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The Barnes & Noble Review In the classical world, the muses -- all nine of them -- were daughters of Zeus who inspired poets, musicians, and other creative types to produce works of genius. Today, says Francine Prose, the word has been weakened and is used almost exclusively to refer to the chic women who help fashion designers inform their latest lines. But in her scholarl The Barnes & Noble Review In the classical world, the muses -- all nine of them -- were daughters of Zeus who inspired poets, musicians, and other creative types to produce works of genius. Today, says Francine Prose, the word has been weakened and is used almost exclusively to refer to the chic women who help fashion designers inform their latest lines. But in her scholarly account, Prose (a National Book Award finalist for her novel Blue Angel ) presents nine real women who moved men to greatness and who were not mere catalysts but worthy of note on their own, in many cases deserving a share of the credit for the work they helped create. Each chapter is a mini-biography of a woman's life and the way a male artist figured into it. We see the muse as prompter and creator in her own regard, like memoirist Hester Thrale, whose letters to Samuel Johnson helped form his later works. In Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the muse is at her most passive, asserting her independence of the child-loving author only by failing to remain seven years old forever. And with Yoko Ono, there is the muse as artist in her own right, who claimed not to have heard of the Beatles before meeting John Lennon, and whose avant-garde tendencies some blamed for his musical downfall. To hit the mystical nine, Prose stretches a bit. For every Suzanne Farrell collaborating on ballets with George Balanchine, or every Gala Dal� cosigning canvases with spouse Salvador, there are personae only a graduate student would be likely to know. We learn of "serial muse" Lou Andreas-Salom�'s involvement with Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud, and of how Charis Weston had to vie with a toilet for the attentions of her photographer husband, Edward. But these lesser-knowns help make the book a complete analysis of notable women who motivated men of achievement -- usually at the expense of their own -- and lived with the consequences. iKatherine Hottinger/i


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The Barnes & Noble Review In the classical world, the muses -- all nine of them -- were daughters of Zeus who inspired poets, musicians, and other creative types to produce works of genius. Today, says Francine Prose, the word has been weakened and is used almost exclusively to refer to the chic women who help fashion designers inform their latest lines. But in her scholarl The Barnes & Noble Review In the classical world, the muses -- all nine of them -- were daughters of Zeus who inspired poets, musicians, and other creative types to produce works of genius. Today, says Francine Prose, the word has been weakened and is used almost exclusively to refer to the chic women who help fashion designers inform their latest lines. But in her scholarly account, Prose (a National Book Award finalist for her novel Blue Angel ) presents nine real women who moved men to greatness and who were not mere catalysts but worthy of note on their own, in many cases deserving a share of the credit for the work they helped create. Each chapter is a mini-biography of a woman's life and the way a male artist figured into it. We see the muse as prompter and creator in her own regard, like memoirist Hester Thrale, whose letters to Samuel Johnson helped form his later works. In Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the muse is at her most passive, asserting her independence of the child-loving author only by failing to remain seven years old forever. And with Yoko Ono, there is the muse as artist in her own right, who claimed not to have heard of the Beatles before meeting John Lennon, and whose avant-garde tendencies some blamed for his musical downfall. To hit the mystical nine, Prose stretches a bit. For every Suzanne Farrell collaborating on ballets with George Balanchine, or every Gala Dal� cosigning canvases with spouse Salvador, there are personae only a graduate student would be likely to know. We learn of "serial muse" Lou Andreas-Salom�'s involvement with Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Sigmund Freud, and of how Charis Weston had to vie with a toilet for the attentions of her photographer husband, Edward. But these lesser-knowns help make the book a complete analysis of notable women who motivated men of achievement -- usually at the expense of their own -- and lived with the consequences. iKatherine Hottinger/i

30 review for The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women and the Artists They Inspired

