Francine Prose (BSS #84)

Francine Prose is most recently the author of Reading Like a Writer.

Author: Francine Prose

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Introspective about Xmas realities.

Subjects Discussed: Reading like a writer vs. reading as an escapist, Car Talk, reading People as preparation for reading Chekhov, The Illustrated Elements of Style, diagramming sentences, making grammar fun, academia and the poststructuralist vogue, how theory influences writing, concise writing vs. prodigious writing, Infinite Jest, one-line paragraphs and David Markson, Raymond Carver, Ben Marcus and “experimental” writing, Only Revolutions, literary absolutes, Jackson Pollock, the “show don’t tell” rule, Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe, the Nabokov estate, working on a book too long, the “death” of book culture, puzzle novels, Pynchon, the 2006 National Book Award nominees, not finishing books, William Gaddis, James M. Cain’s Past All Dishonor, James Wood, naturalist dialogue reflecting a historical time, transcribing speech, chapters and blocks of text, pointless detail, and Nicholson Baker.


Prose: People keep telling me that all those vogues for structuralism and poststructuralism and deconstructionism are passing, which couldn’t make me happier. And you know I think that those things have had a very bad effect not only on reading, but on writing. I mean, that is because they encourage people to use jargon. They encourage students to use jargon. I mean, when I teach, one of the assignments that I give is to ask my students to find a passage of jargon — academic jargon, literary jargon, art history jargon — and then translate it back into English, and bring both passages into class. And often the jargon they come up with is theory jargon. Literary theory jargon. So nothing can make me happer than to hear that that’s on its way out.

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