Prose, Francine. A Changed Man. New York: Harper Collins,
Reason read: Happy New Year! January is traditionally the month to turn over a new leaf. Read in honor of resolutions. I also read this for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge (category: a book that gives you hope for the future).
Vincent Nolan wants to be a changed man. Once a Neo-Nazi and a self-described “punk storm-trooper rapist,” Vincent is looking for redemption in the eyes of Meyer Maslow, a Holocaust survivor. I didn’t quite believe the situation. Why wouldn’t Maslow be more suspicious of Nolan? How does he trust this guy wants to change just…like…that? Is he really A Changed Man? How has Vincent become a moral hero overnight? On the flip side, I am also suspicious that no one at Brotherhood Watch would be worried for Vincent’s safety…if he really is a changed man. He just left a very dangerous, cult-like organization. Think gangs. Wouldn’t ARM want retaliation? Wouldn’t Vincent’s cousin be looking for him after Vincent stole his truck, prescription meds, and Soldier of Fortune magazine, and then left his little hate club?
The only parts I found believable were the times when someone was jealous of someone else (and this happens a lot): Brotherhood Watch donation coordinator, Bonny, was jealous of her ex-husband’s new wife (very appropriate) and she was jealous of her ex-husband’s importance in society (As a cardiologist, he saves lives. What does she do?); Maslow was jealous of Elie Wiesel’s “Holocaust” fame, then he was jealous of Vincent’s “changed man” fame; Vincent was jealous of the Iranian prisoner’s story getting more attention than his own transformation and he was also jealous of Timothy McVeigh’s limelight. Yes, that Timothy McVeigh. Threaded through A Changed Man is the real-life drama of the Oklahoma City bombing and the subsequent execution of McVeigh. It allows Prose to show both sides of a tragedy. The Jews were ecstatic when McVeigh was put to death while the neo-Nazis mourned and honored their hero. As an aside, Prose made Vincent look a lot like McVeigh for added creepville.
Overall, A Changed Man might be heavy on subject (Holocaust survivor, neo-Nazis, etc.) but super light on drama complete with a Hallmark-like ending.
Quotes to quote, “Becoming a white supremist for the free lunch seems even sleazier than joining because you believe that the white race is an endangered species, or because you like wearing camouflaged gear and the boots” (p 18), “Vincent’s not in the mood to explain about Raymond wanting him dead” (p 182).
Playlist: Mick Jagger, Billy Joel, Otis Redding, Tina Turner, Ricky Martin, Marc Antony, Tito Puente, Iron Fust, Al Green’s “Love and Happiness,” Beethoven, Stravinsky, Miles Davis’s “Kind of Blue,” “Pomp and Circumstance,” and “The Wedding March.”
Nancy said: Pearl said A Changed Man was in the stack of books by her side of the bed.
BookLust Twist: from the introduction of More Book Lust (p x).
Prose, Francine. The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired. New York: Harper Collins, 2002.
Reason read: John Lennon married his muse, Yoko Ono, on March 20th, 1969.
Francine Prose covers the lives of nine muses; the women who inspired creativity and passion in their artists. Prose’s introduction sums up the impetus behind the book saying, “The desire to explore the mystery of inspiration, to determine who or what is the “moving cause” of art, resembles the impulse to find out a magician’s secrets” (page 2). Prose begins Lives of the Muses with Hester Thrale. Despite being a married woman, her influence on Dr. Samuel Johnson was profound. Prose then moves on to such well known muses as Alice Liddell, Gala Dali, Lee Miller and of course, Yoko Ono. She also includes lesser known muses (to me, at least) such as Elizabeth Siddal, Lou Andreas Salome and Suzanne Farrell. The residual appreciation I gleaned from reading Lives of the Muses was an education in Rossetti and Miller’s art. I couldn’t read another word without looking up such pieces as Awakening Conscience, Found, Remington Silent and Night and Day, respectively. Attaching the visual to the imagination was a bonus, especially when it came to Dali’s over-the-top creativity and strangeness. The only aspect of Lives of the Muses I found detracting was the myriad of speculative opinions Prose insisted on voicing.
Best lines, “Madmen are all sensual in the lower stages of distemper. But when they are very ill, pleasure is too weak for them, and they seek pain” (p 37) and “The violation of Lizzie Siddal’s grave was only the coarsest and most explicit manifestations of the necrophilia that had tainted her relationship with Rossetti from the start” (p 103).
Convergence: Robert Pyle wrote a book about Bigfoot. Prose wrote a book called Bigfoot Dreams.
As an aside, I did not know that Samuel Johnson obsessively counted his own footsteps. I find myself keeping track, too. Other notes: Natalie Merchant chose a poem by Christina Rossetti for Leave Your Sleep. Christina was Gabriel’s sister.
Author fact: Prose is a year older than my mom and was born in Brooklyn.
Book trivia: Lives of the Muses includes some great photographs.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “People You Outta Meet” (p 185). I definitely would have liked to have met Lee Miller.