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Mister Monkey

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  2,318 ratings  ·  487 reviews
The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author weaves an ingenious, darkly humorous, and brilliantly observant story that follows the exploits and intrigue of a constellation of characters affiliated with an off-off-off-off Broadway children’s musical.

Mister Monkey—a screwball children’s musical about a playfully larcenous pet chimpanzee—is the kind of family favorite tha
ebook, 304 pages
Published October 18th 2016 by Harper
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Nancy It goes back to the story of the three hermits (at beginning of chap. 11, Roger's story). The bishop comes by in a ship and finds them stranded on an …moreIt goes back to the story of the three hermits (at beginning of chap. 11, Roger's story). The bishop comes by in a ship and finds them stranded on an island, just praying "we are three, three are we, have mercy." He tells them they're praying wrong and teaches them a prayer, and sails off. They come running across the water after him because they've forgotten the prayer already. The bishop tells them that their "three are we" prayer will reach God and asks them to pray for him. They run back over the water to their island, but he can still see the light that glows from them. To me, coming back to that at the end of the book with Roger, Margot, and Mario is suggesting that these characters (and lots of other ones) actually have more access to wisdom and grace than the people who might judge them as lacking, and that our monkey selves are not really as lost as we think we are.(less)
Dana Cordelia There was a lot of this...talking about monkeys in the same sentence as orangutans and chimps, talking about a chimp's tail (...they don't have tails.…moreThere was a lot of this...talking about monkeys in the same sentence as orangutans and chimps, talking about a chimp's tail (...they don't have tails...) and whatnot. After a while it stopped being a joke and started being "the author doesn't remember third grade science class and couldn't say the difference between apes and monkeys". For example, several characters are supposedly studying monkeys in great detail, and yet...apparently they're studying apes? No, sorry. I really like this book but if the author didn't know, someone reading an early draft should have pointed it out.

Didn't ruin the book for me. But it was conspicuous.(less)

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Average rating 3.42  · 
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Larry H
Dec 25, 2016 rated it liked it
I'd rate this around 3.5 stars.

I remember a number of times attending a local professional theater production that wasn't particularly good, and I wondered about those involved. Did the actors know it was bad, and if so, were they soldiering on for the sake of the audience, or were they so far gone in their own careers that this was the best they could do? It was an interesting, but somewhat sad thought.

"But the actors and presumably the director never expected that they would wind up doing that
Apr 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
An addictive novel that may flat out amaze you. Splintered destinies all have their time in the spotlight; each story is more absorbing & complex than the last. With my tastes aligning all too neatly with musical theater--perhaps the most absorbing, mesmerizing of all the arts--the newest novel by Francine Prose could not have come to me at a better time.

Behold! The power of the omnipotent monkeygod!
Betsy Robinson
Oct 23, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I abandon a lot of books. Here are the lines that made me know I was going to read this book all the way through, even though I wasn’t hooked from the start:
She [a middle-aged actress] could have been a great Sonya [in Uncle Vanya] if she’d known what she knows now. That the thankless servitude Sonya describes, the life of lowered eyes and expectations, of unrelenting hard work, no love, no romance, no children, no reward, old age, then death—it is a real possibility! That life could happen to
switterbug (Betsey)
If I had not been familiar with the author, I might have skipped this book, due to the descriptors such as “madcap,” screwball,” and “children’s musical.” However, I am a fan of Francine Prose’s offbeat, wily, and sardonic but penetrating novels, and I intuited that below the surface of the campy plot would be a scorching but serious look at our cultural customs and ruts, as well as a compassionate critique on isolation, loneliness, and artistic expression. And I was right. Only a fierce observe ...more
Jan 20, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: tob2017
It started out fun, but devolved into crap (I can't think of a better way to say it). I switched to "hate-reading" about half way through.

