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On the Same Page with Francine Prose

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Hailed by Larry McMurtry as "one of our finest writers," Francine Prose is the author of 12 novels, including Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the 2000 National Book Award. Her newest book, Goldengrove (Harper Collins, 2008), was released to immediate critical acclaim.

Her most recent nonfiction book, Reading Like A Writer (2006), was a New York Times bestseller. This episode was produced in partnership with the Hendrix-Murphy Foundaiton Programs in Literature and Language 2009-2010 Theme: Word and Image. Reading like a Writer A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them. Long before there were creative-writing workshops and degrees, how did aspiring writers learn to write? By reading the work of their predecessors and contemporaries, says Francine Prose.

In Reading Like a Writer, Prose invites you to sit by her side and take a guided tour of the tools and the tricks of the masters. She reads the work of the very best writersDostoyevsky, Flaubert, Kafka, Austen, Dickens, Woolf, Chekhovand discovers why their work has endured. She takes pleasure in the long and magnificent sentences of Philip Roth and the breathtaking paragraphs of Isaac Babel; she is deeply moved by the brilliant characterization in George Eliot's Middlemarch. She looks to John Le Carr for a lesson in how to advance plot through dialogue, to Flannery O'Connor for the cunning use of the telling detail, and to James Joyce and Katherine Mansfield for clever examples of how to employ gesture to create character. She cautions readers to slow down and pay attention to words, the raw material out of which literature is crafted.

Written with passion, humor, and wisdom, Reading Like a Writer will inspire readers to return to literature with a fresh eye and an eager heart.

Anne Frank: The book, the Life, the Afterlife (2009)What is it about Anne Frank and her novel-like diary that has given this deceptively simple work such a long and spectacular afterlife? Why and how, against all odds, did a young girl's chatty, innocent, prodigiously well-crafted book become an integral part of our culture, our history, our souls, and our civilization? These are the questions that Francine Prose answers in Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, her powerful exploration of the life of Anne Frank and the phenomenon that is The Diary of Anne Frank. The book will appeal to the widest possible audiencegeneral readers, teachers and students, those who grew up with the diary, who want to find out more about it, and perhaps come to understand it in a deeper and different way.

Click here to visit Francine Prose's website

Transcript

WELCOME TO "ON THE SAME PAGE." TODAY OUR GUEST IS THE AUTHOR FRANCINE PROSE, THE AUTHOR OF "15 WORKS OF FICTION." BUT WE'LL TAKE A DIFFERENT TURN AND EXAMINE HER TWO WORKS OF NONFICTION. FIRST READING LIKE A WRITER IN WHICH SHE INSTRUCTS US TO EXAMINE MORE CAREFULLY THE WORKS OF THE GREATEST WRITERS OF ALL TIME. WE'LL ALL TAKE A LOOK AT THIS BOOK ANNE FRANK:THE BOOK, THE LIFE AND THE AFTERLIFE. WELT OF NEW INFORMATION AND PERSPECTIVE ON ONE OF THE MOST ENDURING PIECES OF WRITING OF THE 20TH SENRY TODAY "ON THE SAME PAGE." NOW FRANCINE PROSE JOINS US. WELCOME TO ARKANSAS. I SHOULD GIVE YOU THIS INFORMATION, HER APPEARANCE HERE IS COURTSY OF THE HENDRIX-MURPHY FOUNDATION. WE ARE VERY THANKFUL FOR MAKING THIS POSSIBLE. THANKS FOR BEING WITH US TODAY. AS PROMISED, WE'RE GONNA START WITH YOUR OTHER TWO NONFICTION BOOKS TODAY. THE ONE THAT CAME OUT IN 2006 I BELIEVE IT WAS. WAS IT THE READING LIKE A WRITER. IT SAYS ON THE COVER HERE A GUIDE FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE BOOKS AND FOR THOSE WHO WANT TO WRITE THEM. WHO IS IT WRITTEN MORE FOR? WAS IT INSTRUCTION FOR WRITER ORS HELP FOR ALL US READERS?

