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The Vixen: A Novel
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Harper 2021
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Named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and Financial Times

"No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose . . . The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending."—Amy Bloom, New York Times Book Review

"Depending on the light, it's either a very funny serious story or a very serious funny story. But no matter how you turn it, The Vixen offers an illuminating reflection on the slippery nature of truth in America, then and now."—Washington Post

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose returns with a dazzling new novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing, the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg—an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world.

It's 1953, and Simon Putnam, a recent Harvard graduate newly hired by a distinguished New York publishing firm, has entered a glittering world of three-martini lunches, exclusive literary parties, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits, a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island.

But Simon's first assignment—editing The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm's failing finances—makes him question the cost of admission. Because Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg's. His parents mourn Ethel's death.

Simon's dilemma grows thornier when he meets The Vixen's author, the startlingly beautiful, reckless, seductive Anya Partridge, ensconced in her opium-scented boudoir in a luxury Hudson River mental asylum. As mysteries deepen, as the confluence of sex, money, politics and power spirals out of Simon's control, he must face what he's lost by exchanging the loving safety of his middle-class Jewish parents' Coney Island apartment for the witty, whiskey-soaked orbit of his charismatic boss, the legendary Warren Landry. Gradually Simon realizes that the people around him are not what they seem, that everyone is keeping secrets, that ordinary events may conceal a diabolical plot—and that these crises may steer him toward a brighter future.

At once domestic and political, contemporary and historic, funny and heartbreaking, enlivened by surprising plot turns and passages from Anya's hilariously bad novel, The Vixen illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment. Meanwhile it asks timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of love, family, art, life and loss?

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Street Date:
06/29/2021
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780063012165
ASIN:
B08K92BQ91
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APA Citation (style guide)

Francine Prose. (2021). The Vixen: A Novel. Harper.

Chicago / Turabian - Author Date Citation (style guide)

Francine Prose. 2021. The Vixen: A Novel. Harper.

Chicago / Turabian - Humanities Citation (style guide)

Francine Prose, The Vixen: A Novel. Harper, 2021.

MLA Citation (style guide)

Francine Prose. The Vixen: A Novel. Harper, 2021. Web.

Note! Citation formats are based on standards as of July 2010. Citations contain only title, author, edition, publisher, and year published. Citations should be used as a guideline and should be double checked for accuracy.
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        Francine Prose is the author of twenty-one works of fiction including, the highly acclaimed Mister Monkey; the New York Times bestseller Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932; A Changed Man, which won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; and Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her works of nonfiction include the highly praised Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer, which has become a classic. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She is a Distinguished Writer in Residence at Bard College.

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Named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and Financial Times

"No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose . . . The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending."—Amy Bloom, New York Times Book Review

"Depending on the light, it's either a very funny serious story or a very serious funny story. But no matter how you turn it, The Vixen offers an illuminating reflection on the slippery nature of truth in America, then and now."—Washington Post

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose returns with a dazzling new novel set in the...

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The Vixen
fullDescription

Named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and Financial Times

"No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose . . . The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending."—Amy Bloom, New York Times Book Review

"Depending on the light, it's either a very funny serious story or a very serious funny story. But no matter how you turn it, The Vixen offers an illuminating reflection on the slippery nature of truth in America, then and now."—Washington Post

Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Francine Prose returns with a dazzling new novel set in the glamorous world of 1950s New York publishing, the story of a young man tasked with editing a steamy bodice-ripper based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg—an assignment that will reveal the true cost of entering that seductive, dangerous new world.

It's 1953, and Simon Putnam, a recent Harvard graduate newly hired by a distinguished New York publishing firm, has entered a glittering world of three-martini lunches, exclusive literary parties, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits, a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island.

But Simon's first assignment—editing The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm's failing finances—makes him question the cost of admission. Because Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg's. His parents mourn Ethel's death.

Simon's dilemma grows thornier when he meets The Vixen's author, the startlingly beautiful, reckless, seductive Anya Partridge, ensconced in her opium-scented boudoir in a luxury Hudson River mental asylum. As mysteries deepen, as the confluence of sex, money, politics and power spirals out of Simon's control, he must face what he's lost by exchanging the loving safety of his middle-class Jewish parents' Coney Island apartment for the witty, whiskey-soaked orbit of his charismatic boss, the legendary Warren Landry. Gradually Simon realizes that the people around him are not what they seem, that everyone is keeping secrets, that ordinary events may conceal a diabolical plot—and that these crises may steer him toward a brighter future.