On a positive note, I was worried I wouldn't have a book to root against in this year's Tournament of books. Found it.
Oct 23, 2016 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: guitar boys
Shelves: 2019
Theater girls! Like toddlers in the china shops of our hearts. So relentlessly present! We could do with a few more of them here in the placid suburbs, buried as we are under strata of civility and self-awareness. One has so many encounters that are pleasant, and so few that are vital. We could use a little Margot: “Give everything. Self-doubt is lethal. Irony is poison.” They’re always looking into your eyes for too long. “It was their job to be theatrical, on and off stage.” It’s no one’s job, ...more
Nov 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I love Francine Prose's work and I particularly savored MISTER MONKEY. On the surface, it's about the world's worst children's musical ever -- and that is a very high bar. And in that regard, the novel is a hoot. But on a deeper level, it's about the cast and the audience, the people who for different reasons are part of or witness to this disaster. And there the novel is insightful and wistful and deeply moving. ...more
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Most of us in our youth have been treated to some sort of Mister Monkey production – obvious and preachy, “full of improving lessons about race and class, honesty, justice, and some kind of…spirituality, for lack of a better word.”

THIS Mister Monkey children’s play is no exception. It’s a lot of drivel about a “smart, friendly, playful, super-cute baby chimpanzee” who was orphaned and later adopted by a nice upper-class family living in New York. One day, the father’s evil girlfriend accuses Mis
Ron Charles
Oct 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: novels-about-art
Francine Prose is still monkeying around. Thirty years ago, she wrote a zany novel called “Bigfoot Dreams” about a tabloid journalist enchanted by Sasquatch. This time around, she’s swinging with a smaller simian, but her ambition is bigger.

“Mister Monkey” revolves around an off-Broadway production of a “cheesy but mysteriously durable musical” based on a beloved children’s book called “Mister Monkey.” Everybody involved in the show loathes it and with good reason. It sounds dreadful — something
Jan Priddy
Dec 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
I usually love Francine Prose. Just saying

This is promoted as a funny book, and since I'd published a short story with a similar conceit—each POV character handing off to the next—I was curious how Prose would use this in a book. It is supposed to be funny, and perhaps it is for most readers. I recognized the ridiculousness of the situations, but also their realism, and I knew I was supposed to laugh at these people, but I just couldn't find them funny. Their hopeless yearning hurt. She
Dec 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thoughts to come but enjoyed this one more than I thought I was going to.
Noah Nichols
Nov 19, 2017 rated it did not like it
Mister Monkey? More like Mister Sucky!
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
As far as I can tell (which means as far my creaky brain remembers), I haven't read Francine Prose before, so I had no preconceptions going into this book. My first thought (having just finished reading We Love You Charlie Freeman) was "another chimp book?" Although there are no actual chimp characters, the book is an interlocking set of short stories all centered around a rather terrible children's musical called Mr. Monkey, which follows the adventures of a chimp raised in a human family. That ...more
Mary Lins
Aug 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
Take a children's musical about a monkey, center the plot around a specific performance that goes awry, use the various actors and audience members as discrete points of view, add a dash of the Rashamon affect and you have, "Mister Monkey", the new novel by Francine Prose!

Don’t be put off by the title, the cover art or the premise; trust me this is an absolute gem! I enjoyed every single page.

Part of what I consider the huge success of this novel is its structure; each chapter is told from the
Oct 11, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2016-october
Pretty random story. I liked it okay, enough to finish it, but I don't think I got anything out of it that I'll carry with me in the long-term. I'm not even going to detail the plot because the summary on Goodreads is spot-on. If you're on the fence about whether to read it or not, I'd say skip it. People who might like it: thespians/theatre-lovers (which I am- that helped me appreciate the story), or those who like a carousel of interconnected stories where (virtual) strangers affect each other ...more
Jul 18, 2021 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Unspirited and inconsistent. There were some funny moments, but most of the book recounts the somewhat dysfunctional life of actors in a crappy play. Not recommended.
I read Mister Monkey for an on-line discussion group. I have always meant to read Francine Prose but somehow never have. Now she has entranced me and I will read more.

I was one of the few participants in the discussion who liked the book. I think because for me it was about people with unfulfilled dreams, one of my obsessions as I get older and look back at the dreams I had.