IT STARTED OUT AS AN INSTRUCTION. THE WAY THE BOOK STARTED, I HAD THE EXPERIENCE OF GOING TO WRITING PROGRAMS UNDERGRADUATE, GRADUATE WRITING PROGRAMS. AT THE END OF THE HOUR THERE WOULD BE A Q AND A. STUDENTS AND OFTEN GRADUATE WRITING STUDENTS WOULD SAY TO ME, SO WHAT ARE YOU READING? I WOULD SAY OH, CRIME AN PUNISHMENT OR SOMETHING. AND THEN THERE WOULD BE THIS TERRIBLE SILENCE. IT WOULD BE CLEAR TO ME THAT THESE WRITING STUDENTS HAD NEVER READ ANYTHING AS FAR AS I COULD TELL. I THOUGHT, HOW ARE THEY POSSIBLY LEARNING TO WRITE, OR WHY ARE THEY LEARNING TO WRITE IF THEY'RE NOT READERS? THAT WAS HOW I LEARNED TO WRITE. I DON'T HAVE A GRADUATE DEGREE IN WRITING. I HAVE ALWAYS FELT LIKE I SORT OF GOT IN BY MISTAKE. I LEARNED TO WRITE BY READING. I STILL LEARN TO WRITE BY READING. SO I THOUGHT, OKAY, I'M GONNA WRITE FOR THESE STUDENTS. THEN AND SAY OKAY THIS IS HOW YOU DO IT. IF YOU WANT TO WRITE A CERTAIN KIND OF SCENE, YOU THINK ABOUT A WRITER, A GREAT WRITER WHO WROTE THAT SCENE BEAUTIFULLY AND LOOK AT HOW A WRITER DOES IT AND THEN USE IT, USE WHATEVER YOU CAN LEARN IN YOUR WORK, WHICH IS HOW, AS I SAID, I LEARNED AND CONTINUE TO LEARN. THAT WAS REALLY HOW THE BOOK STARTED. BUT THEN AFTER I WROTE IT I REALIZED THAT I WAS WRITING FOR READERS. READERS OFTEN ASK HOW DO WRITERS READ? IS THAT DIFFERENT FROM THE WAY IN WHICH A NORMAL WRITER READS? IT SEEMED TO ME THAT THE WAY WRITERS READ COULD BE USEFUL FOR JUST READERS AND PEOPLE WHO LOVE BOOKS TO READ. SO THAT'S PARTLY WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT. HOW WE READ. HOW YOU COULD READ.

THE FIRST PART OF YOUR STORY IN MIND, PEOPLE TAKE WRITING SOURCES OR WORK SHOPS OR GRADUATE PROGRAMS NOT BECAUSE THEY READ. WHY DO THEY ENROLL IN THEM?

I DON'T KNOW. IT'S STILL A MYSTERY TO ME. I THINK THERE'S STILL SOME IDEA THAT WRITING IS GLAMOROUS. AND THAT SOMEHOW THERE'S --

LIKE GOING TO SCHOOL TO BE A ROCK STAR.

IN FACT, IT'S NOT LIKE THAT AT ALL. IT'S VERY HARD. IT'S VERY HARD WORK. YOU HAVE TO HAVE PATIENCE FOR LONG HOURS BY YOURSELF IN FRONT OF YOUR COMPUTER.

FIRST PART OF THE BOOK, FIRST CHAPTER OF THE BOOK VERY QUICKLY BRINGS UP THE SUBJECT OF CAN WRITING CREATIVE WRITING BE TAUGHT? AND THE USEFULNESS, OR NOT USEFULNESS OF WORK SHOPS AND GRADUATE PROGRAMS AND CREATIVE WRITING. WHAT ARE THE CONCLUSIONS? YOUR CONCLUSIONS?

THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT CAN BE TAUGHT. YOU CAN TEACH STUDENTS TO EDIT THEMSELVES. LINE EDITING IS A VERY USEFUL SKILL. WHAT YOU CAN CUT, WHAT YOU CAN DO WITHOUT, WHAT'S MISSING, WHAT NEEDS TO BE ADDED. ALL THAT WORD BY WORD, LINE BY LINE. WHEN I FIRST STARTED TEACHING, THIS IS A GAZILLION YEARS AGO, I THOUGHT ANYONE CAN LEARN TO WRITE. THERE'S REALLY NO SUCH THING, REALLY, AS TALENT. YOU JUST CAN -- YOU CAN WRITE AND LEARN BY WRITING. I NO LONGER THINK SO. THERE'S CERTAIN GIFT FOR LANGUAGE, GIFT FOR TELLING STORIES THAT PEOPLE HAVE. THERE ARE CERTAIN THINGS THAT THEY CAN LEARN. THAT'S HOW TO USE LANGUAGE, REALLY. BUT TO BE ABLE TO TELL A STORY I THINK YOU HAVE TO HAVE A KIND OF ABILITY FOR IT REALLY.

WHAT READING MORE CLOSELY IS ANOTHER WAY YOU CAN ENHANCE WHATEVER NATURAL GIFT YOU POSSESS.

EXACTLY. IN A VERY KIND OF SUBJECT BY SUBJECT WAY. THE BOOK IS DIVIDED INTO GESTURE, DIALOGUE, NARRATION, STUFF LIKE THAT. THERE ARE ALL THESE THINGS. YOU'RE TRYING TO WRITE DIALOGUE SEEMINGLY EASY, BUT ACTUALLY QUITE DIFFICULT. THEN YOU GO AND ONE THING TO DO SAY OKAY, WHICH WRITERS WRITE GREAT DIALOGUE? HOW CAN I TAKE THE BOOK APART OR A SECTION APART AND LEARN FROM THAT? THE WHOLE POINT OF THE BOOK, REALLY, IS SLOW DOWN, READ WORD BY WORD, LINE BY LINE. LOOK AT WHAT A WRITER IS DOING IN THE WAY THAT AN AUTO MECHANIC MIGHT LOOK AT HOW AN ENGINE IS PUT TOGETHER. OR I HAVE SEEN SURGEONS ADMIRE EACH OTHER'S APPENDECTOMY SCARS. AND THAT KIND OF TECHNICAL WAY THAT WE DO. IT'S USEFUL ON EVERY LEVEL, AGAIN, FOR WRITERS AND LEVELS.

