Francine Prose is a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard. Her new novel, Mister Monkey, was published in October. (December 2016)


The Triumph of Foxy Grandpa

Michael Chabon, Oakland, California, January 2016; photograph by Benjamin Tice Smith


by Michael Chabon
On his deathbed, a cantankerous old Jewish guy, his habitual reticence disarmed by a painkiller, tells his life story to his grandson, a writer named Michael Chabon. This scenario, the premise of Chabon’s new novel, may make Moonglow sound more syrupy, more gimmicky—and less entertaining—than it is. In fact it’s …

The Cult of Saint Franz

Is that Kafka?: 99 Finds

by Reiner Stach, translated from the German by Kurt Beals
Almost a century after his death in 1924, Franz Kafka has become a sort of modern-day saint, one of those artist-martyrs revered, like Vincent van Gogh and Frida Kahlo, partly for their work and partly for the suffering they endured in order to create it. The process of Kafka’s “canonization” …

Quality Lit: She Took Charge

Blanche Knopf at Blake’s Bookshop, London, summer 1946

The Lady with the Borzoi: Blanche Knopf, Literary Tastemaker Extraordinaire

by Laura Claridge
In the opening paragraph of The Lady with the Borzoi, Laura Claridge provides a highly compressed and useful explanation of why one might want to read a biography of Blanche Knopf, who profoundly and permanently influenced the American public’s ideas about, and taste in, literature. In the early years of …

‘Beautiful and Horrible’

‘Window Shopping,’ circa 1930s; photograph by Eudora Welty

Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems

by Robin Coste Lewis
A startling shift in perspective occurs as we read—and remains with us after we have read—the title poem in Robin Coste Lewis’s first collection, Voyage of the Sable Venus and Other Poems, which received the 2015 National Book Award in Poetry. The poem is an incantatory compilation of the names …


The Dystopia in the Mirror

Tobias Menzies as Liam Monroe, Chloe Pirrie as Gwendolyn, Jack Monaghan as Robert, Louis Waymouth as Simon Finch, and Waldo voiced by Daniel Rigby, in

The episodes of Black Mirror vary in tone from horrific to comic, but most share certain themes: advanced technologies run horribly amuck, our culture’s obsessive love affair with electronics, and the exploitation of conflict, suffering, and embarrassment as a source of mass entertainment. Watching Black Mirror at bedtime is, I’ve discovered, unwise.

Prankster and Daughter

It’s rare that a film can have one of its characters pose a question that so baldly states its larger philosophical concerns without seeming overly obvious or sanctimonious. But Maren Ade’s deadpan comic masterpiece Toni Erdmann gets away with it, in part because its characters are so complex and precisely drawn, and in part because the film is at once so understated, so broad, and so funny.

The Limits of Forgiveness

Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler in Kenneth Longren's Manchester by the Sea, 2016

The friend who urged me to see Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea told me that it was the only film she’d been able to watch since the election, the only work of art that had, even briefly, distracted her from her worry about the future of our democracy. It might seem odd to describe a film about unendurable grief and sadness as a distraction—a word we more often associate with entertainment, escape and fun. But after watching Lonergan’s astonishing film, I understood what my friend meant.

What the Brontës Made

Many of the revelations in “Charlotte Brontë: An Independent Will,” currently on view at New York’s Morgan Library, have to do with size and scale, with the contrast between the breadth and depth of Charlotte Brontë’s imagination and her physical delicacy, between the forcefulness of her writing and the neat, astonishingly minuscule handwriting (not unlike Robert Walser’s microscript) in which she, Emily and their brother Branwell penned their early work.


‘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.