The novel deals in part with the exploitation of the Rosenbergs, executed in 1953 for espionage, accused of spying for Russia while it was trying to build an atomic bomb. (Prose said she often returns to how “historical tragedy has been turned into kitsch.”) The book itself, however, respects them.
“It’s the most difficult tone to write,” said John Guare, playwright, screenwriter and friend of Prose. “It’s a comedy novel involving the Rosenbergs. How she maintains that tone, but it never turns grotesque – you can’t imagine how technically difficult that is. And it doesn’t show.
Prose describes herself as an “obscenely hard worker,” but said her productivity also brought credit to her husband, Howie Michels. At the end of their first date in 1976, Michels, with a Husky named Serge, moved into the SoHo loft that Prose shared with six other people. Since then, they have rarely separated.
Prose said they split childcare when their two sons, Bruno and Léon Michels, were growing up, but Michels, a painter by trade, does “everything else”. Once during a phone call, he used “Leonard Woolf” – the name of Virginia Woolf’s famous foster-husband – as a verb. Michels said he spent a lot of time at his wife’s “Leonard Woolfing” that day. He even drives her in their Volvo station wagon because Prose, like many native New Yorkers, avoids driving.
When their sons were young, the family moved from place to place so that prose could teach writing because, she said, “teaching would take less time than worrying about writing. ‘silver “.
Today she teaches literature at Bard College, offering courses such as “Ecstasy, Obsession and Forgetting” and “Totalitarianism in Literature”, and at the Eastern Correctional Institution through the Bard’s prison. She and Michels live in County Ulster, about 35 minutes from Bard, in a house filled with art and books. They are both obsessive gardeners, Prose said, locked in an ongoing battle with local chipmunks. She spends about three hours a day tending to cucumbers and tomatoes, pear and apple trees. She got carpal tunnel syndrome last year from the pods.
Michels is also the first reader of Prose – no small task, as she can easily read 40 or 50 drafts of a novel.