MOST OF US CONSUMERS READ. OBVIOUSLY WE DON'T READ THAT WAY. WHAT ARE WE MISSING WHEN WE TALK ABOUT THE BOOKS TO HELP OUT READERS?

WE READ DIFFERENT BOOKS DIFFERENT WAYS. PEOPLE OFTEN ARE SAYING TO ME DON'T TELL ME YOU READ EVERYTHING THAT SLOWLY WORD BY WORD, LINE BY LINE. I DON'T. IF I'M ON AN AIRPLANE READING A POPULAR MYSTERY, I'M NOT GOING TO -- I'M JUST READING NOT TO BE WHERE I AM, WHICH IS QUITE DIFFERENT FROM READING WAR AND PEACE.

GREAT STORY ABOUT THE TIME YOU USED TO SPEND IN BUS STATIONS COMMUTING TO WORK. YOU ON READ PEOPLE MAGAZINE. YOU COULD LOSE TRACK OF THE WORLD IF YOU READ LITERATURE.

RIGHT. BUT THEN WHEN I'M READING -- THE TITLE OF THE BOOK SHOULD BE READING AS A WRITER. IT DIDN'T SOUND QUITE AS GOOD. WHEN I'M READING AS A WRITER, I'M READING IN THAT SLOWLY, HOW DOES CHEKHOV DO SOMETHING, HOW DOES TOLSTOY DO SOMETHING? AND TRYING TO LEARN IN THAT WAY THAT I CAN LEARN IN MY OWN PROCESS AS A WRITER. WHEN I TEACH, THAT'S THE WAY I TEACH. IN CLASS -- I TEACH COLLEGE NOW IN THE HUDSON VALLEY. WE GO OVER A SHORT STORY, SAY A JOHN CHEEVER STORY OR ALICE MUNRO STORY. WE SAY WHY THIS WORD, WHY NOT ANOTHER WORD? WHAT DOES THIS TELL US? HOW IS THE WRITER COMMUNICATING INFORMATION? A CERTAIN WAY. ALL OF THAT IS EXTREMELY USEFUL AS READERS AND WRITERS.

BEFORE WE GET OFF THE SUBJECT OF THE OTHER WAY, CREATIVE WRITING WORK SHOP AND STUFF LIKE THAT, EVERYTHING YOU TEACH NOW A DAYS IS STRICTLY LITERATURE BASED. IS THAT CORRECT?

THIS CLASS THAT I HAVE BEEN TEACHING, WHICH I REALLY ENJOY, IT'S A LITERATURE READING CLASS. IN CLASS WE DO THE READING OF SHORT STORIES. THEN OUTSIDE OF CLASS MY STUDENTS, I ASK MY STUDENTS TO TAKE A NEWSPAPER STORY THAT INTERESTS THEM. AND TO READ IT IN THREE DIFFERENT NEWSPAPERS. AND COMPARE THE WAY IN WHICH LANGUAGE IS USED TO SPIN A STORY IN THREE DIFFERENT NEWSPAPERS. OFTEN KIND OF ILLUMINATING FOR THEM BECAUSE WE'RE ALL TRAINED TO THINK WE READ IT IN THE NEWSPAPER, IT'S TRUE. WHEN THEY READ THAT WAY, THEY REALIZE A WORD CHOICE OR DETAIL THAT'S LEFT IN OR LEFT OUT CAN REALLY TELL A DIFFERENT STORY. SO I FEEL THAT IN THE CLASS, I'M NOT ONLY HELPING TO EDUCATE READERS OF LITERATURE, BUT PARTICIPANTS IN A DEMOCRACY.

DO YOU THINK MOST GREAT WRITERS, INCLUDING THE ONIOUS CITE IN YOUR BOOK, ARE PEOPLE WHO EXAMINE LITERATURE THE WAY YOU DO, THAT CLOSELY, THAT CLOSE A READING?

ALL THE WRITERS I KNOW DO.

OR KNOW OF.

IT'S WONDERFUL TO READ WRITERS ON OTHER WRITERS ALL THE WAY DOWN FROM HENRY JAMES TO JOHN BERRYMAN. I KNOW MY FRIENDS WHO ARE WRITERS, WE HAVE THESE CONVERSATIONS LIKE, YOU KNOW, I WAS READING BLA, BLA, BLA AND COULDN'T BELIEVE THIS WRITER GOT AWAY WITH THIS AND DID THIS THING THAT WE NEVER THOUGHT WE COULD DO. SO WE HAVE THESE KIND OF TECHNICAL NUTS AND BOLTS CONVERSATIONS ABOUT WRITING.

