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Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Blue Angel (2000)

by Francine Prose

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9062714,621 (3.32)21
  1. 10
    Undressing The Moon by T. Greenwood (SqueakyChu)
    SqueakyChu: Student-teacher sexual liasons

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English (26)  German (1)  All languages (27)
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
The main character is not likable at all. The story was bland: typical story about a middle aged man going through his midlife crisis, sleeping with a younger woman, losing the respect of his wife and child, etc. I wouldn't recommend this book. I gave it 2 stars, because there were a few good one-liners, but that's about it. ( )
  Sareene | Oct 22, 2016 |
2.5 stars.
The professor thinks he has a good marriage but he lives in a fantasy world where women all adore him and listen attentively to his pearls of wisdom. When he succumbs to the temptation of a talented young student (Angela) his life quickly spirals out of control. I liked the way the author used so many writing styles so effectively. (I learned more about the art of writing.) But I found the book as a whole disappointing. ( )
  BookConcierge | Feb 10, 2016 |
The title of this novel comes from Josef von Sternberg's silent classic about an uptight middle-aged schoolteacher who's helplessly seduced by cabaret singer Marlene Dietrich; at the end, he's debased into playing a "slobbering clown". And thusly goes the inexorable journey of Prose's morally repugnant yet simultaneously lovable protagonist, Ted Swenson.

Swenson, a formerly critically acclaimed novelist, procrastinates on his next book while teaching creative writing at a second rate liberal arts school whose obsessive Puritanism has given forth to strict codes of sexual conduct and classes that ought to be named "Gender Warfare in the White Male's Novel". In the atmosphere of this moral panic, Swenson all too easily realizes himself to be an integral part of the false pieties that haunt this college campus like moral ghosts.

Though happily married to his wife Sherrie, his ensuing pseudo affair with his student Angela, as the title itself indicates, comes as no surprise. But, instead of meditating on predatory power structures and railing against patriarchy, Prose cleverly and humorously upends this trope. Prose satirically skewers some of our most cherished beliefs about literature and society itself: that men are inherently aggressors and that high intellect is positively correlated to high moral value. Swenson slowly, and passively, commits moral suicide, while Angela is no Nabokovian "nypmhette," but a calculating woman that has devised the protagonist's downfall to her own economical benefit.

In Blue Angel, Prose takes acerbic account of the nexus between political correctness and the reality of living life itself, and the results are both somber and hilarious. ( )
  Casey_Marie | Apr 28, 2015 |
While I consider this a very well-written novel, I think it has limited appeal, which is probably why it only was a finalist for the National Book Award, and not a winner. The book reminded me almost distractingly so of The Straight Man by Richard Russo, another classic of the academic satire genre. Both of these novels feature middle-aged male English professors bumbling through their rather cushy lives within the bubble of small college-level academia. The main difference is that Francine Prose has transcended her gender, quite convincingly, to create the character of Ted Swenson. The reason I think that the book has limited appeal is that the only people who would really appreciate the satire are those who are familiar with the culture of college faculty. Anyone else might miss the nuances, and end up reading it as a straightforward tale of a middle-aged guy self-destructing in a way that so many middle-aged guys seem to do. Not to say that it's a terrible example of that kind of tale, but it's the academic setting and culture that sets it apart from other such stories. ( )
  S.D. | Apr 4, 2014 |
Funny, tragic. Should be required reading for all exiting an MFA program. Not entering. Definitely not entering. ( )
1 vote usefuljack | May 17, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 26 (next | show all)
Before this novel of academic manners descends into a dark parody of the Salem witchhunt, it is very funny. If I have any criticism of this excellent novel, it is with the last section. Though written with sharpness and grace, the ending is too neat for the novel's complex social comedy, too grim for its playfulness.
added by unknown_zoso05 | editThe Independent (Jul 7, 2001)
I trust I'm not spoiling anything for you if I reveal that a book called "Blue Angel" is about the young and heartless seducing the old and foolish. The erotic energy of the situation (writing as seduction and power trip, reading as willing submission) keeps "Blue Angel" hurtling ahead for perhaps its first half. And then, surprisingly, it becomes bleak and almost plodding.
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Swenson waits for his students to complete their private rituals, adjusting zippers and caps, arranging the pens and notebooks so painstakingly chosen to express their tender young selves, the fidgety ballets that signal their weekly submission and reaffirm the social compact to be stuck in this room for an hour without real food or TV.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060882034, Paperback)

Francine Prose may never surpass Joyce Carol Oates in the Prolific Olympics, but she is one of those omnipresent writers whom failed writers hate. And surely she'll make new enemies with her hilarious and cruel 10th novel, Blue Angel, a satire of academia, specifically of English and writing departments. The setting is Euston College in rural Vermont, a place kids go to if they don't get into Bennington; a place where desperate novelists teach creative writing to rich kids who don't seem to read. Prose, who has taught at all the hotshot workshops, skewers both teachers and students in the way only a true insider could.

Swenson, her writing-teacher protagonist, once published a well-received novel but is now consumed by neuroses and repressed lust, and instead of writing tends to get drunk or morose, or both. But when a gifted student named Angela Argo enters his class, he feels like he is coming back to life. His resurrection into "believing" in writing again, and his eventual disappointment, form the core of the novel.

Prose's gift for satire is stunning as she directs her caustic wit at all the current academic debates: sexual-harassment policies warning against all manner of "touching"; deconstructionists versus Old School fuddy-duddies; women's studies teachers who bring everything back to the phallocentric Man killing us all. But Blue Angel's best passages come when the author is describing truly rotten writers. Here's a Connecticut rich girl, a member of Swenson's workshop, who likes to write about all those poor unfortunate nonwhite people. Her story is called "First Kiss--Inner City Blues" and is written from the point of view of a Latino woman who lives in a trash-strewn neighborhood full of gunfire and bad people. Here's the opening line: "The summer heat sat on the hot city street, making it hard for it to breathe, especially for Lydia Sanchez." It's a sentence so bad, it's almost a revelation. --Emily White

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Charts the downward spiral of a creative writing professor caught up in a sexual harassment scandal.

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