Monday, August 31, 2009

Blue Angel by Francine Prose

When it comes to embarrassment, I am a little squeamish. I don't like to read a book or watch television when a character is about to do something that will ruin their life in an extremely embarrassing way. So, I found reading Blue Angel by Francine Prose to be an uncomfortable experience.

Ted Swenson is a has-been novelist who makes his living teaching writing at an expensive albeit backwoods private college. When one of his students, Angela Argo, gives him a manuscript that shows real talent, Swenson wants to help her. But things soon go horribly awry. His marriage is destroyed and his tenure lost when Angela accuses him of sexual harassment.

Prose does a magnificent job of communicating both the depths of Swenson's unhealthy obsession and Angela's manipulative character. The events are an interesting contrast to those that take place in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace where the professor is the transgressor. In Blue Angel the lines between culprit and victim are much blurrier.


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