LET'S GO THROUGH THE CATEGORY. YOU MENTIONED THE WAY YOU BREAK IT DOWN STARTING WITH WORDS. JUST SPECIFIC WORDS, HOW IMPORTANT THEY ARE TO NOTE.

I QUOTE A FRIEND OF MINE WHO TALKED ABOUT THE EDITING PROCESS AS PUTTING EVERY WORD ON TRIAL FOR ITS LIFE. SO WHEN YOU'RE EDITING YOUR OWN WORK, YOU STOP AND SAY, IS THIS WHERE I NEED TO BE? CAN I THINK OF A BETTER WORD? CAN I REDUCE TEN WORDS TO ONE WORD? CAN I BE MORE PRECISE? CAN I BE MORE ECONOMICAL? THAT'S SOMETHING PEOPLE DON REALIZE ENOUGH, HOW MUCH WRITING REALLY DEPENDS ON THOSE LITTLE CHOICES. THOSE SEEMINGLY LITTLE CHOICES. JUST LANGUAGE CHOICES. SO ONE OF THE THINGS I DO IN READING LIKE A WRITER IS GO THROUGH GREAT PASSAGING FROM LITERATURE THAT I LOVE AND SAY LOOK AT THIS WORD, LOOK AT THAT WORD, LOOK AT THIS DESCRIPTION. HOW IS THIS WRITER USING LANGUAGE IN A WAY THAT WE ALMOST TAKE FOR GRANTED BUT IN FACT SOMEBODY MADE THOSE CHOICES. WHEN WE'RE READING LITERATURE, THERE'S KIND OF AN ASSUMPTION THAT ALWAYS EXISTED. IT ALWAYS -- A CHEKHOV STORY WAS ALWAYS THE WAY IT IS. BUT SOMEONE SAT DOWN AND WROTE THOSE STORIES AND SOMEONE MADE THOSE DECISIONS AND THAT'S WHAT WE ARE READING SORT OF BACKWARDS TO TRY AND FIGURE OUT HOW THOSE DECISIONS WERE MADE.

CAN A DECISION ABOUT A WORD BE THE DEAL MAKER FOR A WHOLE PASSAGE OR CHAPTER?

YES.

YOU HAVE THIS VERY LONG SORT OF ORNATE SENTENCE BY VIRGINIA WOOLF ON AN ESSAY ABOUT ILLNESS. THAT YOU SAY COULD BE REDUCED TO A WORD. YOU STILL MARVEL AT HOW IT WORKS, JUST THE GYMNASTICS INVOLVED.

IT'S 181 WORDS, ISN'T IT? KIND OF MODEL OF CLARITY, WITH SEMICOLONS. IT'S GREAT TO DO WITH STUDENTS. YOU LOOK AT INSANELY LONG SENTENCE. NOT FOR A SECOND DO YOU HAVE TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING WHAT THE SENTENCE SAYS. IT'S SO CLEAR. STUDENTS STRUGGLING WITH THINGS LIKE CLAUSES AND HOW THEY REFER, SIMPLE THINGS WHICH, YOU KNOW, EIGHTH GRADE GRAMMAR WHICH PEOPLE FORGET OR DON'T GET. IT'S VERY USEFUL FOR STUDENTS TO SAY I CAN ON WRITE OR READ A SIMPLE SENTENCE TO LOOK AT THIS INTENSITY COMPLEX SENTENCE AND SEE HOW CLEAR IT IS.

IT'S MARVELLED CRAFTSMANSHIP. ALL OF THE THINGS YOU STUDY. SHE MASTERS IT. IT'S A GOOD FUNDAMENTAL SKILL LIKE THAT. THE PARAGRAPHS ARE NEXT IN THE BOOK. YOU QUOTE --

BABEL, ISAAC BABEL.

SAYS DEAD ROOM AS FAR AS PARAGRAPH IS NO GOOD. AND THEY ARE USEFUL UP TO A POINT. IT'S MORE OF AN INDIVIDUAL THING. AND IN FACT, PARAGRAPHING IS EXAMINED AS WAY OF IDENTIFYING A WRITER. YOU CAN IDENTIFY A WRITER BY THE PARAGRAPH.