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Interesting, fascinating and most of all thought provoking examination of nine muses who inspired famous artists/writers/performers. Francine Prose does a good job of dissecting the artist/muse relationship. She does not do this in a neutral way though; Prose is opinionated and sharp in judgement: punches are not pulled. Sometimes I vehemently disagreed with her opinions, sometimes she opens new lines of thought about old subjects, but dull it never was. The muses Prose picks are a very diverse Interesting, fascinating and most of all thought provoking examination of nine muses who inspired famous artists/writers/performers. Francine Prose does a good job of dissecting the artist/muse relationship. She does not do this in a neutral way though; Prose is opinionated and sharp in judgement: punches are not pulled. Sometimes I vehemently disagreed with her opinions, sometimes she opens new lines of thought about old subjects, but dull it never was. The muses Prose picks are a very diverse bunch; some better known than others. I knew little about Charis Weston, slightly more about Suzanna Farrell and some were more familiar. I knew about Lou Andreas-Salome and her relationship with Nietzsche and Rilke; I was less aware of her relationship with Sigmund Freud and even Anna Freud. There is lots of inspiration as you would expect, some innocence and experience, plenty of sex, intrigue and betrayal; a great deal of oddity (a good deal of it in the chapter about the Dali's) and even a spot of S and M. A small prize if you knew that was Hester Thrale and Dr Johnson (I didn't). Hester was the dominant one and she saved one of Dr Johnson's padlocks as a keepsake. Prose really doesn't like Yoko Ono, but she does make some perceptive comments about the virulent and racist reaction to her. She doesn't like her art (annoying) and especially dislikes her attempts at music. However she does explore whether a man can be a muse and looks at the Lennon/Ono relationship as one where it can be argued that there were two muses and two artists. She has some fun with the difference between a muse and an art-wife; the humour and pathos are both well done. I learnt a lot and disagreed with a lot and would certainly recommend this.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    Prose’s ‘The Lives of the Muses’ is a mediocre take on the worlds of nine women who inspired (respectively) authors, poets, musicians, philisophers, and painters. From the titular Alice in Wonderland (and her Lewis Carrol), to the photographer Man Ray’s infatuation with Lee Miller, females have inspired male artists since the dawn of art. (Prose herself makes the case for the men inspiring the women, but she does not spend nearly enough time proving this thesis.) Also featured are Yoko Ono. Suza Prose’s ‘The Lives of the Muses’ is a mediocre take on the worlds of nine women who inspired (respectively) authors, poets, musicians, philisophers, and painters. From the titular Alice in Wonderland (and her Lewis Carrol), to the photographer Man Ray’s infatuation with Lee Miller, females have inspired male artists since the dawn of art. (Prose herself makes the case for the men inspiring the women, but she does not spend nearly enough time proving this thesis.) Also featured are Yoko Ono. Suzanne Farrell, Charis Weson, Gala Dali, Lizzy Siddal, and Lou Andreas-Salome. Prose’s technique of devoting a chapter to each muse felt uninspired. I would have much preferred Prose to focus on an aspect of musedom itself- the sexuality, the friendship, the backlash from contemporaries – rather than a somewhat flat interpretation of each woman’s life. She barely delves into the art that each muse inspired – rather, assuming that the reader has understood the full complexities of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and does not need explaination the oeuvre of Salvador Dali. By focusing on each muse as a manifestation of the person she inspired and the time period she lived in, Prose allows the women and girls to transcend even musedom. These ladies become the manifestations of the time period that they’re entrenched in – Alice Liddel represents the vague pedophilia of the repressive Victorian era. Lizzie Siddal is the Pre-Raphealite’s muse of mystery and defiance. Lou Andreas-Salome, who had her hands full providing banter to Frued, Rilke, and Nietze, is particularly interesting. Prose claims “artists rarely create for the muse, to win or keep the muse’s love and admiration, but rather for themselves, for the world, and for the more inchoate and unquantifiable imperatives of art itself.” Prose is, as usual, hyper readable. She can weave a fantastic story together while still maintaining an air of mystery. She does each muse justice as characters, if not actual people. This objectification is, perhaps, where she is the most enjoyable to read. She includes a particularly beautiful metaphor that likens the muses to artistic crock-pots: “he muses are merely the instruments that raise the emotional and erotic temperature high enough, churn up the weather in a way that may speed and facilitate the artist’s labors.” This is where I appreciate her the most as a writer, but is ironic that for the muses to inspire her, she must subvert their erotic power for her own, just as the artists who fed off their contemporary muse. Prose must make them something to inspire her art, and the dry paragraphs where she attempts to paint their full lives fall flat. Prose goes into depth about what constitutes a muse – is it sex? Infatuation? The right relationship at the right time? For each of the artists and muses, the relationships are fraught with tension. Prose made the choice to focus specifically on each relationship, rather then give a lengthy character biography of her subjects. It is interesting to note that this is where she places the importance of her material. I expected a fuller interpretation of the lives of these women: how did each react to the musedom and idolatry thrust upon her? If Prose is to be believed, and that the relationship between the artist and the muse is fraught with tension, she does not give enough evidence. Overall, Prose’s style was enjoyable but her content fell flat. And writing talent alone is, in my opinion, not enough. When I write, I must make sure to connect myself to interesting content instead of merely coasting on technique.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michele Renatta

