Although in Charlottesville, home of the University of Virginia, just 40 miles to the east, literary events are commonplace, in Staunton, our little town tucked away in the Shenandoah Valley, they are rare. Which is why I made sure I attended today’s reading by Francine Prose at Mary Baldwin College. I’ve met Prose before, and heard her read, at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference in 2004 and at Bread Loaf in 2005, and I can’t say I’m a huge fan of her work. (In truth, the only book of hers that I’ve finished is Primitive People, so I need to make more of an effort.) But it was still fun to see her again, hear her read from the latest book, A Changed Man (again–she actually read the same section I’d heard her read before), which I will pick up and read soon. I’ll report back. She also read a short section from her short biography of Caravaggio.
Following the reading, the Q&A got off to a slow start so I raised my hand (I never do this). I mentioned that on another occasion I had heard her read from a work in progress on close readings and I wondered if we could expect that book soon. “I’m glad you asked,” she said, and went on to say that her book Reading Like a Writer will be published in October, in paper. The book takes a close look at words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. in the important books, and I believe that will definitely be something writers will want to own.