"Lesbian Couple at The Monocle, 1932" by Brassaï, the photograph that provided the inspiration for Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. 



In Conversation: Francine Prose and Rivka Galchen

Wednesday May 21, 2014
07:00 pm

Tags: Event









        Photo Credit: Stephanie Berger

Celebrated author Francine Prose read from and talked about her new novel, Lovers at The Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, with award-winning Rivka Galchen, author of American Innovations. The event will include readings from the books, a discussion, a Q&A session, and a wine reception.



About Lovers at The Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 (Harper)


A richly imagined and stunningly inventive literary masterpiece of love, art, and betrayal, exploring the genesis of evil, the unforeseen consequences of love, and the ultimate unreliability of storytelling itself.


Paris in the 1920s shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves. It is at the Chameleon where the striking Lou Villars, an extraordinary athlete and scandalous cross-dressing lesbian, finds refuge among the club’s loyal denizens, including the rising Hungarian photographer Gabor Tsenyi, the socialite and art patron Baroness Lily de Rossignol; and the caustic American writer Lionel Maine.


As the years pass, their fortunes—and the world itself—evolve. Lou falls desperately in love and finds success as a race car driver. Gabor builds his reputation with startlingly vivid and imaginative photographs, including a haunting portrait of Lou and her lover [see photo on left], which will resonate through all their lives. As the exuberant twenties give way to darker times, Lou experiences another metamorphosis—sparked by tumultuous events—that will warp her earnest desire for love and approval into something far more.


“An engrossing literary mystery…Refracting the vivid, villainous life of Louisianne Villars through letters, memoirs, and the recreations of a biographer, Prose coaxes into kaleidoscopic view both a tortured human being and bohemian Paris before and during the Nazi occupation… she cleverly exploits the vain, self-serving nature of memory itself.”

 — Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad



About American Innovations (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

In one of the intensely imaginative stories in Rivka’s Galchen’s American Innovations, a young woman’s furniture walks out on her. In another, the narrator feels compelled to promise to deliver a takeout order that has incorrectly been phoned in to her. In a third, the petty details of a property transaction illuminate the complicated pains and loves of a family.


The tales in this groundbreaking collection are secretly in conversation with canonical stories, reimagined from the perspective of female characters. Just as Wallace Stevens’s “Anecdote of the Jar” responds to John Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn,” Galchen’s “The Lost Order” covertly recapitulates James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” while “The Region of Unlikeness” is a smoky and playful mirror to Jorge Luis Borges’s “The Aleph.” The title story, “American Innovations,” revisits Nikolai Gogol’s “The Nose.”

By turns realistic, fantastical, witty, and lyrical, these marvelously uneasy stories are deeply emotional and written in exuberant, pitch-perfect prose. Whether exploring the tensions in a mother-daughter relationship or the finer points of time travel, Galchen is a writer like none other today.


“These ten stories of profound loss and profound joy give the Kantian sublime a Key Lime twist, and reveal what happily haunted space cadets we all are in the echo chamber of our ‘ordinary’ American lives. You'll feel compelled to read Galchen’s sentences to strangers on buses. The delicacy and brilliance of what she is doing doesn't yet have a name.”

 — Karen Russell, author of Vampires in the Lemon Grove


Francine Prose
 is the author of twenty works of fiction. Her novel A Changed Man won the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, and Blue Angel was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent works of nonfiction include the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife, and the New York Time sbestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in New York City.


Francine Prose gave a talk at The Center entitled "Why We Read." Watch the event video here. You can also read her "The Book that Made Me a Reader" essay here.


Rivka Galchen is the recipient of a William Saroyan International Prize for Fiction Writing and a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award, among other distinctions. She writes regularly for The New Yorker, whose editors selected her for their list of “20 Under 40” American fiction writers in 2010. Her debut novel, the critically acclaimed Atmospheric Disturbances, was published by FSG in 2008.


Galchen recently told The Center what she was looking forward to reading in 2014. Check it out here.