Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wit after the fact

It's great to get into another book by Francine Prose. I really loved 2001's Blue Angel in college, and her latest, Goldengrove, has me looking forward to subway rides and moments before sleep. One of the sweet touches of the narrator is her incarnation of the "staircase spirit," the direct translation of the French phrase, "L'esprit de l'escalier." It's those witty retorts or phrases that you think of only after you've mounted the stairs to leave the scene. But the staircase spirit in this novel is almost like a character in the teenager's brain, taunting her for NOT saying something eloquent as much as anything else. I was a little worried about getting into another story about a family coping with the death of a child, but Prose avoids the maudlin pitfalls of the premise and actually manages to make the story feel breezy and fresh. The staircase spirit is almost like the narrator's lost sister whispering worldliness into her ear.

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