At once domestic and political, contemporary and historic, funny and heartbreaking, enlivened by surprising plot turns and passages from Anya's hilariously bad novel, The Vixen illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment. Meanwhile it asks timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of love, family, art, life and loss?

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reviews
      • premium: False
      • source: Maria Semple, New York Times bestselling author of Where’d You Go, Bernadette
      • content: "A rollicking trickster of a novel, wondrously funny and wickedly addictive."
      • premium: False
      • source: Margot Livesey, author of The Boy in the Field
      • content: "Can a novel be wildly intelligent, deeply compassionate, politically astute and utterly absorbing? In her dazzling new novel Francine Prose accomplishes all of this, and more, as she explores the fate of the Rosenbergs and the travails of an editorial assistant new to both publishing and love. The Vixen is irresistible."
      • premium: False
      • source: Yiyun Li, author of Must I Go
      • content: "In an enthralling new novel, Francine Prose, a maestro storyteller, interrogates the murky symbiotic relationship between history and individuals: Is it the senselessness of history that undermines and rewrites each person's life story, or, is it a collection of cruelties from individuals that change the course of history? Equally suspenseful and philosophical, The Vixen is both a page tuner set in an era of espionage, conspiracy and mistrust, and an exploration of one of the sustaining factors of civilization that also has to sustain perennial attack from politics and history: human decency."
      • premium: False
      • source: Samantha Hunt, author of Mr. Splitfoot
      • content: "Prose is a powerhouse. The Vixen will fascinate and complicate the histories that haunt our present moments. Like Coney Island's Cyclone, this story tumbles and tangles a reader's grip of reality. It's told with the heart, humor and daring of a true artist. Prose's Vixen is a triumph and a trip though the solid magic that books make real."
      • premium: False
      • source: Danzy Senna, author of Caucasia and New People
      • content: "Only a writer as deft and ingenious as Francine Prose could tell us the story of the American present, slantwise, through the McCarthy past. A bright Coney Island Jew tries to rise in the gin-soaked world of WASP publishing, where his job is to mash the tragedy of the Rosenberg executions into pulp. I relished every page of this hilarious, cunning and utterly engrossing novel, and came away with a startling recognition of the place we now call home."
      • premium: False
      • source: The New Yorker
      • content: "Combining elements of mystery and romance, Prose's novel is a sly indictment of Cold War paranoia."
      • premium: False
      • source: New York Times Book Review
      • content: "No one states problems more correctly, more astutely, more amusingly and more uncomfortably than Francine Prose . . . Her insights, the subtle ones and the two-by-fours, make me shake my head in despair, in surprise, in heartfelt agreement. The gift of her work to a reader is to create for us what she creates for her protagonist: the subtle unfolding, the moment-by-moment process of discovery as we read and change, from not knowing and even not wanting to know or care, to seeing what we had not seen and finding our way to the light of the ending."
      • premium: False
      • source: Wall Street Journal
      • content: "A pleasingly intricate plot that hinges, inevitably, on lies and betrayal, both personal and political. There are spies here, and traitors. But in the richly textured place and time that Ms. Prose portrays with her usual skill, there are few clear distinctions."
      • premium: False
      • source: Publishers Weekly (starred review)
      • content: "Prose holds up a mirror to a fractured culture in this dazzling take on America's tendency to persecute, then lionize, its most subversive figures. . . . This is Prose at the top of her game."
      • premium: False
      • source: Washington Post
      • content: "Depending on the light, it's either a very funny serious story or a very serious funny story. But no matter how you turn it, The Vixen offers an illuminating reflection on the slippery nature of truth in America, then and now."
      • premium: True
      • source: Library Journal
      • content:

        January 1, 2021

        In 1953, Simon Putnam is thrilled to land a job with a classy New York publishing company but not so thrilled with his first assignment. He's editing a bodice-ripper titled The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, which incongruously draws on the execution of the Rosenbergs, and he must keep secret his family's ties to Ethel Rosenberg. From National Book Award finalist Prose.

        Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

      • premium: True
      • source: Kirkus
      • content:

        April 1, 2021
        A trashy anti-communist novel poses a moral dilemma for a young editor. On June 19, 1953, narrator Simon Putnam and his parents grimly watch a TV reporter announce that the Rosenbergs have been executed as Soviet spies. With her customary deft hand, Prose sketches the family dynamic as they comment on the coverage: Recent Harvard grad Simon loves his idealistic mother and cynical father but is embarrassed by the immigrant origins they share with the Rosenbergs. His mother grew up with Ethel on the Lower East Side, which is not something Simon wants getting around at Landry, Landry, and Bartlett, the distinguished publishing house where his uncle Madison, a feared literary critic, gets him an entry-level job. Simon hopes to follow Madison's tracks out of Coney Island, so he's thrilled when charismatic Warren Landry asks him to edit a manuscript, until he realizes that The Vixen, the Patriot, and the Fanatic depicts Ethel Rosenberg as a communist Mata Hari seducing every man in sight and, by the way, as guilty as hell. The firm is in dire financial shape, Warren confides; if Simon can make this mess "less bad" they could have a sorely needed bestseller. Tantalized by the prospect of a promotion, plus the alluring photo of author Anya Partridge, Simon suppresses his qualms and gets to work. Hilarious excerpts from the appalling manuscript provide Prose's characteristic humor in a story that otherwise has a more serious tone than her norm. Numerous hints are dropped that this project is not what it seems, and readers who know their American cultural history may spot the big reveal well before Simon does, but Prose maintains our interest with a vivid portrait of his internal conflicts: guilt over his participation in "this commodification of Ethel's tragedy" intensified by guilt over distancing himself from his parents; lust for the intriguingly weird Anya conflicting with a crush on supernice publicity director Elaine Geller. Simon gets a stinging reality check in the novel's climax, but he also gets a partial revenge and finds his life's direction in the mildly improbable but touching final developments. Smart, assured fiction from a master storyteller and thoughtful social commentator.

        COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

      • premium: True
      • source: Publisher's Weekly
      • content:

        Starred review from April 12, 2021
        Prose (Mister Monkey) holds up a mirror to a fractured culture in this dazzling take on America's tendency to persecute, then lionize, its most subversive figures. In 1953, recent Harvard graduate Simon Putnam watches news of the Rosenberg execution on television with his parents in Brooklyn. Though Simon has profited from a Puritan-sounding name—and hopes to profit further—he's from a liberal Jewish family; his mother attended the same high school as Ethel Rosenberg (and even keeps a small shrine to her in their apartment). It's the height of the Red Scare, when "anyone could be accused" and "everyone was afraid." Flash forward a year, and Simon's literary critic uncle has landed him a job as junior editor at a prestigious but financially unstable publisher. When its founder, Warren Landry, gives Simon his first novel to edit, Simon is aghast to learn the project is a thinly veiled bodice ripper about the Rosenberg trial. It's an unusual book for the publisher, but Landry, a WWII veteran who once ran psyops for the OSS, lays out the stakes: the publisher needs a win, and a pulp yarn that further vilifies the Rosenbergs and Communism seems like just the thing. Why a junior editor would be given such an important task is a slow-burn mystery that propels readers through Prose's recreation of 1950s paranoia, complete with an appearance from Senator Joseph McCarthy's minion and future Trump mentor Roy Cohn. Sidelong commentary on Landry's sexual predation, shot through a lens informed by the #MeToo era, adds further resonance. This is Prose at the top of her game.

      • premium: True
      • source: Booklist
      • content:

        May 15, 2021
        Newly graduated from Harvard as a folklore and mythology major, Simon returns to his Jewish family's Coney Island apartment, where they watch coverage of the June 19, 1953, execution of convicted spies Ethel and Julius Rosenberg in horror. Simon's migraine-assaulted mother knew Ethel when they were girls. With the intervention of his well-connected uncle, Simon is hired by a posh publishing house, where he is thrown into a moral quagmire when the intimidating publisher makes him editor of an atrocious potboiler loosely based on the Rosenberg case, The Vixen, the Patriot, and the Fanatic. How can Simon betray his family and his values by inflicting this travesty on the world? How can he risk his fledgling career? He certainly can't resist the flamboyantly seductive young author. Prose (Mister Monkey, 2016) ingeniously takes on publishing, the fallout of WWII, and McCarthyism in a gloriously astute, skewering, and hilarious bildungsroman. One of this bravura performance's many piquant delights is Prose's clever use of Simon's fluency in ancient sagas as he struggles to comprehend just how malignant the scheme he's bogged down in truly is. Mordant, incisive, and tenderhearted, Prose presents an intricately realized tale of a treacherous, democracy-threatening time of lies, demagoguery, and prejudice that is as wildly exhilarating as the Cyclone, Simon's beloved Coney Island roller coaster.

        COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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