Reader reviews for Blue Angel

By all appearances, Theodore "Ted" Swenson is living the sweet life. He's a tenured professor at Euston, a bucolic New England college; he's published a well-received novel; and his beautiful wife is smart, warm, and humorous. Ted's even managed to craftily pare down his teaching schedule and office hours to a bare minimum of acceptability. What more could a man wish for? Of course, small irritations have a way of slowly rubbing the good life raw. Swenson's creative writing students are painfully mediocre. How, for instance, can Swenson have any reasonable chance of improving Danny Liebman's tortured short story in which a teenager, drunk and spurned by his girlfriend, indulges in sexual congress with a raw chicken by the light of the family fridge? In addition, Swenson's new novel, "The Black and the Black," seems to be permanently consigned to creative purgatory, and the campus administration's recent obsession with political correctness has been whipped into a frenzy by the Faculty-Student Women's Alliance, a group headed by Swenson's arch enemy, Lauren Healy, who is perpetually offended by Swenson's crime of owning a penis. When Swenson finally stumbles upon a student with true talent, he can't believe his good fortune. Angela Argo is writing a novel, and it's good -- really good. Angela (an avid fan of Stendahl, by the way) is effusive in her praise of Swenson's first novel, and a series of office visits ensue. Thank heaven she's so physically unappealing. Swenson's avoided any scintilla of scandal for twenty years, and this skinny, scab-kneed waif with dirty hair, nose rings, and multiple lip piercings is about as far from a ripe freshman Lolita as he can imagine. Well, life is full of surprises. I highly recommend this book. The fatuous rationalizations that Swenson manufactures with each escalating step of his inappropriate behavior, the predictable reaction of Swenson's "friends" and foes, and the haplessness of the human condition are all exposed with humor and pathos by Ms. Prose. Enjoy.
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Blue Angel more than held my interest and Prose is a good writer with an edge to her, but the plot was fairly predictable and this book didn't finish strong.What I liked:- Commentary on writing (and reading); the main character is a teacher of a creative writing class at a small college which allows for this."Isn't that what he told the class yesterday, that good writing can make you see your fellow humans? It doesn't make you a better person. It just sort of ... opens your pores."- Humor; particularly in the inner thoughts interspersed with the dialog."Marmite! Is there no end to the Benthams' sadism? What will they be serving next - wobbly slabs of jellied calves feet? Steak and kidney pie? If Marjorie knows that most Americans - most humans - don't like Marmite, why is it the only hors d'eouevre? Swenson gobbles his Triscuit in one brave bite and tries not to make a face at the sharp wheaty splinters glued together with vile salty paste. Attentive as baby birds, the other guests wait for him to gulp it down.""Most of the students are still reading, giving Swenson a moment to think of something to say, some way to improve this heartbreaking, subliterate piece of shit, heartbreaking because, for all he knows, it represents Courtney's personal best."- Theme and commentary on what amounts to a mid-life crisis; the unbreakable obsession and the guilt in the relationship that devlopes between teacher and manipulative student."No one knows that Angela's poems are in his office at home, locked in his filing cabinet. Or that her filthy free verse has traveled here in his head, lilke some malarial mosquito sneaking across the ocean in an airplane's passenger cabin."What I disliked:- The ending. Awful. Especially the last couple of pages.- The crassness. The repeated references to increst and bestality are unnecessary and over-the-top. My first thought: as much of the bestiality references are meant as humor, make the joke once! Second thought: while these do set an overall tone, it's hard not to feel like they're included for shock value only.A few more quotes for the road:"Swenson's spirt used to soar on the updraft of transcendence that the library's valuted arches were designed to produce. Every so often he still gets a buzz in the presence of two thousand years of poetry, art, history, science - the whispery proximity of all those dear dead voices. But lately, he's more likely to feel the dizzying chasm between what Elijah Euston dreamed and what his dream has become, between the lofty heights of Western culture and the everyday grubbiness of education at Euston.""Is this some kind of gay bar? Len would never do that. Besides, too many heads are swiveling to follow the round, gray-suited rear end of the woman leading Sweson to his table.""'How's school?' It's not as if Sweson hasn't asked forty times this weekend. But that's one privilege of family life - the right to ignore good manners and the fear of boring others, to repeat things and get the same answers."
