Here is my post on the facebook of Francine Prose.
“I loved your brave article on the Goon Squad in Portland. I never heard of the term “doomscrolling”. I wanted to compliment you on this expose, so I googled you. I am amazed. First of all, your name is a knock-out! I see ‘The Rose of France. There is a book titled ‘Prose Merlin’. I know the Pranksters and have been of Further with Ken Kesey. My ex-wife, Mary Ann Tharaldsen lived with Thomas Pynchon in Mexico. She was married to David Seidler.
My grandfather camped on the Channel Islands with Black Mask authors, taught Erl Stanley Gardener to write, and was a friend of Dashiell Hammet. Then there is the disappearance of my famous sister’s biography, and the oppression of my recovery novel I began two years before Christine Rosamond Benton drowned under mysterious circumstances. I have gotten death threats from the Street Anarchist of Eugene and Portland – after I refused to remove an article about Anarchist Belle – whose parents had a Labyrinth Walk. My newspaper ‘Royal Rosamond Press’ is registered in Lane County. I am trying to get Joseph Lane’s name removed. Senator Thomas Hart Benton’s name was removed from a building located on Oregon State. I am kin to Robert E. Lee, and Shakespeare via the Webb family. I own theories.
I am wondering if you would like to take over my autobiography. There is so much here. I am undulated, awash in material that I am too close too. I have an outline for a couple of musicals. Pulp Politics could be a hit on Broadway. Also, I am looking to Will my newspaper to someone. I would like to be a member of PEN.
Many on the Internet, which is now everyone’s main form of communication with the outside world, have pleaded guilty to “doomscrolling” during ongoing social distancing mandates. This is when one sits in front of an electronic device and scrolls through the feeds of their social media and other online sources of information that are filled with stories about the world’s current dystopian state. The practice is usually accompanied by glazed eyes and a mind-numbing feeling that you’re not really absorbing the information.
While there is evidence that this term is not new to 2020, it has been experiencing a recent surge in popularity. There are, however, some other terms that have been born out of this crisis. There’s “Zoombombing,” which is when people hack into virtual meetings and act disruptively; “covidiot” to describe a person(s) ignoring social restrictions; “the rona,” a slang term for the virus; and “quarantini,” which basically means an alcoholic drink consumed during this time.
The Glorious Ones travel the length and breadth of seventeenth-century Italy, playing commedia dell’arte in the streets and palaces with equal vigor. Founded by the ingenious madman Flamino Scala, the small company of players endures kidnappings and passionate affairs, cabals, riots, disgrace—all manner of triumph and hardship. Pantalone the miser, sunny Armanda the dwarf, gossip-loving Columbina, and evil-minded Brighella view their myriad shared adventures through markedly different eyes. Yet not one of them is prepared for the strange twisting of the road brought about by the mysterious arrival of Isabella Andreini, who has come to direct their wayward troupe.
PEN America (formerly PEN American Center), founded in 1922 and headquartered in New York City, is a nonprofit organization that works to defend and celebrate free expression in the United States and worldwide through the advancement of literature and human rights. With more than 7,200 members—including novelists, journalists, nonfiction writers, editors, poets, essayists, playwrights, publishers, translators, agents, and other writing professionals—PEN America is the largest of the more than 100 PEN centers worldwide that together compose PEN International. PEN America has offices in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.
PEN America’s advocacy includes work on press freedom and the safety of journalists, campus free speech, online harassment, artistic freedom, and support to regions of the world with acute free expression challenges, including Eurasia, Myanmar, and China. PEN America also campaigns for individual writers and journalists who have been imprisoned or come under threat for their work, and annually presents the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award.
PEN America hosts public programming and events on literature and human rights, including the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature and the annual PEN America Literary Awards. PEN America also works to amplify underrepresented voices, including emerging authors and writers who are undocumented, incarcerated, or face obstacles in reaching audiences.
PEN America was formed on April 19, 1922 in New York City, and included among its initial members writers such as Willa Cather, Eugene O’Neill, Robert Frost, Ellen Glasgow, Edwin Arlington Robinson, and Robert Benchley. Booth Tarkington served as the organization’s first president.
PEN America’s founding came a year after the launch of PEN International in London by Catherine Amy Dawson-Scott, a British poet, playwright, and peace activist, who enlisted John Galsworthy as PEN International’s first president. The intent of PEN International was to foster international literary fellowship among writers that would transcend national and ethnic divides in the wake of World War I. PEN America subscribes to the principles outlined in the PEN International Charter.