I READ THE BOOK PARTLY LIKE TOM SAWYER PAINTING THE FENCE. I WOULD E-MAIL MY KWIER FRIENDS AND TALK TO MY WRITER FRIENDS AND SAY OKAY CAN YOU THINK OF A GREAT PARAGRAPH OR A GREAT EXAMPLE OF DIALOGUE. THEY WOULD WRITE ME BACK. ONE FRIEND SAID LOOK AT THE NERO WOLFE BOOK BY REX STOUT. IT'S A BOOK ABOUT PLAGIARISM IN WHICH THE IDENTITY OF THE WRITER IS ESTABLISHED BY PARAGRAPHING. AND I THOUGHT THAT'S SO PERFECT TO HAVE THAT. THE BABEL QUOTE, WHICH IS SUCH A BEAUTIFUL QUOTE. HE TALKS AT SOME POINT ABOUT BEING ASTHMATIC AND NOT HAVING LONG ENOUGH BREATHS TO KEEP THE LONG PARAGRAPHS. SO HE BREAKS UP SECTIONS INTO PARAGRAPHS TO GIVE A READER AND THE WRITER BREATHING SPACE. AND AGAIN, I CAN'T REMEMBER IF THIS IS IN THE BOOK. I THINK SO. A FRIEND WAS COMPLAINING ABOUT GARCIA MARQUEZ AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH WHICH IS WRITTEN IN ALL ONE PARAGRAPH. HE SAID I LIKE TO DRINK BEER WHEN I READ. WHEN I READ AUTUMN OF THE PATRIARCH THERE'S NO PLACE TO PUT DOWN THE BOOK AND PICK UP MY BEER. SO THERE'S ALL SORTS OF REASONS WHY YOU WANT A PARAGRAPH.

YOU MENTION BREATHING. YOU REALLY ADVOCATE READING YOUR WORK ALOUD.

FOR RHYTHM AND CADENCE. ONE OF THE THING I LOVE ABOUT THE VIRGINIA WOOLF SENTENCE, IS THE RHYTHM OF IT. IT'S SO BEAUTIFUL. MANY WRITERS WOULD RATHER USE SPEAKING OF WORD CHOICES SLIGHTLY THE WRONG WORD WITH THE RIGHT RHYTHM BECAUSE THE CADENCE IN THE SENTENCE IS SO IMPORTANT. EVEN TO PROSE WRITER. PROSE WRITERS OFTEN WORK THAT WAY.

YOU ARE BIG ON BEGINNINGS AND ENDINGS IN THE PASSAGES. THERE'S A LOT OF THEM IN THERE. WHY IS THAT?

WELL, I THINK, AS SOMEONE WITH A BIT OF A SHORT ATTENTION SPAN. I MEAN, I THINK IT REALLY IS TRUE THAT YOU WANT WITHIN A PAGE OR THE WORK YOU DO WANT THE READER TO GIVE THE READER A REASON TO READ ON. YOU MENTION HOW DO YOU FINISH A BOOK? I'M SOMEONE WHO, BY THIS POINT IN MY LIFE, ONFINISH A BOOK BECAUSE I'M NOT INTERESTED. I HAVE NO PROBLEM PUTTING A BOOK DOWN. SO YOU NEED TO GET THE READER INTERESTED. IT'S NOT NECESSARILY SOME SORT OF BIG DRAMATIC HOOK, YOU KNOW. I MEAN, I THINK I REFER TO IT ROBERT STONE AS DEAD BODY IN THE FREEZER IN THE FIRST COUPLE PAGES. IT HAS TO BE SOMETHING ABOUT THE WRITER'S PERSPECTIVE OR VOICE OR LANGUAGE THAT MAKES THE READER WANT TO CONTINUE.

OTHER CHAPTERS, NARRATION. YOU EXAMINE CHARACTER, WHAT YOU CAN GET FROM READING CLOSELY AS FAR AS CHARACTER GOES. DIALOGUE. MADE A GOOD POINT, SOMETHING EVERYONE WHO'S BEEN TAUGHT TO WRITE EVEN A LITTLE BIT, YOU'RE NOT SUPPOSED TO MAKE DIALOGUE SOUND LIKE EVERY DAY SPEECH. YOU TAKE EXCEPTION TO THAT. RIGHT?

AGAIN, ONE OF THE THINGS YOUNG WRITERS ARE TAUGHT IS THAT EVERYDAY SPEECH HAS ALL THESE PAUSES AND HESITATIONS AND DIALOGUE ON THE PAGE. BUT, IN FACT, AS I SAY IN THE BOOK, EVERY DAY SPEECH IS OFTEN MORE INTERESTING THAN DIALOGUE ON THE PAGE. PEOPLE SAY SO MUCH WITH WHAT THEY DON'T SAY, WITH DIE GREGSS, WITH THINGS THEY ADD IN, WITH LITTLE STORIES THEY TELL. ONE OF THE EXERCISES I USE TO ASSIGN STUDENTS WHEN I TAUGHT WRITING WAS TO JUST GO AN EVES DROP AND WRITE DOWN THE THINGS THEY HEARD. FANTASTIC THINGS EVESDROPPING.

A GOOD PIECE OF ADVICE IS NOT TO USE DIALOGUE FOR EXPOSITION. THAT'S SOMETHING YOU'RE TAUGHT EARLY ON. YOU'RE ON THE SIDE OF THAT ONE.

THERE'S NOTHING THAT'S QUITE SO MUCH FUN AS WRITING BADLY ON PURPOSE. SO I MEAN, ACCIDENTALLY IT'S LESS FUN. BUT THERE'S A PASSAGE IN READING LIKE A WRITER IN WHICH I WRITE AN XHAM. OF THAT KIND OF REALLY BAD DIALOGUE WHICH IS NOT REAL DIALOGUE, JUST PEOPLE GIVING INFORMATION ABOUT THEMSELVES IN THE FORM OF FAKE DIALOGUE.

