Book Beat- Vixen by Francine Prose
April 13 @ 7:30 pm
It’s 1953, and Simon Putnam, a recent Harvard graduate newly hired by a distinguished New York publishing firm, has entered a glittering world of three-martini lunches, exclusive literary parties, and old-money aristocrats in exquisitely tailored suits—a far cry from his loving, middle-class Jewish family in Coney Island. But Simon’s first assignment—editing The Vixen, the Patriot and the Fanatic, a lurid bodice-ripper improbably based on the recent trial and execution of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, a potboiler intended to shore up the firm’s failing finances—makes him question the cost of admission. Because Simon has a secret that, at the height of the Red Scare and the McCarthy hearings, he cannot reveal: his beloved mother was a childhood friend of Ethel Rosenberg’s. His parents mourn Ethel’s death.
At once domestic and political, contemporary and historic, funny and heartbreaking, enlivened by surprising plot turns and passages from the hilariously bad novel Simon is editing, The Vixen illuminates a period of history with eerily striking similarities to the current moment, while asking timeless questions: How do we balance ambition and conscience? What do social mobility and cultural assimilation require us to sacrifice? How do we develop an authentic self, discover a vocation, and learn to live with the mysteries of love, family, art, life, and loss?