Francine Prose is the author of several novels, non-fiction books, and short story collections. She is a Visiting Professor of Literature at Bard College, and was formerly president of PEN American Center, a New York City-based literary society of writers, editors and translators that works to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship.
She received the PEN Translation Prize in 1988 and received a Guggenheim fellowship in 1991. Prose's novel The Glorious Ones has been adapted into a musical with the same title. Her more recent works include My New American Life (2011), The Turning (2012) and Lovers at the Chameleon Club (2014).
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An interview with Francine Prose
You open your novel A Changed Man with a character most of your
readers probably have never met: the ex-skinhead Vincent Nolan. Was this
"changed man" the inspiration for the book?
I certainly began with him. I was on the subway in New York once, and I saw these two very young skinheads -- all dressed up, with jackboots and shaved heads -- and I noticed that they looked terrified, like they'd been dropped from Mars. It was very clear to me that they were out of their element; this was not their home territory at all. That made me curious about who they were and what kind of people they were. Then I began to do research.
It's strange how life imitates art. Later I was in an elevator in Manhattan, and there was a middle-aged guy with his hair growing over tattoos on his head -- it looked as if a swastika had been there, and the laser removal hadn't done a good job. I thought this is my character, 10 years later.
Were there other topics you were keeping in mind as you wrote?
My aim was to write about this character, but I wasn't necessarily writing about neo-Nazis. I was writing about what it means to be a good person, what it means to change -- and how our culture ...
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