Who is Francine Prose? This was the question that many people hoped would be answered when the president of the PEN American Center came to Baruch College. Although many of the attendees already knew of this distinguished author and read several of her books, and others were just curious to see what this event had to offer, everyone wanted to hear what Prose had to say. During a short reception before the actual reading, Prose spoke personally to whoever had the guts to approach her, and later answered questions from the guests. Listening to Prose speak, and hearing what others had to say about her, it is safe to say that she is a devoted and brilliant writer, as well as an open-minded and easy-going person with a great sense of humor.
Although I have never spoken to Francine Prose, it was evident that she was an influential person, a woman of character. When Professor Roslyn Bernstein and Dean Jeffrey Peck were introducing Prose to the podium, they spoke of her somewhat in awe. The introductory speakers showered her with compliments on not only her wonderful work, but about her personal qualities as well. When Francine Prose finally approached the stand, I expected to see a woman who would ravish my mind with a creative story, and also entertain me with her charm and charisma. My expectations were met.
Prose began by reading a short story she wrote in 1986 titled “Hansel and Gretel”. Although it was written over twenty years ago, it is the perfect example of a writer whose creativity and passion for writing has not waned over time. The story entailed the journey that a young woman’s relationship takes her through. The use of irony and plot twists with an additional theme of drugs makes this story almost surreal, but at the same time the comical relief and tone give us a little insight into the character of Francine Prose. She even admitted later in the talkback that only twenty years later she found the true meaning of this fictitious story. This story was undoubtedly a clear analogy to events that happened in her own life. Throughout the Q&A portion of the event, it was clear that Prose is a dignified writer; one who has been through it all and has grown better over time. When asked why she likes to write mostly non-fiction, she responded, “You can write non-fiction even if you’re tired.” This reply clearly had a comical undertone but also answered the question in an unconventional way.
Francine Prose has written over 25 books in her lifetime. Of course numbers do not mean everything, but her writing says it all. She is a professional in her field and has mastered the art of writing. As a piece of writing often tells something about its author, it is clear that Francine Prose is a respected writer who can inspire an audience with her talent, as well as spread a smile.