Francine Prose

Francine Prose is a Distinguished Visiting Writer at Bard. Her latest novel is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932.

See NYRB titles related to this contributor.

  • Wonderful, Bickering Ghosts

    October 30, 2015

    In puppeteer Basil Twist’s Sisters’ Follies: Between Two Worlds, ghost-siblings Alice and Irene swoop and glide through the air, alternately bickering and declaring their love, like two campy, vaudevillian Peter Pans.

  • Totalitarian Love

    October 6, 2015

    Yorgos Lanthimos’s strange and original films observe and reflect the culture in which we live.

  • The Situation-Room Comedy

    August 27, 2015

    I admire the wit and the courage of HBO’s The Brink, and its determination to talk about the terrifying political and nuclear threats we would rather ignore.

  • Nazi Propaganda: Out of the Cage

    June 12, 2015

    Forbidden Films, Felix Moeller’s excellent documentary about “the hidden legacy of Nazi film,” has taken an important step toward opening a discussion that can only be more useful than silence.

  • Fragments of a Family

    June 3, 2015

    Together, the memoir and the musical Fun Home show us how our response is determined by form, genre, setting—not only by the story but by the way the story is told.

  • A Hollywood Exorcism

    April 7, 2015

    What’s exciting about Maps to the Stars, David Cronenberg and Bruce Wagner’s new film about Los Angeles, is the inventiveness and ease with which it stakes out a dark corner of territory under the bright California sun.

  • The Case for Hollywood History

    February 10, 2015

    Perhaps my skepticism about holding Hollywood to rigorous standards of veracity has to do with the fact that I grew up during an era in which “historical” films routinely departed far—and often comically—from reality.

  • A Nightmare on Broadway

    January 28, 2015

    Birdman charges forward, headlong and without stopping, alternately scourging and exalting its audience with the genuine pain and the holy-fool ridiculousness of a “washed-up” former superhero.

  • They're Watching You Read

    January 13, 2015

    What are the implications for readers, and writers, of new technology allowing publishers to know which books we’ve finished or not finished, how fast we have read them, and precisely where we snapped shut the cover?

  • Courts Without Reporters

    December 8, 2014

    How different things would be if a writer of Rebecca West’s or William Finnegan’s stature had been present during the grand jury proceedings in the Garner and Brown cases to tell us what exactly transpired.

  • Manhood Against Marriage

    October 24, 2014

    What do men expect of themselves, and what do women want from them?

  • Seeing Our Selves

    October 10, 2014

    After I’d watched all ten half-hour episodes of the first season of Transparent in just two evenings, it occurred to me that, with the exception of Louie, most of the TV series I’d binge-watched—The Wire, Breaking Bad, The Fall, and Spiral, among others—had involved either enormous amounts of violence, ruinous drug addiction, a grisly crime requiring a crack team of British (or French) detectives to solve, or all of the above.

  • Czech Winter

    June 11, 2014

    How to dramatize, on screen, the fact that a single event can have enormous political repercussions?

  • Enamored Magicians

    March 19, 2014

    Visiting the exhibition “An Opening of the Field: Jess, Robert Duncan, and Their Circle” makes it difficult not to reflect on the relationship between art and love.

  • A Smaller, Meaner Scandal

    January 15, 2014

    It’s quite possible that shutting down traffic on the George Washington Bridge to get political revenge will do more harm to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie than the Valerie Plame leak did to the Bush White House.

  • Losing Sight of Magritte

    October 1, 2013

    Magritte’s paintings exude the mysterious and the improbable, but when I visited the new Museum of Modern Art exhibition of his work, what seemed most mystifying and unlikely to me was that there had been a time in my life when he was one of my favorite painters.

  • Nicole Holofcener's Beautiful Imperfections

    September 20, 2013

    Funny and romantic on the surface, tough-minded and often sharply satiric underneath, Nicole Holofcener’s comedies remind us, as few Hollywood films do, that people work for a living; they support themselves and their families, they pay their rent and their bills.

  • Watching Her Drown

    August 15, 2013

    How many hours have I spent in the dark, trying to like the films of Woody Allen?

  • Indonesia's Happy Killers

    July 18, 2013

    A trio of Indonesian men, dressed in elaborate cowboy outfits, are pretending to viciously beat a hugely overweight man who is wearing a curly black wig and a bright satin two-piece gown. The men are the subjects of Joshua Oppenheimer’s brilliant documentary, The Act of Killing, and they are filming a collective biopic about what they did during the anti-Communist purges in Indonesia in 1965.