    Omg I wanted to beat my head in reading this book was doing research on muses was loaned the book to read this book did have a few interesting point but, quite frankly my research online was much more productive then the hours it took me to wade through and force myself to finish this book

  4. 5 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    In this insightful, brilliantly researched, and immensely enjoyable book the author examines the phenomena of the muse, the individual who focuses or inspires her artist to create, who is a pivot of their creativity. This book does it a bit differently from how you would expect however: exceedingly well written, it looks at nine individual muses beginning in 1766 and ending in 2000 and it questions the relationship in quite individual ways. What is a muse anyway? We first look at the muses as cre In this insightful, brilliantly researched, and immensely enjoyable book the author examines the phenomena of the muse, the individual who focuses or inspires her artist to create, who is a pivot of their creativity. This book does it a bit differently from how you would expect however: exceedingly well written, it looks at nine individual muses beginning in 1766 and ending in 2000 and it questions the relationship in quite individual ways. What is a muse anyway? We first look at the muses as created in Greek mythology, the divine inspiration for all science, history art and music that they represented in antiquity. But in the nine sections we look at real live women and the poets, artists, photographers and writers they associated with in their lifetimes. The effect that artist had on the life of the woman had on the artist is debated with equal weight as the more traditional view, of what the muse gave to the artist. The other intersting theme that runs through the book is what a muse means to the era in which she lives. I found this notion very arresting; yes, we know that Alice Liddell inspired Charles Dodgson to write Alice's adventures in wonderland, without thinking about it we know that such an association would be unlikely today. We know that without Gala Dali would have been someone completely different, and who knows what his art would have been? But Francine lightly examines the notion of how an era makes a particular type of muse possible, how the association between artist and muse is dependent on when they happened to be. More strongly, the book examines the lives of the different women, what being a muse did to them, how some went on to have their own careers as artists, how some never wanted to, how some became wives and what that did to the creativity. I found it all exceptionally fascinating and, even if you never pickup this book they are surely very interesting questions to anyone who is interested in art, writing or the creative process in general. Of the individual sections some I knew of such as Gala Dali, Alice Liddell and Yoko Ono but was delighted at the different view points that were presented (different view points because the focus in most writing is on the artist, usually). Many of the associations were new to me, I had never heard of Lou Andreas-Salome, though I had of course heard of Nietzsche, Freud and Wagner; her story was fascinating. I had heard of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and of Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but not of his muse ELizabeth Siddal. I had heard of Man Ray but not of the amazingly beautiful woman, Less Miller, whom he photographed and who went on to be a photographer herself: Some of her most haunting images, those of the liberation by the Allies of the concentration camps, I have seen all my life and never knew the fascinating story of the woman who took them (and how amazing is it that there was a woman photographer there and then?). The stories of Suzanne Farrell, Charis Weston, Hester Thrale were all new to me and the stories are told so brilliantly, they could not come more alive if they were fictionary characters created by the author. But no, they were or are all real people that come to life strong and complex under the very skilled writing of Francine Prose. The sympathy of the author for many of the women she is writing about is immense, conversely the antipathy (or is it exasperation) that she feels for a couple of them is very restrained. Despite this restraint, if you are a passionate fan of Yoko Ono you may want to skip the last section, her influence on Lennon is not couched in particularly flattering terms, I might have been a bit put off if it was not for the fact that my opinion of Ono has always been somewhat similar and it is nice having ones feelings reinforced. At the end, this was a brilliantly conceived, well researched and very well written book. Enjoyed it thoroughly.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This book fell like a bolt from the sky and landed in my lap. I had been thinking for months about what it means to be a muse, or an artist, and what the relationship between muse and artist means for modern men and women, and where gender fits into all of it. I'd been writing and processing and wondering why it was I craved artists--not art, which I love and which is nourishing, but artists, and their creative minds--so constantly. And then I read The Lives of the Muses. Francine Prose dug de This book fell like a bolt from the sky and landed in my lap. I had been thinking for months about what it means to be a muse, or an artist, and what the relationship between muse and artist means for modern men and women, and where gender fits into all of it. I'd been writing and processing and wondering why it was I craved artists--not art, which I love and which is nourishing, but artists, and their creative minds--so constantly. And then I read The Lives of the Muses. Francine Prose dug deep into the emotional and artistic lives of some of the most high-profile muses in artistic history: Alice Liddell (inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Lizzie Siddal, Suzanne Farrell, Yoko Ono...all (except for Ono) girls and women I had added to my own bookshelf of art saints and inspiration. It was like ninth grade all over again, when I just knew Sarah McLachlan was singing about my problems and relationships, except this time she really was. In addition to raising some very important questions about the muse-artist relationship (Is it strictly a heterosexual relationship, even when there is no sex involved? Why is the role of muse so intrinsically feminine? Why can't muses succeed as both artists and muses? What's so horrible about being an art wife?), Prose sheds light on some difficult and oft-swept over points in the lives of the muses and their artists. All in all: really good. There are some dry moments, but it is, after all, biography. As an interesting side note, Prose's "indispensable" assistant just happened to be Kamy Wicoff, author of the prenuptial fire-starter (at least for me) I Do But I Don't. Small world.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Susan Liston

