Books: A Teacher's Pet With Fangs

The ivory tower is no refuge in Francine Prose's darkly comic new novel

A middle-aged and marginally successful author, Ted Swenson can summon up only limp enthusiasm for the creative-writing course he teaches at a second-rate college in remote Vermont. Suffering through classes with unimaginative students and dinners with pedantic colleagues, the disgruntled professor of Francine Prose's abrasively comic new novel, Blue Angel (Harper Collins; 314 pages; $25), can't wait to rush home so he can avoid writing his overdue third novel. In addition to battling ennui, Swenson must also contend with a forbidding campus environment fraught with race and gender minefields.

Rather expectedly, he becomes attracted to a student, though his obsession arrives...

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