Francine Prose is a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard. Her most recent book is the novel Mister Monkey. (December 2017)


Boogie Nights

Douglas Crimp in his office at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, circa 1970. The actress known as Ultra Violet, a regular at Andy Warhol’s Factory, appears in the poster behind him.

Before Pictures

by Douglas Crimp
Douglas Crimp’s Before Pictures is the sort of book that can make its readers feel as if they have made an interesting friend (or at least an acquaintance) without the bother and awkwardness of getting to know an actual person. We hear our new friend’s favorite stories, polished to a …

On the Wilder Shores of Brooklyn

Jennifer Egan, New York City, 2010

Manhattan Beach

by Jennifer Egan
A third of the way through Jennifer Egan’s new novel, Manhattan Beach, a young woman named Anna Kerrigan enlists Dexter Styles, a charismatic nightclub owner and racketeer, to drive her and her severely disabled sister, Lydia, to the seashore at the edge of Brooklyn. Lydia, who cannot walk or feed …

The Passion and Rage of Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy protesting the construction of the Sardar Sarovar Dam on the Narmada River, Gujarat, India, 1999

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness

by Arundhati Roy
Most likely it would still make news today if a first novel by a young Indian woman living in India won the Man Booker Prize. Certainly it was big news in 1997, when Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things received the prestigious British award, and the resultant publicity helped …

Groping and Not Finding

Edward Hoagland, Bennington, Vermont, 2001

In the Country of the Blind

by Edward Hoagland
Sixty years have passed since the publication of Edward Hoagland’s first book, Cat Man, a novel that drew on his experience working with big cats in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Since then, he has written more than twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, essay collections and …


Truth in Advertising

Frances McDormand as Mildred Hayes in Martin McDonagh's Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017

By the final scene, a great quantity of blood will have been splashed across the screen, yet despite the impressive amount of mayhem and gore on view, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an unusually literary film. Martin McDonagh, who began his career as a playwright, is intensely concerned with language. In fact, Three Billboards is partly about the power of language—specifically, the outrage and havoc caused by the few words that Mildred chooses to display. Just before Mildred’s first conversation with Red Welby (Caleb Landry Jones) begins, we may notice that Red is reading a book by Flannery O’Connor. It’s by no means a casual or accidental choice. One feels O’Connor’s spirit hovering over the film, and not only because, like her fiction, it is set in the rural South and leavens a deep seriousness with broad and often grotesque humor.

The Problem With ‘Problematic’

Jonathan Wolstenholme: A Literary Joust, 2006

It’s undeniable that the literary voices of marginalized communities have been underrepresented in the publishing world, but the lessons of history warn us about the dangers of censorship. Unless they are written about by members of a marginalized group, the harsh realities experienced by members of that group are dismissed as stereotypical, discouraging writers from every group from describing the world as it is, rather than the world we would like.

This Empty House

Jennifer Lawrence in Darren Aronofsky's Mother!, 2017

One may wind up concluding that by far the most terrifying thing about Mother! is that Darren Aronofsky seems to be Hollywood’s idea of an intellectual, our own brainy, home-grown auteur. Aronofsky isn’t much interested in these people’s complexity or humanity, but purely in his own big concepts. Of course, it’s possible to have characters and ideas; it’s a great gift of narrative art.

Words Still Matter

James Comey’s June 8 hearing proved that it is still possible for politicians to speak in complete sentences, to display a familiarity with history, to strive for linguistic and moral clarity: to make sense. But we are still waiting to hear from the senators and representatives with the fortitude to say lie as often as Trump’s supporters repeat not under investigation.


‘The Brink’

Offhandedly mocking our inadequate, improvisatory foreign policy in Southeast Asia and the Middle East, The Brink is funny, inventive, and fearless in what it has to say about geopolitics.