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Blue Angel
by Francine Prose

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



Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (1 of 44), Read 65 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002 07:37 PM I had never heard of Francine Prose until Tonya recommended this book. What a talent she is. Never before have I laughed so hard and cringed so much simultaneously. "Oh, NO, don’t DO that," I told him. But he just didn’t listen to me. So much for my motherly inclinations towards fictional characters -- they pay absolutely no attention (much like real children). The send-up of politically-correctitute was priceless. The bad writing was wonderful. The good writing was pretty good too. I cared about all the characters, even Angela. (Well, I didn’t care too much for most of his other students – and that boyfriend character.) SPOILER ALERT!!!! I was taken in by Angela, even as much as Swenson was. I liked her – her room decorations, her reading, her writing, and her seeming fragility. Were you all as surprised as I was when she turned on him? From the time of the tape to the end of the book, I was squirming. I wanted someone to rescue him so badly. I even had delusions that the "boyfriend" would tell the panel that Angela had staged the whole thing. When he testified that Swenson molested Ruby, I thought that nail in that particular coffin was just too much. The book really could have done without that. His not defending himself in that situation doesn’t seem true to character. What do you all think? That’s the only little qualm I have, though. Did you all believe his happiness at the end? Do you think Sherrie will go back to him? Sherry
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (2 of 44), Read 61 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002 08:39 PM Sherry, There was something about Angela that made me see red warning flags almost from the beginning. I don't know if it was all the body piercings or her attitude or the deal with her little book of erotic poetry, or what. And then, just when I convinced myself I shouldn't pre-judge her and began to cut her some slack, she showed her true colors. Before I read the book, I thought the cover photo was about a young innocent girl who was being taken advantage of sexually by the big bad teacher. After I read it, I thought instead, "Yeah, there's big, bad Angela telling poor old Ted to kiss her hiney." I didn't know what to make about that business with Ruby. I wouldn't have put it past her to have lied about her father, but whether she lied or the boyfriend lied, I'm not sure. I only know that every single female in his life had turned on him by the end of the book. I was a bit intrigued that Angela changed her appearance three times during the course of the book, once for each 'stage.' First she was the quiet, timid blonde, leather and clunky jewelry. Then, as her plan was in full action, she died her hair stark black and switched to a more provocative short skirt. And third, as the poor little victim, she changed her hair to a soft brown and dressed in the typical co-ed attire. She became what she needed to become in order to achieve her goals,at the drop of a hat. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (3 of 44), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002 09:04 PM I was all for the poor Teddy bear. Like Sherry, I kept telling him to stop playing with matches before he got his fingers burnt. I also had a hard time believing that this was going to be just another one of those Bad Prof Harasses Female Student Stories. I'm tired of them. (Even if I do have a history of falling in love with my teachers.) SPOILER!!!!!!!!!! I THINK! But what to make of that last chapter. I'm going to go out on a limb here. Are we sure Ted isn't much worse than we've all been lead to believe. I'm wondering if we haven't been inside the head of the classic unreliable narrator. The first clue was his constant rationalization of his behavior. The second was that crazy outburst at the dinner party. Why react so violently? Then there was how immediately Sherrie knew he'd been boinking a student. There was more of a history there than we'd been led to believe. Then Ruby. It's never, ever explained why Ruby is the way she is. Not only why is she so antagonistic toward her parents, but why has she turned out to have the personality she does? We're told she was a happy child. Why is she now hiding her body, doing what she does with that Female Alliance or whatever it is? It's all explained very nicely if Daddy actually did molest her. All right. So call me a distrustful, dirty old lady. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (4 of 44), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002 09:46 PM Sherry, Ruth, and Beej, You have given my a lot to think about. Those were great notes. I agree with all of you about Ted. It was so painful to watch him go down the drain. I really liked him and at first he seemed to be able to resist temptation. I thought that Angela had it in for him from the beginning. She was a manipulator, so I wasn't surprised when she turned on him. You couldn't trust a thing she said. She had told Ted that her mother and stepfather were coming for parents weekend, and then it seemed obvious that the man was her real father. I think that she told Ted that it was her stepfather, so that he would think that her poems were based on fact. This horrible old stepfather had been abusing her. Ted fell for that one even though he kept warning his students that the stories by the other students weren't necessarily autobiographical. I, somehow, don't think that he molested Ruby. I think that she would have done something about it if he had. What a wonderful book! I had never heard of Prose before either. Jane
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (5 of 44), Read 60 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, March 14, 2002 10:14 PM Addendum to my previous note: I know that Ted's deep-sixing the boyfriend was posited as the cause of Ruby's antagonism toward him, but all thru the book I kept feeling it just wasn't a good enough explanation. And Ruby's antagonism extended to her mother, too. Which it would, if her mother had not protected her against her father. Sherrie seemed to me like a pretty level-headed woman. She just didn't seem like the type who would leave after 20 years because her husband overstepped the line once. It looked to me that this was just the straw that broke the camel's back. As for the "happy ending," I think it's just Ted, on another of his self-delusional trips. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (6 of 44), Read 65 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 06:36 AM I didn't think that Ted was an unreliable narrator a la Humbert Humbert. I think that there would have been more evidence by Prose if that had been the case. But then I tend to be pretty literal (I was even surprised when Angela turned on him, even though I knew there was something weird going on there). Ruth, I thought you were going to start reading this today. Boy you read fast! Sherry
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (7 of 44), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 09:57 AM Anything's possible, Ruthie, but in this case I don't think so. The unreliable narrator is most common in those books written in the first person. While this is written in the present tense--like Updike's books-- which gives it a sense of immediacy, it is in the third person. But again, anything's possible. Focusing on Ruby for a sec, for me that all harkened back to the wave of "recovered memory" cases of the eighties--all those women recovering memories of having been abused by their fathers or whomever. Since then that "recovery memory" crap has been entirely debunked, but innocent men's lives were devastated at the time. This was in a way a comic send-up of all that. What I don't know is whether Ruby actually did tell this to her boyfriend or he invented it. Ruby seems to me to be the classic young woman who has become alienated from both her parents for reasons that are really inexplicable. The business of her parents interfering with her romance was just a pretext. In her mind all of her problems--and they seem to be myriad--are caused by them. Sometimes these young women come around in their late twenties or thirties. Sometimes they don't. I thought this was a great portrayal of all that. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (8 of 44), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 12:03 PM I am definitely with Ruth on the unreliable narrator. The whole time I read the book, I could never forget that all we were seeing was what Ted sees. All other characters are described through his eyes. And he's notoriously tuned out and unperceptive. He comments on this characteristic towards the beginning of the book, I believe when he is having that lunch with Magda. He says something about how he'll have students in his classes whose lives are going down the toilet and he has no idea until someone says something in passing to him, usually well after the fact. Also consider his internal dialogue on everyone and how it changes based on how he feels about them at that particular moment. This is especially obvious during the 'trial' at the end of the book. I have to say that I did not really like this book. Prose's writing seemed rather obvious to me. The way she foreshadowed that Matt was Angela's boyfriend -- when he called and sort of recognized the voice. I actually thought it was out of character for him to be tuned in enough for him to realize that he might know the voice, especially since he seemed to be in some heightened state of confusion whenever having anything to do with Angela. I do not believe that Sherrie will have anything to do with him after this. The reason I believe this has to do with another thing I did not like about the book -- the symbolism. The book ends with Ted looking at a deer and thinking about how it is representative of understanding and forgiveness. If you recall, Sherrie ordered venison in the restaurant when Ted told her what was going on. I don't think it is a good sign that Sherrie was eating up all that understanding and forgiveness. The book was absolutely successful in its depiction of a college writing class. I was even laughing at myself as I was thinking about this book because I caught myself thinking that I had to remember to say something good about it! I'm not sure what is with Ruby. I suspect that Ted is delusional enough that he would actually wipe out of his mind any thought of ever having hurt her. He is so emphatic about how he would never hurt her. He is not emphatic about anything else in his life. I do believe he did something to her, but he is suppressing the memory. I almost wonder if Ruby is actually the driving force behind this whole thing. The one who actually planned it. I was wondering if her pre-Thanksgiving call was a moment of regret and she was going to tell him what was really going on -- if she had gotten through to him right then. It takes a couple of days before she does talk to him, and nothing important seems to be said in the conversation, although her message was that she had something she really needed to talk to him about. Karen
