nodding in recognition while howling with laughter. An academic comedy of manners as engaging as Richard Russo’s Straight Man: Prose once again proves herself one of our great cultural satirists. (Author tour)

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2000
ISBN: 0-06-019541-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 2000


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