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Francine Prose’s first three novels, Judah the Pious (1973), The Glorious Ones (1974), and Marie Laveau (1977), are historical fictions, which combine the rational and the mythic, dreaming and waking, legend and reality. The novels Household Saints (1981) and Hungry Hearts (1983) have twentieth century settings, but still focus on spiritual matters and create seemingly legendary worlds. In addition to her novels, which include Primitive People (1992) and Hunters and Gatherers (1995), and her short stories, Prose has published nonfiction articles and essays on various subjects in a wide range of popular periodicals, such as Redbook, Glamour, The Atlantic, Mademoiselle, and Harper’s Bazaar. She has also written the children’s book The Angel’s Mistake: Stories of Chelm (1997).

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Francine Prose won the Jewish Book Council Award in 1973 for her novel Judah the Pious. She won the MLLE Award from Mademoiselle magazine in 1975 and the Edgar Lewis Wallant Memorial Award from the Hartford Jewish Community Center in 1984 for her novel Hungry Hearts.

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Francine Prose is a prolific writer who, in addition to her novels, has published critically acclaimed short stories, translations, children’s books, collections of Jewish folktales, and essays that explore topics that range widely from art history and the power of writing to gluttony. Over the course of her career as a writer, Prose has published articles, stories, and book reviews in numerous magazines and journals as diverse as Hudson Review, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, People, Redbook, The New York Times Book Review, The New Republic, Yale Review, and Art News, among others. She has written several novels for young adults, including After (2003) and Bullyville (2007), which deal with the pervasiveness of violence in American society and explore themes of power, authority, and security.

Prose has contributed to Oxford University Press’s series of books on the seven deadly sins with the satiric volume Gluttony (2003), and her books Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles (2005) and The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired (2002) not only offer powerful insights into artists and their worlds but also provide moving meditations on the nature of art and on the little-explored role of women in the history of art. In Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them (2006), Prose invites readers to explore with her the writings of Jane Austen, Marcel Proust, Charles Dickens, Gustave Flaubert, and others as a way of demonstrating that becoming a good writer requires being a close and observant reader. Prose’s nonfiction is marked by the same close observation of the world that characterizes her novels.


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From the beginning of her career, Francine Prose has been critically acclaimed as a splendid writer and often regarded by critics as a prophet for her wise and deep social observation. She has won four Pushcart Prizes for her short stories, and many of her books, novels and nonfiction, have been national best sellers. Her first novel, Judah the Pious, was awarded the Jewish Book Council Award for 1973. Two years later, in 1975, she was Mademoiselle magazine’s Mademoiselle Award winner and was recognized as one of “Twelve Women Working to Make Things Better” in an article accompanying the announcement of the award.

Prose often gets her inspiration from her travels, and in 1989 she was awarded a Fulbright grant for travel to Yugoslavia. She won grants from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1979 and 1985, and she received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1991. Her contribution to children’s literature was recognized when she received the Sydney Taylor Award for books for younger children. Prose’s novel Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2000, and her young adult novel After was nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in 2003. Prose was awarded the first Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction for her novel A Changed Man in 2006. The film adaptation of her novel Household Saints, starring Tracey Ullman and directed by Nancy Savoca, was released in 1993.


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Baker, Alison. “The Bearable Lightness of Being.” A review of The Peaceable Kingdom, by Francine Prose. Los Angeles Times Book Review, October 10, 1993, p. 3. A positive review, which describes the stories as tales of lost innocence and high hopes exposed for the common things they are. Argues that although the characters occasionally seem shallow, Prose’s language lifts them out of the ordinary and allows them to redeem themselves by what they have learned.

Brown, Rosellen. “Where Love Touches Death.” Review of Guided Tours of Hell, by Francine Prose. New Leader 79 (December 16, 1997): 24-27. Extended discussion of the title story and “Three Pigs in Five Days.” Argues that “Guided Tours of Hell” is motivated by the paradoxes of late twentieth century “consumer-friendly horror-gazing.” Compares the central character, Landau, with Fyodor Dostoevski’s Underground Man. Claims that “Three Pigs in Five Days” is diffuse and confusing and too contrived to be compelling.

Browning, Logan. “Musings on the Nine Muses.” Houston Chronicle, September 27, 2002. A review of Prose’s The Lives of the Muses, her biographical study of nine women who played the role of muse to artists, musicians, and writers and sometimes to more than one of these. More than merely a review, however, the article speculates on the direction in which the arts are moving.

Caldwell, Gail. “Inferno of Irony.” The Boston Globe, January 19, 1997, p. N17. A review of Guided Tours of Hell that focuses on Prose’s ironic sensibility. Suggests that her characters are hapless romantics who revel in the despair of self-analysis. Describes the two stories in Guided Tours of Hell as descents into the maelstrom that are irreverent and funny; both deal with travel abroad where misgivings that could be minor at home have the potential to color reality.

Lodge, David. “Excess Baggage.” The New York Times, January 12, 1997, p. 7. Lodge praises the collection of two stories in Guided Tours of Hell; places them in the tradition of the adventures of Americans in Europe, and argues that the characters’ problems in the two stories come to a head more urgently than they would have at home and are purged in tragic and farcical epiphanies.

Prose, Francine. Interview by John Baker. Publishers Weekly 239 (April 13, 1992): 38-39. Prose discusses her writing career, her marriage to Howard Michels, and her nonfiction contributions to newspapers and magazines. Baker argues that in her novel Primitive People Prose writes more darkly than in her past fantastical novels and stories.

Prose, Francine. “As the World Thrums.” Interview by Katie Bolick. The Atlantic Monthly, March, 1998. Bolick interviews Prose about how she started writing, why she moved away from traditional storytelling, and where her ideas come from.

Reynolds, Susan Salter. “A Tour Through the Heart’s Twists, the Mind’s Turns.” Review of Guided Tours of Hell, by Francine Prose. Los Angeles Times, January 10, 1997, p. E8. Reynolds discusses how Prose’s characters combine humor and wisdom; argues that in the stories shallow characters have giant revelations, feeble characters rise to historic occasions, and strong characters crumble; history, however, she suggests, triumphs in the end in these two stories.

Yardley, Jonathan. “Fictions About Women Writers.” The Washington Post, June 8, 1998. p. D2. A commentary on Prose’s controversial article in Harper’s, pointing out how rarely stories by women appear in the major magazines that publish fiction, how rarely fiction by women is reviewed in serious literary journals, and how rarely work by women dominates short lists and year-end “best” lists.

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