  • What 'Maisie' Doesn't Know

    June 13, 2013

    It is more common than not that a movie fails to measure up to the literary masterpiece that inspired it. But the particular failures of What Maisie Knew, the new film based on Henry James’s 1897 novel, seem uncommonly revealing—about the relative possibilities and limitations of the printed word and the screen, and about the differences between the moral climate of James’s era and that of our own.

  • Someone Else's Memories

    May 1, 2013

    Carlos Reygadas’s Post Tenebras Lux is as challenging to summarize or describe as a film by Andrei Tarkovsky. It shifts back and forth between present and past, reality and fantasy, childhood and adulthood; and it offers us a set of images and sequences to which it repeatedly returns.

  • Chasing the White Rabbit

    March 8, 2013

    Literature is full of dreams that we remember more clearly than our own.

  • Chekhov in Data-Entry Hell

    February 27, 2013

    What’s most surprising about the HBO series Enlightened is the intensity with which Amy and her friends get to us—and how much of ourselves we may see in them—if we only have the temerity to allow it.

  • A Masterpiece You Might Not Want to See

    January 7, 2013

    Michael Haneke’s Amour is the ultimate horror film. Can a film be a masterpiece and still make you want to warn people not to see it?

  • Why Are Poor Kids Paying for School Security?

    December 12, 2012

    Why are the poor kids in the eighty-eight New York schools that have been equipped with metal detectors forced to spend five dollars a week—an expense that, for some, means going without food?

  • The Taming of Wuthering Heights

    October 24, 2012

    During the many dull passages—lengthy shots of fluttering insects and of birds wheeling over the scenic British countryside—in the latest Wuthering Heights, directed by the British filmmaker Andrea Arnold and now being released in the United States, I found myself wondering how anyone could have been convinced that what the culture needed was yet another cinematic treatment of Emily Brontë’s novel. If one counts feature films, TV mini-series, Luis Buñuel’s Abismos de Pasión (1954), and Kiju Yoshida’s Arashi Ga Oka (1988), audiences have had more than twenty opportunities to watch Brontë’s doomed lovers race across the wind-swept moors.

  • When Art Makes Us Cry

    September 6, 2012

    Art can do many things: dazzle us with its energy, its originality, its technical virtuosity; amuse, unsettle, or outrage us; comment on the culture in which we live; give us pleasure and provide us with intimations of mysterious beauty. It can touch us in ways that transcend the limitations of language. But less and less frequently does contemporary art do what Marina Abramović’s “The Artist is Present” appears to have done—to inspire its viewers with anything approaching an extreme emotion.

  • After Aurora: The Devil We Don't Know

    July 31, 2012

    If we no longer believe in Satan, then what do we make of our sense that something is wrong with the world, that a random malevolent shooter lurks in the schoolyard or the cinema lobby?

  • Getting Them Dead

    June 6, 2012

    After reading the article that appeared under the headline “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will” in the May 29 New York Times, I couldn’t talk about much else. I found myself wanting to analyze it, as one might dissect a literary text, to better understand how it produced its effect on the reader: in my case, shock and awe, tempered by consolatory flickers of disbelief. Like literature, the story resists summarization, partly because the Times reporters, Jo Becker and Scott Shane, employ detail, word choice, diction, and tone to direct and influence the reader’s response without, on the surface, appearing to do so—and to make a familiar narrative seem new.

  • Making Up Edith Wharton

    March 21, 2012

    When Edith Wharton—then Edith Jones—was a little girl, her favorite game was called “making up.” “Making up” involved pacing around with an open book and (before she could read) inventing and then later half reading, half inventing stories about real people, narratives that she would chant very loud and very fast. The constant pacing and shouting were important parts of the game, which had an enraptured, trance-like, slightly erotic aspect. At ten, Edith was writing in blank verse. By eighteen, she had begun to publish poems—mostly on the subject of failed love, renunciation and longing, themes that would continue to resonate in her work throughout the decades. We can be glad, I suppose, that she discovered passion at all, but regretful that it should have taken her until the age of forty-six.

  • '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.

  • 'Forbidden Films'


    Felix Moeller’s excellent documentary about “the hidden legacy of Nazi film”.

  • Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui

    February 8, 2013 — August 18, 2013

    The bottle cap has never looked more transcendently beautiful than it does in the art of El Anatsui.

  • The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection

    October 24, 2012 — April 14, 2013

    How tepid and colorless the text message and the tweet seem compared to these mini-masterpieces of snail mail.

  • Thomas Nozkowski: Recent Work

    February 22, 2013 — March 23, 2013

    The luminous pentimento of Thomas Nozkowski’s work can make one imagine that a Renaissance master—say, Pisanello—has been reincarnated as a contemporary abstract painter.