By JANET MASLIN, New York Times, Published: September 30, 2009
When Francine Prose taught Anne Frank’s diary to a class at Bard College two years ago, one of her students reported getting funny looks from students not in the class. “They acted as if he were assuming some sort of ironic-regressive pose that involved carrying around a children’s classic, the equivalent of using his grade school lunch box as an attaché case,” Ms. Prose reports in her new book about Anne (as this book refers to her). Her dogged and impassioned scholarship will dispel many such misimpressions about this subject.
Photo of Francine Prose, left, by Stephanie Berger
The Book, the Life, the Afterlife
By Francine Prose
322 pages. Harper. $24.99.
If there is a central point about Anne here, it is that she was a precociously self-aware writer rather than a spontaneous, ingenuous diarist. It takes a real writer, Ms. Prose points out, to hide the mechanics of her work and make it sound as if she is simply talking to her readers. Similarly, it takes a gifted explicator to make it sound as if she is presenting her arguments conversationally rather than creating elaborate, research-heavy diatribes to back them up.
Ms. Prose’s “Anne Frank” has no frills or illusions. It surely does not pretend to be the definitive work on this subject. Instead, it draws upon and synthesizes some of the keenest observations made about Anne by writers like John Berryman, Philip Roth, Cynthia Ozick, Judith Thurman and Harold Bloom, seeming to extract the most succinct and provocative thoughts from each one.