    This was well written and sporadically interesting. I think the subject of "muse" is slightly misleading if you think of a muse in the sense of a positive inspiration because of lot of these stories are rather depressing. Well, we are talking about artists, aren't we, a lot of them are just pretty weird people in general. This was well written and sporadically interesting. I think the subject of "muse" is slightly misleading if you think of a muse in the sense of a positive inspiration because of lot of these stories are rather depressing. Well, we are talking about artists, aren't we, a lot of them are just pretty weird people in general.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    The Muses were created 2500 years ago, each of The Nine given a realm in which to inspire: theater, writing, music, dance. Originally 3, they were trebled later. The Romans gave them water nymph duty as well. Shakespeare called upon all; Chaucer, Herodotus, the list is huge. Prose's nine are modern women, beginning with Alice Liddell, who at 7 began the musedom to Oxford don Charles Dodgson that would result in "Alice's Adventures Under Ground" and later "Through the Looking Glass." The book begi The Muses were created 2500 years ago, each of The Nine given a realm in which to inspire: theater, writing, music, dance. Originally 3, they were trebled later. The Romans gave them water nymph duty as well. Shakespeare called upon all; Chaucer, Herodotus, the list is huge. Prose's nine are modern women, beginning with Alice Liddell, who at 7 began the musedom to Oxford don Charles Dodgson that would result in "Alice's Adventures Under Ground" and later "Through the Looking Glass." The book begins with the elderly Alice Liddell accepting an honorary degree for being a muse. In her acceptance speech, Ms. Liddell, who had not seen the author for decades, spoke of him as though he were still alive and in the room. As one NY Times reviewer observed, no girl sits on a stoop and dreams of one day becoming a muse. Prose's book reinforces that abstinence. We can hope that a successful muse manages to extricate herself with her physical health intact, and with most of her functioning mental and emotional batteries marginally charged. There are three who actually nurtured their own art after the artist was either dead or their worshipful gaze removed, and these women make it more comfortable to read about the six whose personal fortunes fared less well. Prose thinks brilliantly, writes beautifully, and, except for instances where her opinion of the situation is folded into the paragraph, reports cleanly. The concept of The Muses is not one we're familiar with in the 21st century, so her ability to explain, analyze and reveal is a difficult task handled with even-handed skill and aplomb. The selection of pictures to include is exemplary - each tells its own story well.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Brian