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (9 of 44), Read 55 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 01:40 PM Well, so be it, but personally in no way whatsoever did I see this as a portrayal of male evil, but rather a fairly brilliant portrayal of male obliviousness, ineptitude, and resulting self-destructiveness. As for Angela, I had no difficulty spotting her as walking, talking Trouble (note capital "T") from very nearly the moment she appeared. Not patting myself on the back at all. That's just the way it appeared to me early on. Ted's molar breaking at the critical moment was perfect and such a great comic touch! It wonderfully highlighted the fact that this middle-aged guy was some place where he hadn't ought to be at all. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (11 of 44), Read 52 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 01:55 PM I remembered last night after I posted, Steve, that the unreliable narrator is traditionally in the first person. Then I got to thinking, and realized that, as Karen pointed out, this book may be 3rd person, but it is absolutely restricted to Ted's POV. We are never outside his head. What we see and know is what he sees and knows. So the unreliable narrator could still work. I agree with you, Steve, that it’s a “fairly brilliant portrayal of male obliviousness, ineptitude, and resulting self-destructiveness.” Absolutely. And no,Ted is not evil, but he is oblivious, inept and self-deceiving and as such is fully capable of actually being what the hearing describes. I agree with you, Karen, on the hearing. Ted's dodging and feinting with each person's evidence and motives was just too over the top for it not to have some deeper significance. If at the end, we realize that we've been had, that Ted actually is a creep, we've got more to think about. Without our doubts as to Ted's perception of things, this book turns into a mere sendup of campus sexual harassment. While it has its amusing moments, I don't think it's over-the-top funny enough to stand on its own as that alone. Even if it’s not a complete unreliable narrator setup, I’m sure that at the end we are meant to have definite doubts about this guy. But the venison thing totally went over my head. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (15 of 44), Read 61 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 03:27 PM I think this may be a good time to go back and reread that New York Times Magazine article on viciousness in young females. I think some of those young women would fit right into Prose' story. Not surprisingly I suppose (being male and all), I utterly failed to see any indication of sexual abuse beyond the out-of-the-blue accusations by Ruby which of course fit neatly into the entire Salem witch trial atmosphere that was building toward the end of the novel. Why did she do it? Why did any of them "do it" to poor old Ted? I'd suggest the answer is: he was, despite all the post-modern rhetoric, not enough of a man. In the end, Ted's one great and unforgivable sin and weakness was his cluelessness about women and they despised and ultimately hated him for it. Although, even on a good day he probably wouldn't have been up to par. I am reminded of that George Bernard Shaw (I think) quote, "No man is a match for a woman, save with a whip and hobnail boots. And sometimes not even then." Perhaps he would have done better if he'd slapped some of them around a bit? Anyway, a very funny and diverting little book. The first part in particular reminded me uncannily of Updike's use of point of view, and of course the entire campus/New England setting reeked of Updike. I don't think any of that was an accident on Prose's part as she lets us know exactly what all's at stake in even the civilized parts of the War Between (or, should I say 'Among' here in the 21st century?) Sexes. The ending was a little weak, or at least unfocused. Personally, I'd be curious about a sequel to look at the rest of Ted's life. Normally they just bury people after the sort of things that befell him whereas Ted had the misfortune to still be walking around afterward. His future's far from clear, and despite everything, he really doesn't seem to have learned much from the experience (he never seemed to learn much, from any experience, did he?) Dick
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (10 of 44), Read 56 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 01:46 PM I liked this book -- a lot. Whether you do or not probably depends on just how funny you find the satire. For me, the writing classes were priceless examples of humor. As a teacher, I also responded to the way the "hero" was always second guessing everything he did or said. I'm afraid I do that a lot myself when I'm teaching and trying to guide a discussion. I don't think Ruth is off-base in wondering if he was really guilty of incest. Prose wanted us to at least entertain the possibility. If you choose that interpretation, there are some hints that this could have happened. The most obvious is the extreme hostility Ruby feels for her father. She especially shrinks from all physical contact. Now, any child might temporarily hate her parent for breaking up a relationship with her boyfriend, but Ruby has been on her own for quite a while now, and her feelings don't seem to have softened at all. Her father also recalls that once Ruby became a teenager, all touching between them became off-limits, perhaps suggesting that they were too close physically before. Do I think he sexually abused his daughter? Naw - I like this guy too much. But I definitely think we're not getting the whole story here. I also think it's possible that Ruby hated her Dad (and I think she did) because she sensed what a disappointment she was too him. It was pretty clear that he didn't like her much. Did his wife ever take him back? Never in a million years. Is he really facing a new beginning at the end of the book, with the possibility that he will become a better, more productive person. In other words, is this book "redemptive?" I don't think so, but I sure enjoyed the ride. Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (12 of 44), Read 54 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 02:14 PM Yes, Ann, didn't she have those writing workshops dead-on. Just recently I read a poem that was just as accurate on poetry workshops. If I can find it, I'll post it over in Poetry. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (13 of 44), Read 60 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 02:59 PM If there ever was a fascinating example of disparate gender viewpoints on something, this discussion so far is it. I am flabbergasted! Ted maybe sexually abused his daughter when she was young. I'll be darned! I wonder why she also detests her mother equally. The apparent sincerity of his love for his daughter and his mystification as to what's going on with her is certainly devious. The fact that a teenage girl would withdraw from physical contact with her father--kisses and hugs--seems to seal the verdict though, doesn't it? Perhaps I should also to distrust the narrator's rendition of events as they occurred with Angela. I wonder how much of what is written in this book I may disregard and for which I may freely substitute my own inventions. Sherrie ain't taking him back. We agree on that. He naïvely thought she would before taking her to a restaurant to talk this over. (How stupid was that!) But he's right when he concludes later that you can live with someone forever and not know them at all: If, as Sherrie said, guys always turn out to be guys, maybe women turn out to be women, with their Jane Eyre and their covens. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (14 of 44), Read 66 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 03:12 PM For what it's worth, and I may well be the only member of my gender to believe this, and tho I think Ted made some really dumb choices, I do not see any evidence whatsoever that he behaved inappropriately toward Ruby. In fact, if anything, I think he was, to a certain point, the victim. The only person who was more of a victim was Sherrie. (Will she go back? I hope so.) Sure, he was wrong to attempt a sexual relationship with a student, but Angela was so devious and so manipulative in her ambitions, that I think she would have been capable of just about anything in order to get what she wanted. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (16 of 44), Read 64 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 03:36 PM But she doesn't detest her mother equally. A certain amount of detestation, yes, but that can be explained as anger because her mother failed to protect her. But remember, she spends Christmas with Sherrie. And at Thanksgiving Ted senses that she and Sherrie have mended fences. Beej, just because Angele was devious (and we only have Ted's word for that) doesn't mean Ted wasn't devious right back. I remain convinced that this guy isn't the innocent bumbler he's presented as. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (17 of 44), Read 65 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 03:42 PM So, she didn't detest mother equally. Why would that mean her dad sexually abused her? I didn't see where Ted was devious. I saw where he was stupid. I saw where he mistook the wrong part of his anatomy for his brain. But I didn't see where he was devious. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (18 of 44), Read 62 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 04:07 PM You didn't see where he was devious, because HE didn't see where he was devious. How do we know anything he says is more true than anything anybody else says? We've seen the workings of his mind, how he can rationalize everything to suit himself. If he didn't actually molest Ruby, he did SOMETHING that distressed her, and distressed her in a sexual way. Maybe he did just what Angela accused him of doing, of looking at her like she was "dinner." I'm thinking of that tape, now. Ted insists it's doctored so he'll come out sounding bad. I went back and looked at the original conversation. The part that was left out wasn't significant at all. He'd have looked just as bad if it had been left in. And he said that there was noise on the tape at that point. If that bit had been erased, there would be silence. If it had been spliced, there might have been a click. I think the noise was just Angela, shifting about and rubbing something against the mike. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (19 of 44), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 04:45 PM I'm with Beej and Steve on this one. I think the guy is bumbling, but not an abuser. And if I can't believe what the author tells me about her creation (a fiction creation) I don't know who to believe. I don't think Prose is that devious. Sherry
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (20 of 44), Read 52 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 07:35 PM Ruth's right. Ruby definitely didn't detest her mother like she did her father. Although the abuse allegation was made, I'm 80% sure that the father was innocent. Dick and Steve are 100% sure that the girl imagined the abuse. Interesting. Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (21 of 44), Read 51 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 08:27 PM And I'm 80% sure that something fishy was going on, even if it wasn't outright abuse. And I think Prose is a clever enough writer to have purposely planted this conundrum. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (22 of 44), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 09:15 PM Assuming I can get this posted, I would just say: if he did abuse the daughter (and I must confess to some amazement at how this issue has taken on such a central place in the discussion) it would be the only situation in the book, that I can recall anyway, where there is such complete misreporting by Ted as narrator. His past relations with others may be tinged with all sorts of neurotic overtones, but insofar as we can know from the story, the account of those relations are factually accurate. It just does't ring true to me for Prose to have this single, almost entirely unaddressed and unforeshadowed issue end up being the dominant point of the story -- when the entire focus is otherwise on an amusing tale about an emotionally shallow, middle-aged neurotic cruising blithely to social, marital and professional disaster. br> Dick
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (23 of 44), Read 54 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 09:38 PM It seems to me that Prose is having such fun skewering political correctness that it would go against the grain of her book to have Ted really be an abuser. To me that would relegate the book to soap opera and cliche. I was wondering about Ruby and that phone call. I had an idea that Ruby had met Angela and that Angela had learned a lot of details from Ted's life that way. The phone call might have been Ruby trying to warn Ted of the trap, but since he didn't call back, she might have been so angry at him that she decided to let him get nailed. I would love it if Prose would come in here and tell us what some of her "clues" meant. How did you all like Angela's writing? I really liked the beginning of the egg story, but when the music teacher started being the focus, I thought it got predictable. I wasn't at all surprised that the agent did an end-around and decided to publish the book without telling Ted. Sherry
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (24 of 44), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 10:28 PM Wow, I'm wondering if this book is provoking such heated discussion everywhere. Do you think Prose intended that effect? Do her other books address these kinds of topics? Sherry makes an excellent point that Prose does such an excellent job of skewering political correctness in the rest of the book that it doesn't follow (for me) that she would introduce actual sexual abuse in the end. It seems to follow a theme of unhappy people who fall into the current dysfunction of the moment. Angela knowingly used one to get what she wanted, justifying herself with her need. Ruby seems to be to be an unhappy adolescent (perhaps because Dad was too preoccupied with himself) who landed in a group of true believers. Those groups are around in every age and can operate almost like a cult. I don't think there was sexual abuse but I do think that Ruby believed there was. In the end, I think that Prose introduced that factor to illustrate the spiral that had gone out of control. Haven't you ever watched that sort of group dynamic operate? Everyone keeps reinforcing each other until finally one little voice pipes up and says "Hey! The emperor has no clothes." Then, a few people look at each other and think, "Of course not and how did we get swept up in that?" Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (25 of 44), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Hill bleehill@charter.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 10:49 PM I read this book a month ago, and I've been reading the comments here with much interest. I thought Ted was in some kind of denial all the way through the book and still was when he walked away at the end. When the boyfriend accused him of abusing Ruby I flashed back to the time he was taking Ruby to the computer store. He got into the car and kissed her on the cheek. "Ruby stiffens and flinches" At the time I had wondered about it but when the boyfriend made his statement I thought "Aha, busted!" I'm with Ruth, something happened. Barb Hill
