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

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9780060555252: The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired

All loved, and were loved by, their artists, and inspired them with an intensity of emotion akin to Eros.

In a brilliant, wry, and provocative 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.

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In The Lives of the Muses, Francine Prose writes a spirited and enlightening exposé of nine women who fired the imaginations of some of the most inimitable artists and thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. With wicked wit, she shows how these women were both exemplars of their times and iconoclasts struggling to assert their own identity within the unconventional relationships they formed with these men. In doing so, she undertakes an examination of the concept of the muse in all its permutations--from the static nine Muses of classical Greek mythology, through Dante's oft-recycled Beatrice, to its ironized figuration in contemporary popular culture.

In addition to Alice Liddell, Prose looks at the following women: Hester Thrale, a long-suffering brewer's wife whose romantic friendship allowed the depressive Dr. Samuel Johnson to continue writing; the tormented Elizabeth Siddal, an opium-addicted artist who became Beatrice to Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti; Lou Andreas-Salome, who captivated and aroused a triumvirate of original thinkers: Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud; the "imperious" Gala Dali, who continued to sleep with her ex-husband, poet Paul Eluard, even as she transformed herself into a phenomenal marketing machine for surrealist Salvador Dali; Lee Miller, a model who mastered the techniques of Man Ray and others, and became a talented photographer; Suzanne Farrell, a ballerina who incarnated, animated, and was inspired to great heights of artistry by the compositions of choreographer George Balanchine; Charis Weston, one in a long line of the erotically restless Edward Weston's cast-off art wives and lovers; and the infamous Yoko Ono, who fought fiercely for recognition as an avant-garde artist as she sought to subserve John Lennon into the role of muse.

Prose draws on photographs, diaries, correspondence, memoirs, and original works of art that reveal the complexity of these artist-muse relationships, and that direct her readers to other books should their curiosity be piqued (as it undoubtedly will). Author Prose has a talent for writing provocative, invigorating prose that engages and excites the reader, inspiring them to undertake wider reading. --Diana Kuprel, Amazon.ca

About the Author:

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 a Guggenheim and a Fulbright, a Director's Fellow at the Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library, Prose is a former president of PEN American Center, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Her most recent book is Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932. She lives in New York City.

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