    Whew! Finally finished it. Most of the book is a tedious long slow slog through the lives of partners of tortured artists. By shifting the focus from the creator to the person ostensibly driving and suffering with the artist, the author has perhaps opposite her intended effect. Other than Alice Liddel and to a much less extent Lee Miller and Yoko Ono, the muses seem tangential to the artists lives. Prose's choice of subjects is arbitrary and disappointing. She mentions in several places Beatrice Whew! Finally finished it. Most of the book is a tedious long slow slog through the lives of partners of tortured artists. By shifting the focus from the creator to the person ostensibly driving and suffering with the artist, the author has perhaps opposite her intended effect. Other than Alice Liddel and to a much less extent Lee Miller and Yoko Ono, the muses seem tangential to the artists lives. Prose's choice of subjects is arbitrary and disappointing. She mentions in several places Beatrice (Dante's muse) and Zelda (F. Scott Fitzgerald's muse) but doesn't give us a bio of either one. There was no excuse for teasing us with Zelda in the intro and not giving her a place in the book. At the same time she includes many lesser artists and muses. This is an academic book and not one for pleasure. My advice is to skip any muse or artist and focus only on subjects for research. In the interest of equal opportunity, it would have been nice for Prose to include a male muse. C'mon, there are a few and the counterpoint would have been informative. First that comes to mind is Alan Campbell, Dorothy Parker's second husband, but that's a poor echo to John & Yoko in that Dorothy was already famous and Alan's work as a writer was questionable. A better one would be Dave Coulier as muse to Alanis Morisette. In short, anyone writing about Lewis Carroll would benefit from checking out Prose's analysis in the foreword, chapter on Alice Lidell and afterword. Other than that, there is not much to see here, folks. Move on. The style she attributes to Yoko Ono plays out here. If you get five minutes into it and it doesn't interest you, turn it back in to the library or don't buy it at the bookstore.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Lana

    This was disappointing, but I think that is mostly b/c I misunderstood what the subject matter would be. I was hoping for a collection of biographies on the "muses" themselves, but they were secondary to the content on the artists. The background of each woman is only briefly mentioned and they are mostly described only in their relationships to the artists. In almost every case the woman is depicted darkly (bordering on cruelly). There are countless biographies written about famous artists but This was disappointing, but I think that is mostly b/c I misunderstood what the subject matter would be. I was hoping for a collection of biographies on the "muses" themselves, but they were secondary to the content on the artists. The background of each woman is only briefly mentioned and they are mostly described only in their relationships to the artists. In almost every case the woman is depicted darkly (bordering on cruelly). There are countless biographies written about famous artists but very little on the women that mainly inspired them, I was hoping to hear about their lives. Also, lately I've developed a fascination with the Dali's relationship and primarily checked out this book to learn more about Gala. But instead it was a few dozen pages devoted to pointing out her worst characteristics, painting her as a pretty scary person. There have been biographies of Stalin that showed more compassion. If you want to hear how mean Yoko Ono corrupted sweet John Lennon, or how Gala felt no emotion, or how sensual Alice Liddell looked in pictures when she was ten, then by all means read this book. If you prefer a less misogynistic depiction of women, try something else. The most surprising part of this book was it was written by a female scholar.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Ana

    I'm probably being too kind by giving two stars to this book, but then again i usually reserve one star ratings to books i wasn't able to finish. And i did finish this one. It made me angry pretty much throughout it, but i did finish it. Here's the main thing i don't understand. Why did the author write this book? She seems to have felt contempt and/or pity for most if not all of the women featured here. Why would you spend unknown amounts of time researching someone's life if you didn't respect I'm probably being too kind by giving two stars to this book, but then again i usually reserve one star ratings to books i wasn't able to finish. And i did finish this one. It made me angry pretty much throughout it, but i did finish it. Here's the main thing i don't understand. Why did the author write this book? She seems to have felt contempt and/or pity for most if not all of the women featured here. Why would you spend unknown amounts of time researching someone's life if you didn't respect them or at the very least find them interesting? Everyone comes off badly here - the artists who for the most part were abusive (in one way or another) and the muses who were almost all either shrews or victims. Suzanne Farrell is about the only muse who gets an even deal in here. Perhaps Ms. Prose should've stuck to writing a biography of just her. Can't recommend this to anyone really; not art aficionados - stick to reading full-fledged bios of the artists featured in this book, and not women's history fans either. Not unless you enjoy being angry for 300+ pages at everyone featured in it, including the writer.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Shivani

    This is one of my favourite books of all time. Made me fall in love with the creative non-fiction format.

  12. 5 out of 5

    J.P.

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Interesting but uncomfortable reading. The "muses" depicted here (everyone from the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland to Yoko Ono) range from the used and abused to those who were users and abusers themselves. Each chapter tells a fascinating back-story of fine art, philosophy and literature. Lewis Carroll, Man Ray, Samuel Johnson, Salvador Dali and John Lennon are among the supporting players here who are revealed to be extraordinary artists, but extremely human beings. This book focuses on Interesting but uncomfortable reading. The "muses" depicted here (everyone from the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland to Yoko Ono) range from the used and abused to those who were users and abusers themselves. Each chapter tells a fascinating back-story of fine art, philosophy and literature. Lewis Carroll, Man Ray, Samuel Johnson, Salvador Dali and John Lennon are among the supporting players here who are revealed to be extraordinary artists, but extremely human beings. This book focuses on the ladies who enabled these men to practice their art---women who, in many cases, sacrificed their own careers and well-being for the sake of that art. Francine Prose chronicles these lives in a vivid, brutally honest style which frequently made me flinch, but always held my attention. What moral emerges from these true-life tales? Fine art comes with a high price tag. And its cost is often paid by those who inspire it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeanne