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (26 of 44), Read 46 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 10:55 PM There is an interesting interview with Prose at http://www.barnesandnoble.com/e_arch/fiction/006019541X_re.asp She discusses the inherent difficulties in teaching creative writing and makes some interesting comments about Swenson's marriage and his self-destructiveness. Interviewer: As Swenson gradually unravels, his wife, Sherri, can only collect her dignity and move out of the way. Like many marriages, the Swenson's survived years of ups and downs only to come unglued over a single, avoidable, and pathetic mistake. I asked Prose if most marriages are inherently doomed, subject to the frailties of men and women. Prose: "I hope not! I'd like mine to last. Swenson is a guy who's looking to take a big fall; he just doesn't know it. And as far as Angela goes -- Swenson's love and nemesis -- anybody who teaches would know that a student like that is big trouble. And the fact that Swenson is drawn to her -- it's a kind of death wish. So I don't think it's about the impossibility of marriage, I think it's about this guy who gets to a certain point and just wants to pull the plug on his whole life and finds this particular way of doing it." Her pick to play Swenson in the movies is Nick Nolte and she would give the part of Angela to Angelina Jolie. Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (27 of 44), Read 42 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 10:57 PM Also, don't you think there is a lot more to discuss in this book than Ruby's alleged sexual abuse? I agree that the portrayal of the writing classes was almost wickedly funny. She seemed to be trying to make individual little personalties of each student. I didn't think she succeeded, except perhaps with Claris, but I liked the effort. Actually, I thought her university staff characters were the most successful. I could absolutely see all of them. Didn't you love the University president? What a perfect pretentious bastard he was! And, how willing he was to go along with whatever political pressure was being put on him. Magda seemed essential to me too, the woman in the middle. That hearing was a lovely little bit of farce as well. Everyone was being so wonderfully smarmy, maintaining their friendliness with Ted, while they nailed him to the wall. Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (28 of 44), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 15, 2002 11:43 PM I've read too many send-ups of academia to find this one outstanding. Good yes, but not outstanding. Seems to me it would be a real tour de force if Prose could make us think that's all this novel is, could make us sympathise with poor bumbling Ted, out to hoist his own petard and then pull the rug out from under us. (Aside to Dick, I think there's lots of foreshadowing, only so subtle that it's only picked up on afterwards.) BUT, in light of what the majority of you have said here, I began to wonder if I was nuts. So I've done a cruise on the net looking at reviews. I am definitely in the minority. I could only find one reviewer who saw what I saw, http://www.hippopress.com/books/blueangle.html Ah well. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (29 of 44), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 06:56 AM Barb, that was an interesting article. I especially liked this particular description of writing: "You learn what you can do without -- that you don't have to over-explain, that you can trust the reader." What I liked most about the book was the humor in the most unlikely places. One example is when Angela went to get a condom and Swenson said that it was so long since he used one, that at first he thought she had brought him a tea bag. Sherry
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (30 of 44), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 09:52 AM I really liked that article too, Sherry, but it was Ann who gave us the link. It gives you a good sense of who Prose is, doesn't it? Her statement that Swenson was a man who had decided to crash sets the tone for me. I kept internally screaming at him throughout the book. And, yes, the humor...can one ever forget the scene with the chicken? Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (31 of 44), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 10:00 AM I have a thing about opening sentences in books. I love to look at them to see how they set the place, grab you from the beginning, etc. I think Prose's in this book does a wonderful job of painting this class: 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 struck in this room for an hour without real food or TV. Can't you just see it? Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (32 of 44), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 11:38 AM I didn't see, and still don't, any hint of sexual abuse by Ted. And opinion aside, I agree with whoever said (Barb? Sherry?) that to introduce this new theme at the end would totally undercut the integrity of the narrative so far, and I can't picture a writer as skillful as Prose making that goof. It's clear to me that Ruby has deep emotional problems, and unfortunately has been welcomed into the type of group (and they are legion, all across the political spectrum) who feeds on emotional problems in advancing their own agenda. I also think Dick has a good point, that although Ted made any number of stupid mistakes, his ultimate undoing is that he was passive, or "weak." Basically a nice guy, and we all know what position nice guys finish in. Nobody feels the least bit threatened by Ted, and so when he's down, everyone feels free to pile on. It's just part of human chemistry, like a herd divesting itself of the weakest animal. I've seen it happen many a time in real life. And while I'm on a rant {G}, I think that many women display a kind of hypocrisy, whether conscious or not, in just this area. They profess to lean toward kinder, gentler guys and then, as Dick says, resent them at some level for not being more forceful. The "hearing" was the perfect outlet for all that resentment. I've seen cases where professional men (and women, too) make it through accusations just this bad and still come out a winner because they knew how to fight dirty and throw their weight around. To Ted, for all his flaws, those fighting skills are like a foreign language. He's no saint, and he surely set some kind of record for continuous stupid decisions, but he didn't deserve being tortured on the rack as he was. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (33 of 44), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 05:25 PM Incidentally, apologies to all for my dyspeptic comment (since edited out) above about abandoning this discussion. It was directed at the repeated software glitches here on WebBoard which were infuriating me, and not the discussion itself. Carry on. Dick
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (34 of 44), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 05:40 PM You're right, Dick. The WebBoard seems to have slowed to a crawl again. They must have some some big applications on this server gobbling up all the resources. Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (35 of 44), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Saturday, March 16, 2002 07:55 PM I just finished this book and have certainly enjoyed the discussion thus far. All through I had a bad feeling about Angela. She was sweetly, dangerously manipulative. I could just feel Ted's demise looming. And through the entire book I had no sympathy for Ted. He's pathetic. And pathetic men can get so incredibly ruined by manipulative young women, because they (the men) refuse to see what's going on. It's an ego thing, I suppose. For both of them. The ending annoyed me. A doe, representing hope and forgiveness, or the ultimate innocent female, whatever. And wife Sherri ate venison at their last supper. I didn't believe Ted would have molested his daughter until the discussion came up here. I still don't think he did. And unless he's had other marital transgressions, why did Sherri dump him so absolutely? I agree, he's not too reliable as a narrator. But it's his reality. All in all, I felt like I'd read this one before. The writing was okay, but I didn't connect with any of the characters. What I did connect with was the early aspect of Angela's crush on her band director. I remember such a crush for a cool band director in high school--girls were always vying for his attention, his casual touch. And the manipulative ones who had no fear of their bodies brought him to a similar demise. Pathetic. Without ANY intent to "guy bash", don't they know better? Anne
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (36 of 44), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 08:31 AM I think a major reason for Sherrie leaving Ted was the affect his actions had on her job. It said something about how she was left to clean up a lot of the emotional mess brought about by sexual harassment. I imagine she felt that she would have lost credibility with the kids as someone who could help them, when her own husband was involved in something like that. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (37 of 44), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 09:03 AM Be sure and read the interview with Prose at the Barnes and Noble site that Ann linked in her note of the 15th, everyone, or at least the part of it that Ann copied for us. Her description of Ted totally jived with what I felt about him. He had decided to self-destruct at some level. When he chose to just sit at home and drink while he waited for his hearing, I knew that the end had come. Also, I think that Sherrie tells us a lot during her responses at the restaurant. The following gives me a big clue regarding the relationship with the daughter: A guy whose one daughter won't talk to him because he forgot she existed, he was so self-involved, so in love with his own problems, so interested in his own little ideas about this or that meaningless bullshit, so the only way she can get his attention is to start going out with a guy whose reputations is so bad even her father will have heard about it, even with his head so far up his ass. And, then she goes on to give the reasons why, I think, she ultimately leaves: And I thought it wouldn't happen because of all the times it almost happened and didn't, all those pathetic little crushes you used to get on students, and you'd start simpering about how Little Miss Such-and-Such is really very talented, and you'd start asking me if anyone would still think you were very attractive, as if you hadn't asked this each time some little girl, some child flattered you for half a second....And each time we dodged the bullet. You talked yourself out of it, took cold showers. I don't know how you did it. But I knew what was going on. In those few words, we get an entirely different picture of Ted's life as a teacher. And, in combination with his choices regarding Angela, I understand completely why Sherrie decided to give it up. Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (38 of 44), Read 26 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 11:20 AM Barb, I didn't blame Sherry one bit for giving up on Ted. She was a good wife who provided him with a nice home, good sex, and great food. From her point of view, that should have been enough. The humiliation of the public sexual harassment case would have been just too much to take. I like the part you quoted about Ted ignoring his daughter. I've already returned the book to the library so I can't quote the passages, but I had the distinct impression that Ted was disappointed in Ruby long before the estrangement. She wasn't a very good looking girl and had probably never been very interesting in other ways either. If Ruby sensed that disappointment, it could explain why she was so angry at her Dad. Yet, in spite of these criticisms of Ted, I have to say I liked the guy. And I could understand a lot of his middle aged angst. He had an easy job that didn't require much of him, but he was bored to tears and knew that his creative juices had completely dried up. The guy craved some excitement. He'd reached a stage of his life where he had to ask himself, in the immortal words of Peggy Lee, "Is that all there is?"
