Book of the Week: Mister Monkey – Francine Prose

Thanks to bestsellers like Reading Like a Writer, Lovers at the Chameleon Club and Anne Frank, some readers may peg Francine Prose an author who writes exclusively on “serious” literary topics. But one of her great earlier successes was the wickedly funny academic satire The Blue Angel which was a NBA finalist (and is now in production as a movie with Stanley Tucci). She has continued to write successful, pointed satires like A Changed Man and My New American Life between these other projects.

Mister Monkey uses a hilariously terrible musical theater production of a famous children’s book to examine evolution and the human condition–sex, love and aging, depression and creativity. All of which makes it sound like one of those “serious” reads. It’s anything but.

It’s funny on every page, razor sharp, wise and charmingly good-hearted. What Salon wrote of A Changed Man (one of my favorites of hers) is also true here: “Large-scale social portraiture…guided more by the spirit of compassion than by that of mocker…A romantic comedy in an almost classical form… [A] crackling read, loaded with humor and drama.”

Prose is a master and she’s never been in better form. The WSJ has already included Mister Monkey in its “10 Books to Read this Fall” and I expect major review coverage everywhere.

Prose is at her consummate, canny best in this superbly incisive comedy of errors, a cleverly choreographed relay in which each character subtly passes the narrating baton on to the next, and what a beguiling and bedeviled cast this is! … Each character’s inner soliloquy is saturated with yearning and profound spiritual inquiries as the silly play covertly evokes questions about truth and lies, evolution and extinction, and how we care for each other and the world. Prose is resplendent in this exceptionally keen, artistic, funny, empathic, and intricate dance of longing and coincidence.”
Booklist (starred review)

“With her customary sure hand, veteran novelist Prose trains various points of view on the shabby dramatization of a popular children’s book…Wickedly funny and sharply observant, in the author’s vintage manner, with a warmth that softens the satire just enough.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Prose deftly manages the delicate balance of the comic novel, presenting humor and absurdity without sacrificing the humanity of her characters…A fairly breezy read with hidden, and not so hidden, depths.”
   — Library Journal

Mister Monkey (9780062397836) by Francine Prose. $26.99 hardcover. 10/18/16 on sale.

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