Francine Prose, 75, has not only caused a huge stir with the cultural question of Her First Novel. Her publication of Prego – a book whose characters meet without words, instead using visual images – poses a novelistic challenge not only for readers but also for the publishing industry.
Ms. Prose’s assumption that “sensitivity and control” are vital in the writing of literary fiction is difficult to criticise. Her use of symbols, devices and metaphors to tell the story is clever, even experimental.
But is such writing appropriate or even possible? Whether it is done to illustrate the plot, depict the characters or describe the setting, it is a different discipline from prose.
Ms. Prose has been a prolific writer of non-fiction (though much less successful than in her other genres), and her books have all examined intimacy or family history.
Prego “may be different”, she said in a press release. “It is, of course, my debut. If there is a contribution I can make, I think it is to see what works in fiction and what does not. It is important to me that the kind of writing I write is modern but not surrealistic.”