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (39 of 44), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 03:47 PM One way we can approach a discussion on this book is by taking sides with the characters, for sure. Ideas like men are all selfish idiots, women are all conniving cows, children are ungrateful... But...it seems to me this book is ultimately not about taking sides or for a reader to feel some moral superiority...rather, this is a book about making up stories. And it would be a shame, IMHO, if the metaphor/parallels between fiction writing and making up personal narratives to use against each other(like some of these characters do) was not acknowledged. This book partly suggests to me that there is a moral degradation when we use stories to hurt each other rather than their tradition of embracing culture/reflecting culture and our needs. "What are stories for?" I feel the book asks.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (40 of 44), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 04:06 PM Candy: Wooohhh! Your observation hits me like a brick in the head from out of left field, and that's a compliment.{G} Very interesting idea. It appears I've got a lot more mulling to do, on this book. I was signing on to comment that I had forgotten about the restaurant conversation that Barb quotes. Very damning, indeed. And so beautifully written and believable that my first reading of it felt like shrapnel going into my belly, and thinking about it again makes that sensation return. Sherrie is indeed presented throughout the book (largely through Ted's impressions, but still) as about a near-to-perfect wife as possible, and I really admired her character. But...what if the tables had been turned? What if Sherrie had been the one to betray Ted, and we could listen in on THAT conversation? I have little doubt that, in his anger, he could have come up with just as damning (and accurate) a put-down of her, albeit for whatever different reasons. None of us is exempt from great flaws and great blindness, and no one is as privy to these as a spouse. My guess is that anybody who's gone through a divorce, whether they were the wronged party or not, still flinches at the thought of their "exit interview." Novelist John Gardner said once that the only mental state approaching that of an imaginative writer at the top of his/her narrative form is the supernatural alertness and fluency of an arguing couple whose relationship is in its death throes. I would have to say that old John was onto something. As are you, Candy. Thanks for the brick. I'll be back... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (41 of 44), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 04:15 PM Well ha ha Dale, hey ya. Um, I put some relevant John Gardner quotes under poetry section thread called "The Makers Intent"yesterday. I believe his chapter on 'Meta-fiction, Deconstruction and Jazzing Around' would be of some interest to readers of this novel. Hamlet and The French Lieutenants Woman, Blood Meridian are dealing with similar things as is this novel...stories within stories, stories about stories. Writers can really yank our chain here if we get too attached to the morality play of the characters...when I think it might be a morality play about stories...and the reader? The reader's complicity is in the court room when it comes to discussing Hamlet, French Lieutenants Woman, Blood Meridian and Blue Angel.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (42 of 44), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 04:20 PM Excellent point about the parting conversations of divorcing folk, Dale. Even married people who stay together fairly successfully are capable of delivering those blows at times. However, as you said, Sherrie was portrayed, through even Swenson's eyes, as a pretty solid person. So, what she said about his relationship with his daughter leads me to think that the daughter's feelings about him had more to do with absence than inappropriate presence. On a lighter note, didn't you love those dinners Sherrie prepared? I kept getting hungry while reading. In a very different way, it was like reading about those sandwiches that Edward X. Delaney ate in the Deadly Sin series by Lawrence Sanders (which I've been listening to again lately on tape). Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (43 of 44), Read 23 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 04:42 PM Barb writes, ...leads me to think that the daughter's feelings about him {Ted} had more to do with absence than inappropriate presence. Absolutely, Barb. I agree with you 100 percent on that aspect. And yes, Sherrie's dinners! I could smell and taste them. One night when I was reading BLUE ANGEL just before going to sleep, I had a hard time convincing myself I shouldn't get dressed, run to the 24-hour supermarket, and whip up one of those menus as a midnight snack. Just one more way of the author showing, I think, that for all of Ted's angst and unrest he was, domestically at least, pretty close to paradise and just didn't fully appreciate it. A lesson there for us all, I would guess. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (44 of 44), Read 24 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Sunday, March 17, 2002 04:43 PM Another tack -- what if the withdrawal from physical contact is the normal teen girl turning away from the father to her own peer sexual awareness -- AND then throw in the possibility that the boyfriend is not so much a boyfriend as a friend and that the adult response to the father in the car was because she simply finds men repulsive generally -- Ruby is not out there burning through men from what I got out of the story. Well -- it is just one more of those current and ongoing dysfunctional and PC lines of thinking and it DID cross my mind as I read the Ruby portions! What else I could say is beyond me as this thread is covering it all -- what an explosion! Dottie The stream of time is carrying us forward; we live between yesterday and tomorrow. Lin Yutang
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (45 of 61), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Monday, March 18, 2002 09:57 PM Dottie, You know I had the feeling that Ruby was going to announce to her father that she was a lesbian. I thought that was going to be the subject of the phone call. Earlier in the book, Ted says that he knows that if he ever were to be unfaithful to Sherrie, she would kill him because she is Sicilian. This seems to show that she is not a forgiving person. I know that this is the viewpoint of many people. "I'll put up with a lot from you, but if you ever fool around on me, I'm out of here." Ted just had a death wish, I guess. Jane
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (46 of 61), Read 48 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Monday, March 18, 2002 10:37 PM I didn't like Ruby, but I felt sorry for her. I'm sure Ted loved her, but he seemed so critical of her. I think once she left childhood, she no longer fit the image of the daughter he wanted. Ruby must have sensed his disapproval, and my guess would be that this contributed to the rift between them, more than that deal with the old boyfriend. Don't you think a big part of Ted's attraction to Angela was that she wanted his help? All the other women in his life were so self sufficient, that I think Angela made him feel needed. Somebody had said they thought he was bored. I don't think that was the case. I think he felt useless. His writing career was done. His daughter was off on her own unique tangent. His teaching career left him unfulfilled. His wife was incredibly capable on every front. Then Angela Argo shows up, and bingo! Ted feels like Tarzan. Pretty potent stuff, I would think. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (47 of 61), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Dottie Randall randallj@ix.netcom.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 05:01 AM Jane -- I think that unresolved phone call and the continued references to it and how he should have phoned her first and so on may have been part of what sparked this idea in my own thinking but I know there was another bit somewhere in all the descriptions of Ruby as a child and young girl. There was one small "aha" in my head -- wish now I'd marked it. Maybe I will see if I can locate it. Dottie The stream of time is carrying us forward; we live between yesterday and tomorrow. Lin Yutang
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (48 of 61), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 11:49 AM I haven't had a chance to reread this yet (my loss) but I'm surprised to see this reaction, that Ted was a molester. I never thought so when I read the book; I did think he was a pretty lousy father, though. As to Angela Argo, I believe I thought: Ted's got all this good stuff, great wife, decent job, nice house-- life is good. But something is missing that would get him writing well again, and maybe chaos and angst will do the trick. So he attends the sexual harassment meeting, and shortly after that, Angela sets in motion her plan (probably in reaction to something she sensed in him). Subconsciously, he knows she is dangerous, and he thinks, bingo! All of the events that follow, I believe, happen and are related truthfully. There was nothing of the victim in Angela to me. Ted wasn't stupid, but he did rely a lot on self-deception. I think Prose also set out to lampoon political correctness, and other stuff that has been going on. Ted's daughter and her group was part of that, as well as some of the stuff Ted got second or third hand, maybe, stories from his wife about the clinic, other stories. Hope I remember this right, it has been too long since I read the book and I probably shouldn't weigh in. But I'm just so surprised to see this reaction! Tonya
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (49 of 61), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 12:02 PM Tonya: Very interesting observations. On the parenting issue...I have a friend (and fellow parent) who maintains, "You're not a really, really crummy parent as long as you realize just how crummy a parent you've been." I think there's some truth to that, and it was clear to me from the beginning that at least Ted realized at some level what a lousy job he'd done with Ruby and was trying hard to make up for it...albeit mostly in vain. Wasn't Ted's car trip with Ruby to the computer store a wonderful scene? I squirmed the whole way. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (50 of 61), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 12:19 PM Candy posted a good point earlier regarding this book being about methods and purposes of the telling of stories. Stories have a variety of roles in the book -- to wound father, to blow in a professor's ear, to get ahead in life, even just to cope with just one more day. Of course, Ted's the only guy in the book who no longer has any meaningful story, so it's small wonder he's reduced to being a helpless character in everyone else's. He should have taken up golf -- the story without an ending. Dick
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (51 of 61), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 12:40 PM I was just moving around stuff on the index page and it reminded me I forgot to say: This was a similar motivation as in the movie. The Professor had a severely ordered life but one thing went wrong, his little songbird died. As I watched the movie, I was almost amazed to think he went that far to justify the pain that resulted from that little bird's death. (That is an oversimplification, but it was the loss of the little bird that kicked things off.) Ted's life too is missing that one thing, a second book. He either wants the second book, or punishment for not producing it, and I think that leads him to Angela. Tonya
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (52 of 61), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 01:53 PM To what extent do you all think that Angela planned from the beginning to trap Ted in a sexual harassment case? After all, her boyfriend had a real grudge against Ted and probably encouraged her to set him up. As someone else suggested, maybe Ruby even had a hand in it. Or, did she decide on the tape recorder and entrapment after she decided he wasn't doing enough to get the agent to publish her book?
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (53 of 61), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 03:43 PM Ann: As manipulative as Angela was, I still give her the benefit of the doubt. While she must have known in the back of her mind that she had ammunition to use against Ted if everything blew up, I don't believe the plan actually hatched until (1) she thought the agent wasn't going to read her manuscript, and (2) she got the idea that Ted hadn't even given it his best shot. If her book had sold as a result of Ted's trip to New York, I think the affair would gradually have waned and everyone would have lived happily ever after. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (54 of 61), Read 30 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Tuesday, March 19, 2002 09:25 PM It just occurred to me that Ted's second novel was based on Stendhal's LE ROUGE ET LE NOIR. Julien Sorel was a master manipulator in that novel. He used the very innocent Madame Renard (I think was her name) and ruined her. Julien is a lot like Angela, and Ted can be likened to Madame R. He was kind of like the lamb being led to the slaughter when he met up with Angela. There are so many things to discuss in this novel. Jane
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (55 of 61), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2002 06:31 AM The two books turned out a lot differently, though, didn't they? It's been years since I read Le Rouge et le Noir but I can still visualize the grizzly end. Sherry
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (56 of 61), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2002 08:46 AM I think this book was the book Ted wrote after this whole thing. Remember when he met with his agent in NY, who suggested an expose kind of book? I think that is what we are reading -- Ted's new book that he was finally able to write and publish. Thinking this has actually made the book much funnier to me. It really is a good send up of these kind of look-how-terrible-my-life-was-but-I-made-it-through books. Karen
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (57 of 61), Read 25 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2002 09:26 PM Karen, Since I really like Ted, I hope that he wrote this book!! We are treating him like he is a real person, but he does seem real. This is a tribute to Francine Prose. Jane
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (58 of 61), Read 20 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002 06:11 AM Gee, thanks Dick and Dale for considering my comments on this book. I admire you two for your contributions to this web board in general, and I was flattered for your response to my comments. Karen, I like the idea that this is the book about what Ted"outlived". heh heh. Thats a cool perspective...sort of like Catcher In The Rye...