    I've never read Prose's fiction, but love this book! Each essay is a biographical sketch of the relationship between a muse and her artist. Prose does a great job examining the problematic nature of muse relationships, especially for women and the different ways women reacted/profited/grew or were destroyed by/from these associations. The most contemporary muse is Yoko Ono, but honestly while I loved the book so many of the critical observations Prose made in each of the essays seemed to repeat I've never read Prose's fiction, but love this book! Each essay is a biographical sketch of the relationship between a muse and her artist. Prose does a great job examining the problematic nature of muse relationships, especially for women and the different ways women reacted/profited/grew or were destroyed by/from these associations. The most contemporary muse is Yoko Ono, but honestly while I loved the book so many of the critical observations Prose made in each of the essays seemed to repeat themselves and what seemed brilliant at the beginning started to get tired by the last two essays.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    This books serves as a fine introduction to the artist/muse concept, but Prose sacrifices a lot of page space to repetition, even though the ideas she explores would benefit from further investigation. Each section recycles ideas from earlier chapters, which would be helpful if she had taken her theories deeper each time, but instead she simply repeats herself... I feel like a strict editor could have been very helpful.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lise Pomerleau

    I really enjoyed reading this book. Prose's writing is impeccable. It just flows and takes you on a journey into the lives of 9 interesting women. Wow, if we think people are wild today! Not even close, compared to Lou Andreas-Salome and Gala Dali. Each biography was fascinating for its detailed descriptions of not only the women's lives, but the context of the era. I learned a great deal about the artists, from the perspective of their muses. And I was not even clear as to how a muse differs fr I really enjoyed reading this book. Prose's writing is impeccable. It just flows and takes you on a journey into the lives of 9 interesting women. Wow, if we think people are wild today! Not even close, compared to Lou Andreas-Salome and Gala Dali. Each biography was fascinating for its detailed descriptions of not only the women's lives, but the context of the era. I learned a great deal about the artists, from the perspective of their muses. And I was not even clear as to how a muse differs from a lover, before this book. Prose explains that it is a difficult role:"How brave and resourceful the must must be to balance, year after year...to be at once accessible and unobtainable, perpetually present in the mind of the artist and at the same time distant enough to chat a chasm into which the muse's devoted subject is moved to fling propitiatory ritual object: that is, works of art." As the wife of an artist, I found this fascinating. I am certainly not HIS muse, if that is the case, LOL. The one and only criticism I have of this book is that it could have more illustrations. I wanted to see the paintings referenced. I realize that would have made the volume much larger. So I will just look them up. If one were studying any of the artists influenced by these muses, this book would be a MUST!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisanne

    I gave up making angry notes in the margins after three chapters. The women are interesting, but Prose decides to focus on their worst parts or the general facts that are known. She contradicts herself ever time - like stating "well generally this and this is written about this woman and that's bad and we should treat her differently" and then continues writing exactly that what she just criticised. Also I think I just read the umpteenth anecdote of Ruskin's first wedding night, the Elizabeth Si I gave up making angry notes in the margins after three chapters. The women are interesting, but Prose decides to focus on their worst parts or the general facts that are known. She contradicts herself ever time - like stating "well generally this and this is written about this woman and that's bad and we should treat her differently" and then continues writing exactly that what she just criticised. Also I think I just read the umpteenth anecdote of Ruskin's first wedding night, the Elizabeth Siddal in the bath as Ophelia-story, the sexualisation of the early photographs of Alice Liddell and frankly I'm just sick of hearing these tales over and over again when the truth of them is very debatable. Another side note: why repeatedly mention Beatrice, Camille Claudel and Zelda Fitzgerald if you're not going to write about them anyway? Lastly: where did the comparison of Dante Gabriel Rossetti with a necrophilia-obsessed teenager come from? WHERE?

