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Powell's Q&A

Francine Prose

Describe your latest project.
My latest book is a novel, Goldengrove. It's about sex and death, grief and recovery, coming of age.... It's narrated by a 13-year-old girl, and I've tried to make it as raw and elegant and powerful as possible. I'm also completing a nonfiction book about the cultural history of the diary of Anne Frank.

  1. Goldengrove: A Novel
    $9.95 Used Hardcover add to wishlist

    Goldengrove: A Novel

    Francine Prose
    "[M]agnetic characters, hidden history, suspense, and acute insight...Prose plunges through the scrim of melodrama to reach the realm of myth, in a ravishing novel of the mystery of death and life's assertion." Booklist (starred review)

    "[O]ne of Ms. Prose's gentler books....But it's not a sentimental one. It draws the reader into and then out of 'that hushed and watery border zone where we live alongside the dead,' and it does this with mostly effortless narrative verve." Janet Maslin, The New York Times


What's the strangest or most interesting job you've ever had?
I worked as a lab assistant in the Bellevue Morgue. It was a summer job, I was 15.

Introduce one other author you think people should read, and suggest a good book with which to start.
Mavis Gallant. Start with Paris Stories (New York Review of Books). Also Patrick Hamilton; start with Slaves of Solitude (same publisher).

How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
I was sent a galley of Roberto Bolaño's 2666. It's the best book I've ever read.

Have you ever made a literary pilgrimage?
I've made lots of literary pilgrimages: Flaubert's house, Dickens's house, Balzac's château, Kafka's grave, etc. It's my equivalent of a trip to Lourdes.

What makes your favorite pair of shoes better than the rest?
I have a pair of glittery red shoes that are almost exactly (at least to me) like the ones Dorothy wore in The Wizard of Oz. I'm afraid of clicking them together for fear of winding up in Kansas at an inconvenient moment.

What is your astrological sign? If you don't like what you were born with, to what sign would you change and why?
I'm an Aries, which is fine with me. Obsessive, driven, living in the future, and fixated on the past.

What is your idea of absolute happiness?
A bright summer morning in the country, my husband, my kids, my granddaughter, everyone there. Perfection.

Share an interesting experience you've had with one of your readers.
A reader once wrote me a letter saying that she had communicated with her mother, who had died, through one of my books. I can't recall the details of how she said it happened, but I was profoundly moved by it, and I believed her.

Name the best television series of all time.
The Sopranos. For seven years, I never left the house on Sunday nights, and I still haven't gotten over Adriana's death. I loved it from the beginning, but I fell madly in love when Syl Dante (I think it was Syl) said, "My wife, she's an albacore around my neck."

Who's wilder on tour, rock bands or authors?
Rock bands, I would imagine. They complain a lot and trash hotel rooms. They have company and encouragement for their bad behavior. Writers just complain and make long-distance phone calls.

If you could have been someone else, who would that be and why?
I would have liked to have been Tina Turner.

÷ ÷ ÷

Francine Prose is the author of 15 books of fiction, including A Changed Man and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award, and the nonfiction New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. She is the president of PEN American Center. She lives in New York City.

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