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (59 of 61), Read 21 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002 10:13 AM Let me get this straight in my head, Karen. Your theory is that The Blue Angel, the book I'm holding in my hand here, is a book that Ted wrote after the events described in it? That The Blue Angel is Ted's "memoir" of the juicy type that Len suggested he write? Jane, the author describes the book he was writing, or attempting to write: His working title is The Black and the Black, though he doubts he'll use it. His impulse--impossible to recall--was to recast Stendhal's Julien Sorel as a young sculptor, the son of a martyred Black Panther dad and a Social Register mom, a charming, amoral striver who uses everyone he meets in his ferocious scramble up the art ladder. Now that you have called my attention to that, the description "a charming, amoral striver who uses everyone he meets in his ferocious scramble up the art ladder" fits Angela well if one simply changes the gender of the pronouns, doesn't it? Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (60 of 61), Read 22 times Conf: Reading List From: Karen Slongwhite bookworm@greeneland.com Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002 11:17 AM Yes, Steve, that is what I'm theorizing. Karen
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (61 of 61), Read 9 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002 03:38 PM Anne, I was fascinated by the passion of your No. 35 of March 16 above. I'm sorry to read that you didn't care for the book. Sorry to read about your band director, too. Men in those circumstances are pathetic, aren't they? But did you really find Ted so incredibly ruined at the end? It was interesting to note that you too consider Ted to be the narrator of the book and an unreliable one at that. You surmise that other marital transgressions must be the explanation of Sherri's abandonment of him. We are told quite the opposite not only by Ted's own thoughts but also by Sherri herself. Did Sherri's description of her own reasons for leaving him strike you as unbelievable, or did you simply distrust narrator Ted's reporting of what she said? Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (62 of 75), Read 66 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002 06:19 PM I'm interested in this idea of the correlation between Julian Sorel and Angela. However, I haven't read The Red and the Black or anything else of Stendhal's. I'd love to hear some more thoughts from those of you who have. Isn't this one of those books that makes you itch to get the author in a room where you can question her to your heart's content? I'd love to know more about her thought process as she was constructing this. Prose isn't from Chattanooga, is she? Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (63 of 75), Read 65 times Conf: Reading List From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002 10:55 PM Steve, In retrospect, I need to clarify that I really DID like the book. I couldn't wait to get back to it after I put it down, because I knew Ted was going to mess up and get caught. Prose captivated me in the story. I just didn't care for Ted. (Usually, if I don't like a book, I simply won't finish it. Here, I just didn't like the main character, and I'm sure that's okay with Prose.) I think Ted was just telling me what he wanted me to hear. In that respect, perhaps he was, as Karen theorizes, writing his memoir. My impatience with him came from his ability to just walk away from his dismissal like he was glad it happened. A decision was forced on him so he wouldn't have to do the hard work of making the choice himself. I am willing to chalk up my skepticism of Ted's character to the fact that I'm pretty vulnerable right now, and have no time for weak characters. And I do see him as weak. Of the flesh and spirit. I am usually so much more forgiving of human nature and its frailties, especially where men are concerned. I haven't quite figured out why he induced such a visceral response in me. We may need to save this examination for CR 2002 and a bottle of Irish whiskey! I'll try to respond about Sherri when I figure out what I wanted to say. I cannot focus for more than five minutes at a time right now. Anne
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (64 of 75), Read 68 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 08:34 AM I misunderstood then, Anne, because I took "the writing was okay" to be a damnation with faint praise. Here's what I took from this novel for what it's worth. As will be obvious, I did not read the same novel that many of you did. The phrase "sexual harassment" was used in the book and has been used here without any explicit discussion of what it involves. It seems to me that sexual harassment is an offense of predation and exploitation. For my part I saw nothing of the predator in Ted Swenson nor did I see him as exploitative in the least. (Which is the very reason I was rocked back on my heels when I read of the sins attributed to him early on in this discussion. This guy? No way!) On the other hand Angela, brilliant phone sex professional, appeared to me to be the very embodiment of predator. A real meat-eater like the sexually professional Lola in the film. Prose gives us a man helplessly and self-destructively obsessed with a predatory woman just as the film's professor was. There is a critical difference though. Unlike von Sternberg's professor, Ted Swenson occupied a position of perceived power in relation to Angela--teacher. This kind of relationship is at the heart of what we have come to term "sexual harassment." A person in a superior position exploits that position to prey upon one over whom he or she has power. This is a handy way of viewing the matter. If one participant in a sexual episode is in a superior position to the other, then ipso factor it's sexual harassment. We need not inquire into the messy details of who said what to whom, who did what to whom, in what order they did it, and with what motivation. Rather, if something of a sexual nature occurred between people in positions perceived to be unequal, we simple light the auto-da-fé. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (65 of 75), Read 68 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 08:52 AM Barb, the most intriguing line in the novel, for me at least, occurs in the midst of Swenson's crucifixion by the faculty committee: The fact is: Swenson prefers the committee's version--its image of him as the predatory harasser--to the truer story of obsession and degradation, the humiliating real-life update of "The Blue Angel." Prose has packed volumes about Ted's character into that one line. The line that drew the biggest laugh from me was this one in the same scene: Lauren says, "Angela, are you ready? Do you feel strong enough to address the committee? That is an utter hoot! I can just hear unctuous solicitousness in Lauren's voice and see Angela act out the gathering of her courage. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (66 of 75), Read 60 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 10:03 AM Steve, Basically I agree with your take on this novel. Ted is definitely the victim of sexual harassment here and Angela is one scary, predatory woman. However, if the women in this discussion seem more critical of Ted's character and skeptical of his integrity, don't you think that's probably because they identify more with his practically perfect wife and pitifully inadequate, but also unloved, daughter? Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (67 of 75), Read 60 times Conf: Reading List From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 10:18 AM Does anyone else see any connection between Ted's father's immolation and Ted's actions? We are reminded regularly of the manner of his father's death, which must have had some effect on Ted. I wonder if he might have committed professional suicide in much the way that his father committed physical suicide, although I can't see that there was any particular 'cause' involved in Ted's actions. I also wondered about issues of mental illness. Ted describes his father as sort of muttering to himself a lot in the period before his death, which I took to be a sign of possible mental illness. Ted's reactions to his situation directly before, during and after the hearing struck me as kind of 'out of it' as well. Am I just imagining things here? Lynn
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (68 of 75), Read 67 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 10:42 AM The only thing I would take issue with there, Ann, is the phrase "unloved daughter." Ted appears to me to be a well wrought portrayal of the inept parent who is nonetheless full of love for his daughter. I freely admit that I could be suppressing something though, or perhaps I could be in complete denial. Who knows? I personally haven't the faintest clue as to the reasons for others' reactions to this novel. All I can tell you about are my own. As for Sherrie. . . I got the greatest laugh out of this from you: "She was a good wife who provided him with a nice home, good sex, and great food." It was not a malicious laugh, I assure you. I thought it was a brilliant strategy on Prose's part to provide Ted with just this sort of wife. A central and complex question then presents itself: What the hell does this guy need from his wife that he isn't getting? A hint, I think, can be found in Ted's mental soliloquy during this Star Chamber denominated a faculty committee, a soliloquy that I must confess I found poignant to the max: It takes Swenson a while to figure out that Bentham is not waiting for an explanation, or an expression of gratitude and self-abasement, but for an apology. This is Swenson's big chance to make his Dostoyevskian confession of sin, his impassioned, reckless pleas for forgiveness and redemption. And in fact, Swenson is sorry. Sorrier than he can ever begin to say. He's very very sorry that he wrecked his marriage and his career, that he sacrificed his beautiful, beloved wife for some adolescent fantasy of romance. He's sorry he fell in love with someone he didn't know, who couldn't be trusted. He's sorry that he ignored Magda's warnings and his own suspicions and doubts. But, as it happens, he is not particularly sorry for having broken the rules of Euston College, which is what he is supposed to say. The committee couldn't care less about the rest. But he can't possibly tell them the painful details, nor would they want to hear them. Which brings up something else that he is sorry about. He is extremely sorry for having spent twenty years of his one and only life, twenty years he will never get back among people he can't talk to, men and women to whom he can't even tell the simple truth. One of the people to whom he can't even tell the simple truth is Sherrie. And by the way, another is Magda with whom he is in love. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (69 of 75), Read 71 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 10:49 AM Yeah, the simple truth. As opposed to making up stories.(outside of fiction writing). Great notes Steve.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (70 of 75), Read 75 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 11:07 AM But Lynn, is his professional suicide that irrational? I think his motives are adequately explained in his soliloquy that I quote above without resort to any diagnosis of mental illness. Anguish maybe, but rational anguish from which he is about to be delivered. Maybe we could diagnose him as depressed, but geez, in some situations you are supposed to be depressed. I will grant you that his father's suicide is important though. I part company on the ending, too, even though she may have borrowed a bit much from Updike's doe in Toward the End of Time. Endings are hard, but I thought this one just ambiguous enough and just informative enough. And I was touched. The saint who saw the glowing crucifix above the stag's head was St. Hubert. He fell before the stag and begged forgiveness when he heard a booming voice command him to mend his ways. Thanks for taking the time to read it with an open mind, Candy. With this remark of yours, I now completely understand your previous note. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (71 of 75), Read 69 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 12:21 PM I tried to read the book and, in spite of Tonya's recommendations which I respect, abandoned it. Slow frying of inept fools on a grill is not to my taste. However, I have been fascinated by the notes. I think they should be gathered, edited a tad, and published as a separate book. And now, Anne, in note 63, says: "I am usually so much more forgiving of human nature and its frailties, especially where men are concerned." Love it, though of course from a male point of view I would think it unfair to not give the female an equal share of the charity. And I hope it will not brand me supercilious or selling religion to say everybody needs forgiveness of human nature. Further, is it possible that men are not as forgiving of men, and women not as forgiving of women, because each gender is more aware of the willful foibles of its own sex? pres
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (72 of 75), Read 68 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 12:41 PM From Note 64, Steve speaking of "sexual harassment": This is a handy way of viewing the matter. If one participant in a sexual episode is in a superior position to the other, then ipso factor it's sexual harassment. We need not inquire into the messy details of who said what to whom, who did what to whom, in what order they did it, and with what motivation. Rather, if something of a sexual nature occurred between people in positions perceived to be unequal, we simple light the auto-da-fé. Agreed. Absolutely agreed absolutely. But isn't it all a cruel farce? Cruel sexual harassment occurs and deserves punishment, but do a career and an everyday incident weigh equally in the scales? And isn't it hypocrisy to assume that the predatorship is all on one side, that "innocent" youth never seeks adventure and education? I gather from the notes that the finest joke of The Blue Angel is that when Ted is punished for his "sexual harassment" he is really punished for his ineptness in the hands of the predator (predatress?), Angela? pres