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly Us

    My favorite part of this book was the first few chapters about the history of muses in Greek mythology and the role they have played with great artists. I also enjoyed the overview of all the muses that were covered in the book. When I started to read about each Muse, I found some very interesting and others not at all. For example, Alice Liddell didn't really seem like a muse but more the unfortunate attraction of Carroll's inappropriate attentions. Although the author does not agree that Lewis My favorite part of this book was the first few chapters about the history of muses in Greek mythology and the role they have played with great artists. I also enjoyed the overview of all the muses that were covered in the book. When I started to read about each Muse, I found some very interesting and others not at all. For example, Alice Liddell didn't really seem like a muse but more the unfortunate attraction of Carroll's inappropriate attentions. Although the author does not agree that Lewis was a pedophile and makes a good case for her argument. Elizabeth Siddal was muse to Rossetti, but was also an addict--which made her less muse-like and just sad. I think, like with so many magical ideas, it is better to not pull the curtain back on true muses. However, it is a great book with lots of history.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jayne

    More than simple biographies of women on the outskirts of famous men’s careers, this book offers a fascinating look at the lives of nine women who lived between Shakespeare’s time and the present. The introductory essay discusses the concept of the muse, from the early Greek myths of the nine muses ─ Thalia, Melponene, Euterpe, Erato,Terpsichore, Calliope, Urania, Polyhymnia, and Clio ─ to the modern woman’s role as simultaneous muse and creator. The muses chosen reflect the breadth of women’s s More than simple biographies of women on the outskirts of famous men’s careers, this book offers a fascinating look at the lives of nine women who lived between Shakespeare’s time and the present. The introductory essay discusses the concept of the muse, from the early Greek myths of the nine muses ─ Thalia, Melponene, Euterpe, Erato,Terpsichore, Calliope, Urania, Polyhymnia, and Clio ─ to the modern woman’s role as simultaneous muse and creator. The muses chosen reflect the breadth of women’s social and domestic roles across nearly four centuries; they are not strikingly similar to each other, except in their impact on the lives of their men. The artists they are credited with inspiring cover a cross-section of creative and intellectual endeavours including literature, poetry, photography, painting, philosophy, choreography, and rock music. And yet there are parallels between these muses in unlikely arenas. Some muses managed to fit their inspirational roles into lives otherwise unremarkable. Hester Thrale housed Dr. Samuel Johnson for nearly two decades, supervising his diet and his health, coaxing him from the depths of depression and psychosis. All the while, she managed her two households amid the dirt and disease of Shakespeare’s London, maintained her arranged marriage to a brewer, birthed and raised and nursed and nurtured and buried a dozen children. Alice Liddell, to whose credit Lewis Carroll laid Through the Looking Glass, had a seemingly normal Victorian vicarage childhood in between posing for distinctly erotic photographs before the lens of a repressed, obsessed Mathematics professor-turned-writer. Another Victorian beauty, Elizabeth Siddal, was not so fortunate as Alice. Taken up as an artists’ model by the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood, and especially by Dante Gabriel Rossetti whom she later married, Lizzie was valued only for her stunning beauty and her willingness to pose passively under conditions of great personal discomfort. Her long descent into addiction and her tragic, young death expose the dark side of artistic adoration that is now familiar in fashion models and actresses. A century later, society beauty-turned-photographer Lee Miller crawled into a very similar pit, thus demonstrating that it takes more than a successful post-muse artistic career to rebuild a woman after a young lifetime of object-hood. Lee Miller represents another element of the changing face of musedom. In common with Lou Andreas Salome, she learned sufficient skills at the hands of her artists to become self-supporting through her own endeavours. Yet Lou did not self-destruct. Serially and occasionally simultaneously a muse to philosophers Nietszche and Ree as well as the poet Rilke, and later a cherished disciple of Sigmund Freud, she controlled her devotees more than they controlled her, in ways that served her own ambitions and were utterly foreign to the tragic, conventional muses. Lou Andreas Salome weathered another pitfall common to muses: she abandoned a devotee, Nietszche, and survived his subsequent vitriolic attacks without loss of self or social group. Hester Thrale was not so lucky. After making a second marriage without the consent or goodwill of Dr. Johnson, she was cut off by him, and thereafter ostracized by the London intellectual and social circles they had inhabited together. Ballerina Suzanne Farrell and her dancer husband both suffered years of artistic exile and desperate unemployment orchestrated by her thwarted devotee, choreographer George Balanchine. Clearly, being left was acceptable in the muse’s repertoire, but leaving was not. Gala Dali, Charis Weston, and Yoko Ono represent a subgroup of muses-turned-marketers, dedicating efforts to their artistic spouses’ money-making potential. Having committed her husband to a strict series of lucrative painting contracts, Gala Dali was known to lock Salvador into his room when necessary to see that a painting was completed. Charis subsumed her own personality so effectively that, in addition to posing as she was placed, she was able to write articles for sale under her husband’s name, using his ideas and even his phrasing, thus simultaneously improving their income and enhancing his reputation as a photographer. Yoko Ono…but is there anyone alive now who does not know how thoroughly she took over John Lennon’s musical career? The common threads through these women’s lives, extending through time itself, are balanced by their differences. Unflattering episodes are included in every portrayal, for Ms. Prose treats her subjects with clarity but not necessarily sympathy. Yet, in the end, we learn almost more about the artists than about their muses. The post-muse literature of Hester Thrale and Charis Weston, the photography of Lee Miller, the psychology career of Lou Salome, the musical and artistic stylings of Yoko Ono… these are mentioned almost in passing, as if the lives and accomplishments of these nine remarkable women are secondary to their achievement as inspirations to the most famous men of their ages. Do not read this book for complete biographies of these beautiful, and often troubled, women. Look instead through this well-crafted window into the complex and ever-fascinating world of creative genius and its accompanying personal chaos, and marvel at the resilience of women.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ramesh Abhiraman