The organization’s name was initially conceived as an acronym: Poets, Essayists, Novelists (later broadened to Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, Novelists). As membership expanded to include a more diverse range of people involved in literature and freedom of expression, the name ceased to be an acronym.
MEMBERS OF PEN pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class, and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members also pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood, and distortion of facts for political and personal ends. – from PEN’s Founding Charter, New York City, 1922.
Full membership in PEN America generally requires being a published writer with at least one work professionally published, or being a translator, agent, editor, or other publishing professional. There is also a “reader” tier of membership open to supporters from the general public, as well as a “student” membership.
Francine Prose (born April 1, 1947) is an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and critic. She is a Visiting Professor of Literature at Bard College, and was formerly president of PEN American Center.
Born in Brooklyn, Prose graduated from Radcliffe College in 1968. She received the PEN Translation Prize in 1988 and received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1991. Prose’s novel The Glorious Ones has been adapted into a musical with the same title by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty. It ran at the Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center in New York City in the fall of 2007.
In March 2007, Prose was chosen to succeed American writer Ron Chernow beginning in April to serve a one-year term as president of PEN American Center, a New York City-based literary society of writers, editors and translators that works to advance literature, defend free expression, and foster international literary fellowship. In March 2008, Prose ran unopposed for a second one-year term as PEN American Center president. That same month, London artist Sebastian Horsley had been denied entry into the United States and PEN president Prose subsequently invited Horsley to speak at PENs annual festival of international literature in New York at the end of April 2008. Prose was succeeded by philosopher and novelist Kwame Anthony Appiah as president of PEN in April 2009.
Prose sat on the board of judges for the PEN/Newman’s Own Award. Her novel, Blue Angel, a satire about sexual harassment on college campuses, was a finalist for the National Book Award. One of her novels, Household Saints, was adapted for a movie by Nancy Savoca.
In 2010, Prose received the Washington University International Humanities Medal. The medal, awarded biennially and accompanied by a cash prize of $25,000, is given to honor a person whose humanistic endeavors in scholarship, journalism, literature, or the arts have made a difference in the world. Other winners include Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk in 2006, journalist Michael Pollan in 2008, and documentary filmmaker, Ken Burns, in 2012.
American PEN criticism
During the 2015 controversy regarding American PEN’s decision to honor Charlie Hebdo with its annual Freedom of Expression Courage Award, she, alongside Michael Ondaatje, Teju Cole, Peter Carey, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi, withdrew from the group’s annual awards gala and signed a letter dissociating themselves from the award, stating that although the murders were “sickening and tragic,” they did not believe that Charlie Hebdo‘s work deserved an award. The letter was soon co-signed by more than 140 other PEN members. Francine Prose published an article in The Guardian justifying her position, stating that: “the narrative of the Charlie Hebdo murders—white Europeans killed in their offices by Muslim extremists—is one that feeds neatly into the cultural prejudices that have allowed our government to make so many disastrous mistakes in the Middle East.” Prose was criticized for her views by Katha Pollitt, Alex Massie, Michael C. Moynihan, Nick Cohen and others, most notably by Salman Rushdie, who in a letter to PEN described Prose and the five other authors who withdrew as fellow travellers of “fanatical Islam, which is highly organised, well funded, and which seeks to terrify us all, Muslims as well as non-Muslims, into a cowed silence.”
The New Yorker controversy
On January 7, 2018, in a Facebook post, Prose accused the author Sadia Shepard of plagiarizing Mavis Gallant‘s “The Ice Wagon Going Down the Street”, which had appeared in The New Yorker on December 14, 1963. Shepard’s piece had been published online by The New Yorker and was scheduled for release in the January 8, 2018 issue. Though Shepard’s story reimagines the original in a new context, with added detail and altered character dynamics, Prose contended that the similarities between the two stories constituted theft, writing in her original post that the story is a “scene by scene, plot-turn by plot-turn, gesture by gesture, line-of-dialogue by line-of-dialogue copy—the only major difference being that the main characters are Pakistanis in Connecticut during the Trump era instead of Canadians in post-WWII Geneva.” In a letter to The New Yorker, Prose maintained her original stance, asking, “Is it really acceptable to change the names and the identities of fictional characters and then claim the story as one’s own original work? Why, then, do we bother with copyrights?” Responding to Prose’s accusation, Shepard acknowledged her debt to Gallant but maintained that her use of Gallant’s story of self-exile in postwar Europe to explore the immigrant experience of Pakistani Muslims in today’s America was justified.