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (73 of 75), Read 71 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Friday, March 22, 2002 12:55 PM Steve, Okay, I will concede that Ted probably did love Ruby, but I firmly believe that she felt unloved. Of course, there's a difference. Pres, You wrote "Further, is it possible that men are not as forgiving of men, and women not as forgiving of women, because each gender is more aware of the willful foibles of its own sex?" Great observation. I think there is much truth in it. The "they just couldn't help themselves" defense probably works better when applied someone whose thought processes you have trouble understanding even under the best of circumstances.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (74 of 75), Read 53 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, March 23, 2002 02:43 PM I am always roundly entertained by the slow frying of inept fools on a grill, pres. The portrayals of Dean Francis Bentham and Lauren Healy, the self-satisfied academic bureaucrat and the feminist ideologue, were an utter delight for me. Pope Innocent VIII and his distaff Torquemada. Seamlessly closed minds concealed behind seamless façades of false liberality and professed good intentions. They struck me as nearly Dickensian creations. (Let us pause for a moment and imagine Kent Rasmussen participating in Prof. Healy's seminar titled Huck as Hermaphrodite: Masks of Gender and Identity in Twain--or Was It Samuel Clemons?) At the risk of bringing my birthday greetings to a screeching halt, I have to say that it appeared to me for awhile here that we had Constant Readers lining up to serve on the faculty committee in support of that pair. For the life of me, I cannot see what there is in poor ole Ted Swenson's character that would inspire such a reaction. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (75 of 75), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, March 23, 2002 05:23 PM Ack. I shall be forced to remove my birthday greeting if you tell me that just because I posited that Ted may have been guilty as charged, you thought I was in support of the PC Inquisition Force. They were horrible. Delightfully horrible, in fact. And scary. Ruth, who would probably get in trouble now for her habit each semester of patting the ass of the Kritios Boy. (Slide image, of course.) "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (76 of 76), Read 11 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Sunday, March 24, 2002 10:10 PM Bentham and Healy certainly made my skin crawl. I thought Prose came very close to making to making them both caricatures, but just skirted the line and, instead, left them as people you absolutely recognize. Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (77 of 97), Read 45 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, March 25, 2002 11:26 AM That is exactly what I meant with the term "Dickensian," Barb. Francine Prose wrote them up right to the line of caricature while keeping them interesting. Dave Sterret, teacher of the Victorians, was less of a caricature--he with the shrewish lover, Deconstructionist Jamie. His patient endurance of his nasty lover, and his apparent sensibleness endeared me to him. And he professed admiration for Philip Larkin's poetry. It was Dave's betrayal of Ted in the service of those other two that stung me personally the most, particularly because Ted's speech at the dinner party on which Dave later reported was Ted's gallant attempt to rescue Magda. Unfortunately, it was a gallant attempt undertaken with a little too much vodka and wine under the belt. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (78 of 97), Read 49 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Monday, March 25, 2002 04:12 PM Ruthie, I was needling you. I understand that you considered the subject matter stale and maybe didn't spend all that much time with the book. On the up side of that, the resulting discussion has been interesting to say the least. I savored what seemed to me to be a blend of comedy and tragedy expertly done. From my point of view that is what saves this book from staleness and distinguishes it from the perfectly humorless Coetzee's Disgrace for example. Prose could have avoided the charge that her subject matter was stale, a charge which I have read elsewhere, by making Ted Swenson a Catholic priest and writing the same book in that context. That would maybe be asking a little too much prescience from her though. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (79 of 97), Read 50 times Conf: Reading List From: Ee Lin Kuan eelin@althor.fsnet.co.uk Date: Monday, March 25, 2002 04:14 PM Hi all, This is a fascinating discussion. You've all pointed out things that I missed throughout my reading. Put me in the camp of those who didn't think that Ruby was sexually abused. It seemed perfectly normal to me for Ruby to withdraw from physical contact with her dad. I can remember cringing in embarrassment as a teenager whenever my parents were affectionate, especially in public. I felt sorry for Ted and Sherrie's marriage. Throughout the entire story, it sort of felt that the marriage had hit a plateau and they were two people who just happened to be living together rather than really two people who communicated and understood each other. And Ted kept thinking that all the things he was doing with and for Angela was because of his love for her. Implied that his marriage was no longer based on being in love with the other person. (I'm idealistic, I know.) Has it been mentioned already that Angela could sort of be Ted's substitute for Ruby? That he's trying to make up for all the things he didn't do for Ruby? Ie, be supportive and help with her work etc? Anyway, thanks for the great discussion. Ee Lin
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (80 of 97), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Monday, March 25, 2002 05:00 PM Part of what made me think of the possibility of the unreliable narrator, Steve, was precisely because the general scenario has been done to death. Prose is smart enough to realize that she had nothing new plotwise. How to make her book stand out? She could really lay on the sendup of the types involved. She did pretty well here. It was funny. But not, I thought, as funny as it could be. Or she could turn the tables on us at the end by letting us wonder if Ted really WAS as innocent in his actions and intentions as his thoughts led us to believe. Or she could do both. Which I thought would be a really neat trick. I'm not convinced I'm right, and I certainly have been outvoted here, but still I wish it were true. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (81 of 97), Read 43 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Monday, March 25, 2002 06:20 PM That really is a pretty apt description of what Dickens did, isn't it, Steve? It would be interesting to know if Prose sees those connections in her writing. They were all so prim and proper in that hearing, weren't they? When Dave Sterret said that he recalled telling Jamie that "...Ted's behavior was so extreme it made me wonder if Ted might not have some sexual harassment issues", it felt like fingernails going down a blackboard. Prose gives you just enough to make you think that Dave might be the one semi-standup person in the crowd and then dumps you. But, she had the group kangaroo court perfectly drawn throughout. Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (82 of 97), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 12:32 PM On the Faculty-Student Women's Alliance smelling blood: Poor Sherrie had to walk right by the demonstration. She stood and watched the speakers ranting in that shrill, strained warble that she says could make you understand why guys hate women. I thought it clever of Prose, in the better sense of the word, to have Sherrie say this. That sugar-coats this cruel little pill, and allows us to consider the statement on its merits. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (83 of 97), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 02:17 PM Steve: I much agree that it was a brilliant stroke by Prose to put that "shrill, strained warble" comment into Sherrie's consciousness rather than Ted's. I knew exactly the tone she was referring to. My only cavil is this...I discovered recently (by accident, natch) that the very word "shrill" has become politically loaded where discussions of gender are concerned. As an outraged female told me, "If a man says it, it's called 'forceful.' If a woman says the same thing, it's called 'shrill.' Blatant sexism." I don't agree. Forceful and shrill are not synonymous to me at all, nor are they gender-specific. To me, forceful becomes shrill when a voice crosses the line from reason to emotion, whoever is doing the talking. Anybody else run into this dichotomy? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (84 of 97), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 02:35 PM Agree on the basic differentiation between forceful and shrill, Dale, but I'm wondering if it's not restricted to the female voice because of its register. Without surgical intervention, I doubt that it's possible for a male to be shrill. Is there a male counterpart to shrill? Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (85 of 97), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 04:20 PM Oh, I think many men can get shrill. It's just that it's more in the tenor range with less warble. Notwithstanding the apparent strength of my convictions about this novel, a variety of reactions to Ted Swenson can all be valid simultaneously. It's a matter of perception. I mentioned David Mamet's play Oleana in the topic anticipatory to this reading. I want to tell you my experience of that very controversial play, Ruthie and Dale, as briefly as I can. Sara Sauers and I saw it on stage. It is a two-act play. The first act consists of a meeting between a male professor and a female student in his office. The second act portrays his destruction after her accusation of attempted rape. Now after seeing this play, we were discussing it, and Sara casually mentioned the point in the first act when the professor touched the student. I immediately replied, "Sara, he never once actually touched her." She insisted he had. I informed her that he had not. I've thought a great deal about it because I trust Sara's judgment. I am now convinced that the student did touch the student right before my eyes, and I did not perceive it. Anyway, it is a fascinating play in that way, and I would encourage anyone who has the chance to see it with a companion of one of the other genders. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (86 of 97), Read 32 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 04:29 PM Hmmm. I'm mulling male equivalents of shrill, and these are what come to mind... If a guy was involved, I might say that... "The tone of his talk degenerated from impassioned into pissy," or "turned from reasoning to arch..." even though these are far from perfect. Maybe more mulling will prove more productive... >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (87 of 97), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 04:38 PM STRIDENT! STRIDENT! By gum, there's the word I was looking for. But alas, the dictionary still betrays me. Strident is listed as a synonym of shrill, as in: stri·dent (strºd“nt) adj. Loud, harsh, grating, or shrill; discordant. See Synonyms at loud. I still maintain there's a sense in which this has to do with the emotional tone of a message as opposed to its sheer sonic qualities. For instance, I've heard speeches by Martin Luther King, Jr., and speeches by Louis Farrakhan. The former I would classify as "impassioned," the latter as "strident." And I'm certainly not talking about the timbres of their respective voices or, I would hope, my own political leanings regarding either's message. Or is one man's (or woman's) "strident" or "shrill" another person's "impassioned"? Questions, questions. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (88 of 97), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 04:48 PM I take it you are impassioned about this? Steve, interesting observation concerning that play. Reminds me of Rashomon. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (89 of 97), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 04:53 PM Ruth: Impassioned, if not downright strident.{G} Whew. I've worn myself out. Time to chill, I think. Where's that Chardonnay? "Oleana" sounds intriguing, Steve. Wonder if the script is available? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (90 of 97), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Dick Haggart Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 05:51 PM Well, I don't know about the play, but William H. Macy certainly touched Debra Eisenstadt in the movie version of Oleanna -- a film that has been rated repeatedly as the "worst date film of all time." Dick
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (91 of 97), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 06:56 PM STEVE We saw OLEANNA a couple of years ago. The way it was staged at that time is the professor gave the student a consoling pat. It was one scary play. Especially if you are out in the work force, and every new hire comes with an attending lawyer. EDD "...A woman like that is not ashamed to die. I have been her kind." ANNE SEXTON