YOU TALK ABOUT HOW CHEKHOV IS INSTRUCTIVE TO READ. IN THE END IS A CHAPTER CALLED READING FOR COURAGE. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

I THINK IT TAKES SO MUCH COURAGE TO WRITE. NOT COMPARED TO MANY OTHER THINGS THAT PEOPLE DO. CERTAINLY IT TAKES LESS COURAGE THAN GOING TO WAR OR BEING A WINDOW WASHER AND A SKY SCRAPER. BUT IT DOES TAKE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF COURAGE. BECAUSE YOUR HARSHEST CRITIC IS OFTEN YOURSELF. YOU'RE THINKING THIS IS TERRIBLE, NO ONE WOULD WANT TO READ THIS, WHAT WOULD MY MOTHER SAY? THERE'S A WHOLE LIST OF REASONS NOT TO WRITE. AND THE WRITERS I THINK YOU CAN READ AND I LIST A WHOLE BUNCH OF THEM WHO WERE SO BRAVE IN SO MANY WAYS IN WHAT THEY TOOK ON AND WHAT THEY ACCOMPLISHED AND THEIR SUBJECT MATTER AND STYLE. THAT WHEN YOU LOOK AT THESE WRITERS YOU THINK, I CAN DO THIS, AS HARD AS THIS IS. IF SOMEONE EL DID IT THIS WAY, I CAN AT LEAST BEGIN TO TRY TO DO IT.

HAVE YOU EVER EXAMINED THE WORK OF A RENOWNED WRITER MORE CLOSELY LIKE YOU ADVOCATE IN THE BOOK AND JUST SAID WOW, THERE'S A LOT LESS HERE THAN MEETS THE EYE? YOU DON MENTION THAT IN THE BOOK BUT I WONDER.

IT'S COMPLICATED. WHEN I WAS DOING THE CHAPTER ON SENTENCES, I THOUGHT WELL, FAULKNER WHO WAS A WRITER I ALWAYS LOVED AND STILL LOVE. I REREAD QUITE A BIT OF FAULKNER. I COULDN'T EXTRACT A SENTENCE TO PUT IN BECAUSE THEY ALL WERE SO DEPENDENT ON THE OTHER SENTENCES THAT YOU COULDN'T REALLY TAKE ANOTHER PASSAGE. YOU HAD TO GET INTO THE RHYTHM OF THE WHOLE THING. IT DOESN'T MEAN I LOVE FAULKNER LESS. HE WASN'T A WRITER I COULD USE IN THAT WAY. SPEAKING OF GESTURE. ONE OF MY FAVORITE PASSAGES, THERE'S A GESTURE FROM RAY CHOND CHANDLER. WHEN PEOPLE WERE STILL WEARING HATS. A MAN AN HIS WIFE WERE IN AN ELEVATOR. THE MAN IS WEARING A HAT. A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG WOMAN GETS IN AND THE GUY TAKES OFF HIS HAT. THAT IS THE MOST PERFECT USE OF GESTURE TO TELL YOU SOMETHING ABOUT THE MARRIAGE, THE GUY, WHATEVER.

LIKE THE BIG SLEEP, YOU'VE GOT A LIST OF AUTHORS AND WORK THAT YOU MUST READ IMMEDIATELY. VERY, VERY INTERESTING AND WORTH. THAT'S WORTH THE PRICE OF THE BOOK TO ME. SHOULD BE TO MOST READERS. THE BOOK IS "READING LIKE A WRITER" FRANCINE PROSE IS OUR GUEST. SHE'S THE AUTHOR OF 15 BOOKS OF FICTION. WE'RE TALKING ABOUT HER TWO REEN BOOKS OF NONFICTION. WE WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR MOST RECENT ONE, ANNE FRANK, THE BOOK, THE LIFE, THE AFTER LIFE. COURSE THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK IS ONE OF THE MOST WELL-KNOWN PIECES OF WRITING IN THE 20TH CENTURY. AND CONTINUES TO BE. WHY DID YOU WANT TO EXAMINE THIS BOOK? WHAT WERE -- WHAT WAS THE APPROACH TO YOUR WRITING?