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This was a National Book Award Finalist!? You could have fooled me. I found the characters unappealing & poorly drawn. I only stuck w/ it to see what would happen to the main character, Prof. Ted Swenson.
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At the beginning, this book was a bit of a page turner. While the characters are very well written, the plot left me asking, "What now?" The story line always kept me guessing but it didn't live up to expectations.The protaganist, Ted, comes off as slightly narcissitic but you end up rooting for him in the end. Ted's relationship with his writing student Angela shows how complex and round this simple college professor is. Even the seemingly minor characters play a part in Ted's realization and unraveling. This books should be read for the characters, not for the plot.
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Well, this book just seemed a little too predictable to me. I was pretty much guessing the entire outcome within the first 50 pages. It follows the classic professor falling for a college student ruse but I liked it better when it was called The Corrections and when that wasn't the entire premise of the story. That it's written from a female perspective while the protagonist is male is the only thing that makes the book slightly tricky and interesting. Still, it's so clear what will happen that it makes reading it almost painful to get through. I wasn't sure if we were actually supposed to feel sorry for the professor for being so pathetic, either...Regardless, it's somewhat enigmatic to me how this got to be a National Book Award Finalist. Oh well.
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For some strange reason, I stuck with this book, though I definitely don't recommend it. It was 3/4 through the book that I realized that I didn't like the characters, didn't like where it was going, and yet, something stuck. I think because I responded so strongly to the characters of Swenson and Angela, there's something about it. But, I'd never ever reread it.
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This was a novel about a college creative writing professor whose place of employment set up a committee that wanted to put into practice sanctions against those who practice sexual harrassment. Wouldn't you know it, then, that the married professor in our story becomes attracted to Angeo Argo, one of his students! According to Professor Swenson, the reason is that she writes well. He thinks he feels that she is attracted to him as well. Not all goes acording to plan as you shall see when you read this story.I found this an engaging read while my daughter thought it a "meh" book. Her fiance disliked the book completely and ranted that its ending was no ending at all. I was satisfied with it. You decide for yourself when you read it.
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Prose has received a lot of good press for her latest novel, A Changed Man, but, of course, my library branch didn't have that book in stock. I didn't want to have to wait for it to be ordered, so I picked up the book before that one, Blue Angel. It's the story of a creative-writing professor in a small-town college who tries to walk the fine line between loving a student's work and loving the student. It's meant to be a satire of the overly sensitive sexual harassment policies in academia, but the protagonist is so screwed up it's hard to feel sorry for the guy, let alone laugh at his plight. The characters never seem real, hardly any them are sympathetic, and the novel ends with an unsatisfying, unclear, and unnecessary twist.
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love scandal between a student and a professor. somewhat inevitable and predictable ending. nothing too serious, but fast read and good for past time.
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Francine Prose’s Blue Angel is easy to summarize: a heretofore upstanding creative writing professor at a small liberal arts college becomes infatuated with one of his students, and things deteriorate from there. It’s satire all the way, but at times it’s not that funny, just sad.It’s likely I would have liked this novel more had I read it when it was published 10 years ago. Unfortunately, it has not aged all that well. The idiocies of political correctness are now embedded like a tapeworm in the gut of academia, so the indignities that inevitably befall the hapless Swenson are predictable from the book’s first page. Speaking of Prof. Bathos himself, let’s just say that Prose doesn’t entirely succeed in creating a convincing protagonist. Swenson’s day-to-day foibles and tics are fine; he’s believable. But when push comes to (sweaty and very naughty) shove, his motivations evaporate. Prose doesn’t really grasp the male mind – or, rather, drive. Swenson makes stupid choices. But Prose can’t get behind that stupidity; she doesn’t help us feel Swenson’s desperation as he tries to take on mortality and lost meaning in hopeless single combat. Instead, even though she tries hard (to her credit) to help us sympathize with Swenson’s predicament, she ends up tsk-tsking him just like the gaggle of women who surround him.Prose is an excellent prose stylist, and although I didn’t find this book to be a complete winner, I will try some of her other novels.
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