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (92 of 97), Read 35 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Tuesday, March 26, 2002 11:38 PM Women scream, men shout ? pres I couldn't have liked it more.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (93 of 97), Read 41 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 12:13 AM Hitler screamed. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (94 of 97), Read 31 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 01:37 PM Steve: The reflection by Ted that you quote earlier tore at my heart, too... The committee couldn't care less about the rest. But he can't possibly tell them the painful details, nor would they want to hear them. Which brings up something else that he is sorry about. He is extremely sorry for having spent twenty years of his one and only life, twenty years he will never get back, among people he can't talk to, men and women to whom he can't even tell the simple truth. Part of that truth, it occurs to me, is that all of Ted's colleagues, including Sherrie, are Team Players in their devotion to grand ol' Euston U., despite how inbred and clannish such a working situation can be. Ted, however, is just going through the motions of a job, while his heart is with his writing (not that he's doing anything with it, but still). Magda, the closest Ted has to a soul mate, seems the most open of the above for enlightenment that Euston is not the center of the universe, but when push comes to shove she casts her lot with the institution. Anybody agree, disagree? Do you see any other "simple truths" that Ted can't tell to his circle of "friends"? I notice we're nearing the 100-note mark on this book. Hooray! Excellent, excellent discussion choice. >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (95 of 97), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 02:07 PM >>having spent twenty years of his one and only life, twenty years he will never get back, among people he can't talk to.. I know it's a cliche, but I can't stop myself. This sounds like Classic Midlife Crisis to me. That is not to say that the anguish is any less real. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (96 of 97), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 02:30 PM Ruth, Yes, a Classic Midlife Crisis indeed. Many people would be thrilled to have had Ted's life - a cush job that left him with lots of free time, together with a wife who was good in bed and that all important kitchen. Sure he wasn't "fullfilled", but how many people can hope for that? As for Magda, I don't think she could forgive Ted for pursuing the affair after she had specifically warned him about the dangers of that particular student. Also, I'm sure she lusted after Ted in her heart, so the blow to her pride was probably pretty bad. Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (97 of 97), Read 12 times Conf: Reading List From: Jane Niemeier jniemeie@hotmail.com Date: Wednesday, March 27, 2002 10:03 PM Ann, I was going to post the same thing about Magda. Ted said that the two of them had come close to having an affair several times, but that he would always back down because he loved Sherrie. It must have been horrible for Magda to think that Ted preferred Angela to her, and Ted gave Angela's book to his publisher when he would not help Magda. This is why she turned on him, I think. Jane
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (98 of 128), Read 54 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 12:06 PM One of these "simple truths" to which you refer, Dale, leapt right up during the restaurant confession: Because it wasn't that way at all. It wasn't about Ruby, or daughters, or youth, or even about sex. It was, he thinks, about love. Which of course is the one thing he can never tell Sherrie. Now as for the "classic mid-life crisis" thing, this is something I know a bit about. I will refrain from holding forth at length. However, it is my experience that the phrase is usually used dismissively as a simple explanation for certain behavior--a use almost synonymous with "temporary insanity." In fact and when used in that manner, "mid-life crisis" simply begs the very same questions concerning Ted that we have been discussing. Usually, a mid-life crisis is a transition to a more sane existence. (Jung's view, not my own invention.) In fact there is every possibility that loved ones will still be in the picture when it has run its course, but that requires an awful lot of flexibility and understanding on their part. And that was precisely what the perfect Sherrie lacked. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (99 of 128), Read 61 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 12:29 PM So, is this simply the story of a man going through a mid life crisis? If so, I'm glad Prose wrote Angela to be so harsh and scheming. Otherwise, we would have been discussing a VERY different story. If a mid life crisis had brought this man to having an affair with a student who was less formidable, I don't know how the reader could possibly be sympathetic toward Ted at all (which I was, very much so.) I think the readers' sympathy would all fall on a more innocent young woman; we would consider her a victim, and Ted nothing more than a lecherous ass. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (100 of 128), Read 58 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 01:00 PM The point that I have been arguing all along, Beej, is that the Ted we are presented with (admittedly, as I have him sized up) would never have victimized a young student. And in fact he had not. It took an Angela. This was a classic mid-life crisis in the truly descriptive sense of the phrase. Simply put (forgive me, Carl Gustav) many of us develop personae, masks if you will, during our younger years that are completely at odds with our true selves. We do this to please other people--our parents first. There comes a time when this conflict can no longer be supported, classically with the onset of middle age. I think the reason for that time frame is that one is finally smart enough to figure out that something is seriously out of kilter. Just can't figure out what it is, and time is running out. The constructive aspect of it occurs if one is able to reintegrate more closely one's apparent personality with who one really is inside. That all sounds like touchy-feely stuff, but it works wonderfully as an analysis of Ted Swenson. I have great hopes for him. This was all laid out for me brilliantly by a very talented psychologist. I should have continued with those sessions. But there came a day when I realized that I was spending far more of our time together trying to look up her dress than I was attending to and cooperating with what she was attempting to accomplish with me. I concluded there were better uses for my money. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (101 of 128), Read 55 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 01:20 PM Good thoughts on the midlife crisis, Steve, something with which I have intimate experience. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (102 of 128), Read 70 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 01:56 PM I don't think Ted would have ever become involved with any student either... including Angela... had he not been so manipulated. (I was dead serious when I said that I believed the cover photo was of Angela telling Ted to kiss her hiney.) She was a chameleon, who could become whatever she needed to become, do whatever she needed to do, in order to accomplish whatever she wanted to accomplish. Ted was only a means to an end. Some people are very adept at smelling the blood of a wound and then going for the jugular.Angela had a double bonus; not only could Ted hook her up with an agent, he was emotionally fragile at this point in his life. Angela seemed to sniff this out like a bloodhound. As far as mid life crisis goes, Steve, your psychologist should have written a book. Dr. Phil did..'Self Matters'.. on this very subject of which you speak, and has sold over a million copies. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (103 of 128), Read 59 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 03:12 PM Gosh, Beej, maybe this Dr. Phil simply wrote up Carl Gustav Jung's observations on the subject in a manner such that they are more easily grasped. In which case, that's just fine. I admit that based upon the little Jung that I've read, it's a bit difficult to discern that the subject at hand is heretofore respectable, staid, reliable males who in their forties suddenly develop a consuming interest in Hawaiian shirts, fast cars, late nights, and disgracefully young women. (I really don't know how this all manifests itself in women, but they get into these crises, too, I understand.) Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (104 of 128), Read 57 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 03:17 PM I think mid-life crisis is a GOOD thing. I think it's life affirming. I was very nervous at what I found to be a tone of a lynching here in several posts of a man fighting for his life. I am very against hurting people and in my book of ethics I don't think older people who are teacher sshould sleep with students and or younger people. But it happens. Sometimes that idealized young person is a mirror for the very things we have compromised that Steve talks of. I think many people DO put on these masks for years to please others. I do not call that love. Although, being polite is loving, heh heh. I somehow imagine a world where we tell our kids that to compromise TOO much for a relationship for a job for a government will kill our souls. Having said that, I believe that in all friendships compromise to some degree is thoughtful and needed. But in love? I think Ted hoped he could have been himself with the people close to him...and this comes across in the quotes Steve has posted here. I think this novel is another case of how difficult it is to be authentic in our existing social structure. It's the actual structure-the 'kangaroo' court of life that represses us rather than somehow having a meeting of wills and desire. I am thinking of this book in regards to American Beauty and Damage. The men were wrong to hurt people but it's almost like they had been holding themselves together with false masks for so long, the play had to stop. the other actors/characters are complicity in these lives. If we understood and accepted that the kind of games we demand of each other with masks will ultimately tear us apart...maybe we would look at life as always changing and always challenging whether we are able to be ourselves and yet kind to others.????? Is a good wife really defined by her good kitchen, her good sex? Hmm...baby we haven't come a long way. No wonder I'm not married ha ha I'm not that good a cook, and I'm not that great in bed, ha ha.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (105 of 128), Read 67 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 03:28 PM Candy wrote: 'Is a good wife really defined by her good kitchen, her good sex? Hmm...baby we haven't come a long way. No wonder I'm not married ha ha I'm not that good a cook, and I'm not that great in bed, ha ha.' Candy, God, that's funny! My husband and I have talked about this in the past..he says if a woman's good in bed, who cares about the house, but he also says that his ideal of me as his wife is to be ironing while dressed in a little French maid's outfit. On the serious side, and for what it's worth, I think you made some great points in that post. Do women go thru mid life crisis? Who knows, maybe that's what Sherrie was going thru, too. Steve, you don't watch Oprah, I gather. Dr. Phil is the 'shrink in residence' for the Oprah show..very eccentric and entertaining..and I think he does quote Jung quite a bit in his book. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (106 of 128), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 04:25 PM Do women go thru a midlife crisis, Beej asks. This one did - in spades. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (107 of 128), Read 49 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 04:39 PM How about comparing Ted to Shirley Valentine? Or (Thelma and ) Louise? Or Cleopatra? Or Bette Midler in Down and Out in B.H.?
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (108 of 128), Read 52 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 04:40 PM I've known several women who've gone through mid-life crises, including an ex-wife, and I've noticed one common thread. When the crisis hits, what the female wants (unlike guys, whose cravings seem to trend to the very items Steve lists) is the exact opposite of whatever life she already has. If she's married to an extovert, she runs off with an introvert. If she's married to a controlling and demanding sort, she runs off with an easy-going prince of a guy. If she's married to an easy-going prince of a guy, she runs off with a controlling and demanding sort. If she's married to a scruffy outdoors type, she runs off with a nattily dressed antique collector and opera buff. If she's married to a nattily dressed antique collector and opera buff, then bring on Paul Bunyan... Well, you get the idea. Admittedly, I'm talking a limited sample, here, but the parallels are so similar that it's eerie. Has anybody else noticed this type of phenomenon, or do I just live in a weird universe? >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (109 of 128), Read 50 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 05:07 PM Sethe(Beloved), Madame Bovary, Miss Havisham, Mrs. Robinson, Medea, Elizabeth, the woman who killed Dr. Scarsdale:forgot her name...and Scarlett O' Hara...