I WAS WRITING A NOVEL GOLDENGROVE, WRITTEN FROMPERSPECTIVE OF A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. FOLLOWING MY OWN ADVICE FROM READING LIKE A WRITER. IF YOU'VE GONE TO WRITE SOMETHING LOOK AT THE BEST EXAMPLE OF THAT THAT'S EVER BEEN DONE. I THOUGHT WHAT'S THE BEST BOOK ABOUT A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. I THOUGHT DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. WRITTEN BY A 13-YEAR-OLD GIRL. I BEGAN TO READ THE DIARY. I THOUGHT, THIS IS REALLY GREAT. THIS IS A WORK OF LITERATURE. HAVING WRITTEN SO MANY YEARS AFTER THE FIRST TIMES THAT I READ THE DIARY, I WAS IN A BETTER POSITION TO UNDERSTAND HOW HARD IT IS TO DO WHAT SHE DID. SO MY FIRST INTENTION WAS TO WRITE APPRECIATION AND CLOSE READING OF THE DIARY AND SAY LOOK AT HOW SHE DOES THIS. LOOK AT THE NOVELISTIC TECHNIQUES SHE USES. AND AS I BEGAN DOING RESEARCH FOR THE BOOK, I LEARNED SOME THINGS WHICH I HADDEN LEARNED AT FIRST IN WHICH FEW READERS KNOW. FOR EXAMPLE, MOST IMPORTANTLY DURING THE LAST MONTHS IN HIDING SHE DECIDED THAT SHE WANTED TO BE A WRITER. SHE WANTED TO PUBLISH THE BOOK AS A NOVEL IN THE DIARY FORM.

HOW DID YOU FIND THIS OUT?

IT'S BEEN OUT THERE. IT'S NOT AS IF IT WAS SOME DISCOVERY. IT'S JUST NOT WIDELY KNOWN. PARTLY BECAUSE OF PEOPLE'S RELUCTANCE TO TAKE HER SERIOUSLY AS A WRITER TO ADMIT THAT A GIRL BETWEEN THE AGES OF 13 AND 15 COULD BE A LITERARY GENIUS. SO SHE WENT BACK AND REVISED THE ENTIRE DIARY FROM THE BEGINNING. IT ISN'T REALLY EVEN A DIARY AS WE KNOW WHEN WE THINK OF A DIARY. IT'S A MEMOIR WRITTEN IN DIARY FORM. SHE WROTE EVERYTHING. IT WAS ALL BY HER. THIS HAS BEEN AUTHENTICATED. BUT IT WASN'T IN EVERY CASE WRITTEN AT THE TIME OF THE SECTIONS THAT SHE DATED. FOR EXAMPLE, THE FAMOUS SECTION WHICH SHE CALLS THE DIARY KITTY WHICH IS DATED JUNE OR JULY 1942 WAS WRITEN IN 1944. SO SHE WENT BACK AND WROTE IT AS A WRITER WOULD BE WRITING IT. SO THAT WAS REALLY A REFB LAYINGS. IN 1989, THE DUTCH INSTITUTE FOR WAR DOCUMENTATION, WHICH WAS ACTUALLY ANSWERING THE CHARGES OF HOLOCAUST DENIERS SAYING THE DIARY WAS A FORGERY WENT THROUGH AND PUBLISHED A HUGE VOLUME IN '89 AUTHENTICATING THE DIARY. BUT ALSO, INCLUDING HER ORIGINAL DRAFT, HER REVISION AND THE DRAFT THAT HER FATHER MADE AFTER THE WAR BY COMBINING THE FIRST TWO. BUT FOR SOME REASON NO ONE HAS EVER SAT DOWN AND REALLY COMPARED HER FIRST DRAFT.

YOU WERE ABLE TO PUT ALL THE DRAFTS SIDE BY SIDE, LOOK AT THE REWRITES AND ALL OF IT. THAT WAS AVAILABLE TO YOU?

YES. AND A WAY TO LOOK AT HER PROCESS AS A WRITER, AN HER REVISION PROCESS. YOU CAN ACTUALLY LEARN A LOT ABOUT REVISION FROM LOOKING AT THE WAY ANNE FRANK DID IT. THE EARLIER VERSIONS ARE SO -- FOR EXAMPLE WHEN SHE BEGAN WRITING THE DIARY, SHE WAS STILL IN SHOCK. THEY HAD JUST GONE INTO HIGHED. BY THE END SHE WAS 15 YEARS OLD. THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A 13-YEAR-OLD AND 15-YEAR-OLD IS SO HUGE. IF ANYBODY HAD TAKEN HER SERIOUSLY THEY WOULD HAVE THOUGHT HOW COME THE DIARY KIND OF SOUNDS THE SAME AT THE BEGINNING AS IT DOES AT THE END.

THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN A CLUE. IF YOU LOOK AT THE TWO VERSIONS, THE FIRST VERSION IS WRITTEN KIND OF SWEET CHILDISH PRINTING LITTLE CIRCLES ON THE IS. BY THE END SHE'S COVERING PAGE AFTER PAGE WITH CURSIVE. SHE WAS A VERY DIFFERENT WRITER THEN.

THE BOOK HAS ALWAYS BEEN SORT OF NOTABLE BECAUSE IT DOCUMENTS THE TRANSITION FROM A CHILD INTO AN ADULT. IS THAT ENHANCED BY THE WORK THE RESEARCH THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO DO OR IS IT MORE LIKE THE ADULT GOING BACK AND SORT OF RECONFIGURING THE WORK OF THE CHILD?

