The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired

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9780060196721: The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired

Hester Thrale & Samuel Johnson. Yoko Ono & John Lennon. Alice Liddell & Lewis Carroll… In a brilliant, wry, and provocative new book, Francine Prose (Blue Angel) explores the complex relationship between the artist and his muse.

In a brilliant, wry, and provocative new book, National Book Award finalist Francine Prose explores the complex relationship between the artist and his muse. In so doing, she illuminates with great sensitivity and intelligence the elusive emotional wellsprings of the creative process.

There is no ideal muse, but rather as many variations on the theme as there are individual women who have had the luck, or misfortune, to find their destiny conjoined with that of a particular artist. What are we to make of the relationship between the child Alice Liddell, who inspired Alice in Wonderland, and the Oxford don who became Lewis Carroll? Or the so-called serial muse, Lou Andreas-Salomé, who captivated Nietzsche, Rilke, and Freud – as impressive a list as any muse can boast? Salvador Dalí was the only artist to sign his art with his muse's name, and Gala Dalí certainly knew how to market her artist and his work while simultaneously burnishing her own image and celebrity.

Lou, Gala, and Yoko Ono all defy the feminist stereotype of the muse as a passive beauty put on a pedestal and oppressed by a male artist. However, it's rare to find an artist and muse who are genuine partners, true collaborators, such as ballerina Suzanne Farrell and choreographer George Balanchine.

What do the nine muses chosen by Francine Prose have in common? They were all beautiful, or sexy, or gifted with some more unconventional appeal. All loved, and were loved by, their artists, and inspired them with an intensity of emotion akin to Eros. For these artists, the love of – or for – their muses provided an essential element required for the melding of talent and technique necessary to create art.

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Review:

"Juicy reading…. A thoroughly researched, highly opinionated series of fascinating double biographies."
Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Prose make a remarkable case for the exceptionality of these women in their own right."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Sad, glamorous and entirely riveting."
Newsweek

"Prose has done a great service in her just reconsideration of the rather strange, complicated role of the muse."
The San Francisco Chronicle Book Review

"A wonderful combination of argument and literary portraiture."
The Wall Street Journal

"Fascinating – gems of concision and insight."
The New York Times

About the Author:

Francine Prose is the author of a dozen highly acclaimed works of fiction, including Bigfoot Dreams, Household Saints, Hunters and Gatherers, Primitive People, Guided Tours of Hell, and the National Book Award finalist Blue Angel. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, the Atlantic Monthly, GQ, Harper's Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and The Paris Review. The recipient of numerous grants and awards, including Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships, Francine Prose was a Director's Fellow at the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library. She lives in New York City.

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