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (110 of 128), Read 48 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 06:57 PM If she married to a jock who never opens a magazine, let alone a book, she marries someone who reads. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (111 of 128), Read 46 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 08:33 PM But, do you think Ted's midlife crisis was at the root of his problems? I mean, he seemed pretty happy with his wife until Angela started her malarkey. I still haven't completely figured out why he became so fascinated with her. Dale, I'm curious..what did you think of Angela's novel? Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (112 of 128), Read 46 times Conf: Reading List From: Ann Davey davey@tconl.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 08:52 PM Beej, I don't think Ted was so happy before Angela came along. He seemed to feel like he was slowly suffocating. To me, that constitutes a midlife crisis. Are midlife crises a modern phenomenon? After all, throughout most of history people have had to worry primarily about physical survival, leaving little time to contemplate psychological satisfaction. Ann
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (113 of 128), Read 49 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 09:10 PM Ann, I thought he was pretty happy with his wife, pre-Argo. I remember that he felt like he was suffocating, tho. Do you think, if he had written another successful novel, he would have become involved with Angela? Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (114 of 128), Read 47 times Conf: Reading List From: Edward Houghton eddh@pacbell.net Date: Thursday, March 28, 2002 11:50 PM ANN I believe that the mid-life crises are a modern thing. After all if your life span is 30 years, then the crises must occur in your teens. Come to think of it, the teen years were one crisis after another; anatomy to zits, or somesuch. EDD
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (120 of 128), Read 33 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 04:05 PM Actually, I think it's sometimes a midlife crisis only because it takes that long to realize that you have made choices to please someone else and not yourself. But, crises happen whenever a person decides to make a major life change. Ted had let himself be lulled into a life of making do, teaching the creative writing classes. If he loved teaching, that would have been a fine choice. But, he didn't. And, he wasn't writing. It would seem that the crisis was laying there in wait for him in that situation. At a subconscious level, he wanted the situation to make the move for him. Otherwise, he wouldn't have made so many stupid choices with Angela. I actually think that men and women both sometimes change partners during difficult transition periods of their lives. And, most people look for someone very different because they think that the original qualities didn't work for them. In my experience, I actually don't find women any more likely than men to divorce during those periods. In Sherrie's case, I think she had been feeling humiliated by Ted's intermittent crushes on students for a long time. The situation with Angela was simply the proverbial "last straw." Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (121 of 128), Read 29 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 05:36 PM I like your analysis, Barb. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (122 of 128), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 08:41 PM oh, Barb! What wonderful insights! I think you hit the nail on the head all the way around with that post. Do you think Sherrie sensed her husband was going through something emotional even before Ted did.. maybe at the very onset, even before Ted was consciously aware of any dissatisfaction at all..women's instincts, especially toward their men, being what they are? Hadn't she been half expecting something like this to happen for a long time? Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (124 of 128), Read 27 times Conf: Reading List From: Pres Lancaster plancast@neteze.com Date: Saturday, March 30, 2002 10:58 AM Great observations, Barb. I particularly liked: "But, crises happen whenever a person decides to make a major life change." Earlier, I was going to ask, "And just when, please, is The Mid Life Crisis if not NOW?" But, with apologies to all who have an MLC, it dawns on me that a MLC can be thought of as A Moving Toyshop. pres I couldn't have liked it more.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (125 of 128), Read 28 times Conf: Reading List From: Barbara Moors bar647@aol.com Date: Saturday, March 30, 2002 11:42 AM Why, thank you everyone! In a way, what I said was merely a summing up of some of the great discussion that's gone before. I do think though that the negative cast given by most people to the term "midlife crisis" trivializes it when it can be an incredibly positive thing (I like that idea of a toystore, Pres). Maybe the slightly bitter attitude has to do with the other people who sometimes get hurt during the process. I've been wondering what Prose's intent was with Sherrie. I get the sense that she was relatively happy where she was. What do you all think? I also think that she knew this was wrong for Ted but was relatively powerless to affect it from the outside. He had lulled himself into an inertia that only he can change. And, Beej, I'm not sure she knew how bad things had become. But, maybe I'm wrong. Do you think she could have blasted him out of there if she has been less content herself? Barb
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (126 of 128), Read 34 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Saturday, March 30, 2002 11:53 AM Barb, thinking of what you ask about Sherrie,I'm now thinking if she hadn't been content, herself, in this marriage, the entire mess would not have had the harsh impact on her that it did. But, would she have left if things weren't impacted by the women's rights protests going on, too? I think maybe not. At least, not at that time. On the other hand, she might have been content but still had an inkling he was not, and I think that way because she was bothered that he always was asking if he was attractive, etc. (I don't have the book here to quote from.) I think she had an idea he was not fully content. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (115 of 128), Read 44 times Conf: Reading List From: Tonya Presley t-pr@attbi.com Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 01:33 PM Beej asked: "do you think Ted's midlife crisis was at the root of his problems?" I think almost everything we see in the book is integral to his outcome. It needed his midlife crisis, it needed Angela, it needed his failure to produce a new book, it needed his feeling of isolation among colleagues, it probably even needed his estrangement with his daughter. It was the result of a confluence of unfortunate (or, fortunate) elements. Tonya
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (116 of 128), Read 39 times Conf: Reading List From: Candy Minx candyminx@hotmail.com Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 01:38 PM Well, I think the term mid-life crisis is distracting. The crisis is a result of decisions you made about your own life at an earlier time. I wonder why Shirley Valentine was such a beloved character...yet Ted is despised? Do we have a double standard about females crisis over mens? maybe the tradition in literature has led us to EXPECT women to have crisis, we tend to expect men to be "stable, protective, unchanging". Maybe the male mid-life crisis is modern because we have more equality among the sexes and their stereotypes are changing?
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (117 of 128), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 02:03 PM Maybe a little distracting. I won't use the term again, Candy. Still, this passage strikes me as a classic description of a painful phenomenon: They're like those old men in the Kawabata novel frequenting the brothel where they pay to curl up and sleep beside the warm bodies of young beautiful women. Christ! It's all so depressing Swenson thinks he might weep. Age and death--the unfairness of it, the daily humiliation of watching your power vanish just when you figure out how to use it. And yet, all the things that Tonya mentions totally sneak up on Ted. The first thought that comes to his mind when he receives the phone call from the Dean is that he has been chosen Teacher of the Year. The first thought that comes to our mind is that he's toast. Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (118 of 128), Read 40 times Conf: Reading List From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 02:36 PM Which goes to show how much self-delusion was going on there. Ruth "Everywhere I go I'm asked if I think the university stifles writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them." Flannery O'Connor
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (119 of 128), Read 37 times Conf: Reading List From: Dale Short dshort@bham.rr.com Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 02:56 PM Beej, re: your question about how I liked "Angela's" novel... I was really impressed by that first chapter, on several levels. You could (thanks to Prose's sure hand and imagination) tell it was the work of somebody young, maybe a first novel, but somebody who had a gift for description (the egg-candling deal) and enough freshness or moxie or whatever the commodity is that keeps pulling a reader through a story. As somebody else here has already said, I thought subsequent sections went gradually downhill, and by the time the affair with the fictional teacher came up, both the story and the writing seemed a lot more predictable/imitative. Prose also did a hell of a job, I think, with the obsessive nature of Ted's interest in the unfolding work that was not altogether (even by that point, I think) a result of the sexual interest but showed how desperately (the only correct word, I think) a teacher of writing, if he or she is any good, wants the very next writing sample, against the odds and thousands of disappointments, to blow him/her away. Some quotient of envy always enters the mix too, I believe, no matter how well established the older writer/teacher is. In other words, a mental health nightmare just waiting to happen.{G} >>Dale in Ala.
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (123 of 128), Read 38 times Conf: Reading List From: Beej Connor connorva@mindspring.com Date: Friday, March 29, 2002 09:00 PM Thanks, Dale. Interesting.. I was quite curious what you, as a published author, thought of Argo's novel. Were you at all surprised that she did get a contract on it? So, the writing professor goes thru a 'push/pull' sort of emotional response when a truly talented student comes along, huh? I could see both excitement and envy playing parts in Ted's reactions. I know Prose is a writing professor, and it's apparent to me that she is quite familiar with that particular dichotomy of feelings. Beej
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (127 of 128), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, March 30, 2002 02:21 PM Insightful observations, Dale. Thanks. On a slightly different subject. Sherrie interests me much less than Magda, the other creative writing instructor. As such, she appears to me to be a much more kindred spirit to Ted. During their lunch, she says, "Ted, if you sleep with Angela Argo, I'll never speak to you again." I found this a little weak on Prose's part for the reason that this statement seems to me to come out of the blue so abruptly for no good reason. We must play along here and accept this as an example of the marvelous female intuition. This whole thing goes far beyond Magda's shock when she finds out that Ted has hawked Angela's book to the editor instead of Magda's. Or perhaps I should say that her shock upon learning that is a little gem in an elaborate setting of rejection. These two have gone to such great pains to avoid having an affair and preserving what both repeatedly refer to as their friendship. It is easy to understand how profoundly hurt Magda is. Ted apparently fell so easily into bed with Angela, whom Magda knows too well. Magda must be wondering what it is about herself that made it so easy for Ted to resist her. If there is anyone at this committee meeting who is more tortured than Ted, it is Magda. "Strung-out attractive Magda now just looks a mess." Which seems to me to illustrate very graphically the difficulty of a man and woman maintaining a true friendship, as we understand the term "true." Steve
Topic: Blue Angel by Francine Prose (128 of 128), Read 36 times Conf: Reading List From: Steve Warbasse swarbasse@iowabar.org Date: Saturday, March 30, 2002 02:30 PM By the way, that was a neat off-hand reference to Herman Melville's short story, Bartleby, the Scrivener, during Dave's testimony before the committee. Steve

 

 

The movie, with Emil Jannings and Marlene Dietrich is mentioned enough in the book that a viewing might be interesting.

 
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