WELSH SHE WAS WRITING ABOUT HER OWN TRANSFORMATION FROM A CHILD INTO AN ADULT. SO -- AND IN FACT THERE'S A BEAUTIFUL QUOTE FROM THE POET SAYING THAT TRANSFORMATION FROM CHILDHOOD TO ADULT IS SOMETHING EVERYONE GOES THROUGH. HOW COME NO ONE HAS NEVER WRITTEN ABOUT IT SO BEAUTIFULLY AS SHE DID?

THE FIRST PART OF THE BOOK, THE LIFE, PRETTY MUCH SETS THE STAGE, GIVES THE BACKGROUND, INTO HER AN HER CIRCUMSTANCES IN WORLD WAR II, AMSTERDAM, 41 THROUGH 44. DID ANYTHING SUPERSURPRISING, AS YOU PUT TOGETHER ALL OF THAT INFORMATION TO SORT OF PROVIDE THE BACK DROP OF HER STORY EMERGE TO YOU IN

ALL SORTS OF THINGS. I LOOKED AT THE CIRCUMSTANCES SURROUNDING HER ARREST. YOU CAN GO ONLINE AND LOOK AT THE PHOTO OF THE POLICE MEN WHO ARRESTED HER. ALSO THIS MAY BE MORE WIDELY KNOWN, BUT I DIDN'T. THERE'S A TEN SECOND FILM OF HER. THERE'S A FILM OF HER APPEARING AT A WINDOW.

WHERE DID THAT COME FROM?

IT WAS TAKEN BY ACCIDENT. THERE WAS A WEDDING GOING ON ON HER APARTMENT BLOCK. AND SOME FRIEND OF THE GROOM WAS TAKING A PHOTO OF THE BRIDE AND GROOM COMING DOWN THE STAIRS. THEN BY ACCIDENT HE JUST HAPPENED TO PAN UP THROUGH THE BLOCK AND THERE'S A PHOTO OF ANNE APPEARING LOOKING OUT A WINDOW, TURNING BACK INTO THE HOUSE, LOOKING OUT THE WINDOW. YOU CAN SEE IT ONLINE.

THAT WAREHOUSE, THAT BUILDING.

THIS WAS HER APARTMENT BEFORE SHE WENT INTO HIGHED. THIS IS WHEN SHE WAS STILL OUT IN THE WORLD. IT'S STARTLING TO SEE IT. AS MUCH AS YOU KNOW OR THINK YOU KNOW. TO SEE HER AS A LITTLE GIRL AT THAT WINDOW. I WATCH IT OVER AN OVER. SOMEHOW, CAN THIS REALLY BE HER? CAN THIS REALLY BE TRUE? IT IS TRUE. IT WAS HER. IT WAS QUITE EXTRAORDINARY.

ONE OF THE THINGS YOU UNCOVERED. THE THINGS, THE REMARKABLE THINGS ABOUT HER ME SAJ. THE AFTER LIFE IS INTERESTING AS WELL. THE PLAYS, THE MOVIE ADAPTATIONS ALL HAVE A VERY COMPLEX AND COMPLICATED STORY.

WELL, THE DRAMA ABOUT THE DRAMA. THE PROCESS OF TURNING THE BOOK INTO A PLAY. THERE WERE LAWSUITS. THERE WERE ACCUSATIONS. THERE WERE ALL THESE PARTIES. FOUR ENTIRE BOOKS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN JUST ABOUT THE WRITING OF THE PLAY OF THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK. LILLIAN HELLMAN. DIRECTORS AND PRODUCERS. MAXWELL ANDERSON WAS APPROACHED. IT WAS A HUGE THEATRICAL STORY.

VERY, VERY INTERESTING BOOK. SORT OF UNUSUAL. BOOK ABOUT A BOOK. WHAT IS TIMELESS ABOUT HER DIARY? WHY WILL IT CONTINUE TO LIVE ON?

IT TELLS US ABOUT A PARTICULAR HISTORICAL PERIOD. ONE OF THE THINGS THAT STRUCK ME IS IN A FEW DECADES PEOPLE WHO LIVED, THERE WILL BE NO ONE ALIVE WHO ACTUALLY LIVED THROUGH THAT TERRIBLE PERIOD, AND YET AMONG ALL OF THOSE MILLIONS OF PEOPLE WHO WERE MURDERED THE NAME ANNE FRANK AND THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE SHOW LIVED WITH IN THE ATTIC WILL BE THE NAMES WE REMEMBER. SEASON IT EXTRAORDINARY THAT BECAUSE OF A YOUNG GIRL, THAT WILL BE THE CASE, THAT THOSE ARE THE INDIVIDUALS WHO WILL STAY WITH US? THAT WAS REALLY THE OTHER THING THAT SET ME TO WRITING IT.

FRANCINE PROSE, THANKS FOR LETTING US SIT DOWN AND TALK ABOUT YOUR BOOKS. READING LIKE A WRITER AND ANNE FRANK, THE BOOK, THE LIFE AND THE AFTER LIFE. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US "ON THE SAME PAGE."

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