Mister Monkey is a children's musical adapted from a novel written by a Vietnam vet with PTSD. Said novel was converted by
Nov 15, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 The only other Prose novel I've read is 'The Glorious Ones', which is similar in both style and subject matter. The earlier book detailed the semi-true story of a 17th Century commedia dell' arte troupe told in 7 chapters, each narrated by one of the characters. This one is about an awful off-Broadway production of a musical based on a beloved children's book, with each of the eleven chapters centering on one of the cast, crew or audience members. My problem with the earlier book is that the ...more
Book Riot Community
This is Prose at her wittiest and most playful yet. Mister Monkey is about, er, Mister Monkey, an off-Broadway children’s musical, and also a production where dreams go to die. Most of the people involved once had grand Broadway dreams but are now reduced to acting in a ridiculous musical for kids. Told in multiple viewpoints, Mister Monkey is a brilliant, bizarre, and biting look at dashed dreams and more. Two opposable thumbs up.

Backlist bump: Blue Angel by Francine Prose

Tune in to our weekly
Oct 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theatre
this is such an amazingly good book! i don't remember when i last loved a book this much and was so grateful that it was written and that i had the chance to find and read it!
i loved everything about it - the setting, around a small production of mister monkey the musical in an off-off-off-off broadway theater where at times it becomes difficult to still believe in theater and art... and still, so much happens starting from here, told in exquisitely carved story-chapters from different point of
Within the last year I have read three books that belong to a genre that is new to me, which I am calling "Connected Stories Novels" until I find out that someone has some up with a better name. (The other two books were A Visit from the Goon Squad and The Tsar of Love and Techno - I'm interested in starting a collection, so let me know if you can think of any more!) The premise is that each chapter of the book presents the point of view of a different character, and is often a stand-alone short ...more
Mar 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Don’t let the illustrated cover fool you, this is no comic romp but rather a dark existential look at the tenuously connected lives surrounding a low-rent, off-off Broadway musical called Mister Monkey.

It’s a clinic in people watching written by a master author. As people exit the theatre and gather outside, someone is concocting stories for the middle-aged actress smiling through gritted teeth, another wandering home still wearing the police uniform she wore during the production, the surly bo
Kasa Cotugno
This "Prose-light" novel, more of a daisy chain of linked stories, doesn't go as deeply into any one subject as her other, more incisive works. I enjoyed it, however, because it dealt with two of my favorite things -- New York and (to a lesser extent) theater. I love stories that deal with cross sections of the NY population, and this one goes deep into inner lives with each episode that follows Roshomon like on its predecessor. Centered around a moth-eaten production of an off-off-off-Broadway ...more
Jan 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An enchanting little book about a subject which I thought had been exhausted - neurotic New Yorkers. The title refers to a ghastly children's musical to which all the characters are connected, and how even a the most saccharine art can have profound echoes of real tragedy. Too slight to win many prizes, but gorgeous nonetheless. ...more
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library, rooster-2017
I think I have found my next author crush.
I like how the chapters connected.
Mar 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mister Monkey is the story of a group of actors in a off, off, off, way off broadway play of a children's play called Mister Monkey written by a Vietnam Vet. Filled with various people like Margot the the middle aged actress in a career going no where, Adam the adolescent actor/monkey who is abandoned by his father and terrified by his fears of the end of the world, Edward's grandfather who misses his deceased wife and loves his grandson and is alone in his old age, Edward the child who is matur ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
It is really refreshing when, at times, you read books and know you are in the hands of a real master, a John Updike, Joyce Carol Oates, Philip Roth, Ian McKuen, Iris Murdoch--I could go on and on. Obviously, to me, Francine Prose in is this class. And this book was a good as it gets from her.

Actually, I expected the book to be more of a farce than it was, more in line with a book like Moo by Jane Smiley. And although there were farcical moments throughout (it is about a ridiculous musical about
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tob17
What starts off as something slight and silly (Mister Monkey is a creaky children's musical about a domesticated monkey who goes on trial) reveals depths that the cover and its flap-copy could never have hinted at. As Prose hops through narrators, spinning out a daisy chain of connections across the untiring and tiresome city, she captures the universal in the individual and highlights the individual in what we might've otherwise considered universal. It is full of love, hope, philosophy, and th ...more
Jan 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mcl-audio, mcl, tob2017
I have a weakness for books that examine the lives of people who are connected in some tangential way. In this book, the connection is a low-budget production of a play based on a children's book called Mr. Monkey. By turns humorous and sad, I enjoyed the reminder that what you see in people is not all there is.
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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 Times bestseller Reading Like a Writer. The recipient of numerous grants and honors, including ...more

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