    Now reading. From the innocent Lewis carroll who sent his child friend a knife suggesting he draw a little blood each birthday, to Man Ray's obsession with his muse, to Rossetti's tempestous affair with his on and off muse whom he drove to laudanum addiction and a premature death to Yoko Ono , to Salvador Dali's mistress, this book deals with nine muses who inspired at sometime their artist or writer friends. Francine Prose is one of a kind and her books are quite amazing and revealing. Now reading. From the innocent Lewis carroll who sent his child friend a knife suggesting he draw a little blood each birthday, to Man Ray's obsession with his muse, to Rossetti's tempestous affair with his on and off muse whom he drove to laudanum addiction and a premature death to Yoko Ono , to Salvador Dali's mistress, this book deals with nine muses who inspired at sometime their artist or writer friends. Francine Prose is one of a kind and her books are quite amazing and revealing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dennis Dingus

    Good, however Well written, easy to read and very informative. However, there are no included illustrations of the involved artworks, inspired in the stories. Many are available online, but you have to interrupt you reading to locate and view them; putting the art and story in context.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kate✨ (Queen Kate the Brave of Narnia)

    So... I'm currently taking an art course for school and for my final I have to analyze ancient pieces of art and I chose a mosaic about the Greek Muses. I had never heard of them but oh my GODS do they sound super cool. I'm already in love. This book just sounds lovely. Will it rekindle my obsession for Greek mythology?? We shall see (the answer is most probably) So... I'm currently taking an art course for school and for my final I have to analyze ancient pieces of art and I chose a mosaic about the Greek Muses. I had never heard of them but oh my GODS do they sound super cool. I'm already in love. This book just sounds lovely. Will it rekindle my obsession for Greek mythology?? We shall see (the answer is most probably)

  22. 5 out of 5

    Denise

    Muses gives you a brief look into the lives of lovers and artists. My biggest take away from this is wanting more information on some of the subjects. I would use this more as note worthy that sit and read cover to cover.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Sophie Saunders

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Had to curtail reading this. Sad to say, really quite tedious and dry. I was surprised as everything else I've read by Francine Prose has been pretty pithy. Perhaps it was partly because most of the artists discussed except Dali were not that interesting to me. Had to curtail reading this. Sad to say, really quite tedious and dry. I was surprised as everything else I've read by Francine Prose has been pretty pithy. Perhaps it was partly because most of the artists discussed except Dali were not that interesting to me.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lucinda

    DO NOT READ if you want academic insights or thorough research. This book just adds up to the general sexism attributed to female artists (and former muses), and helps marginalising them.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Lola

    A Review in Three Sentences (Because My Brain Is Tired) The concept of this book is more interesting than its execution. I had never heard of some of the artists or their muses, which made it less engaging. Also, when it came to the artists that had visual work, it would have been nice to have visuals included. (Show, don't tell.) Not recommended! A Review in Three Sentences (Because My Brain Is Tired) The concept of this book is more interesting than its execution. I had never heard of some of the artists or their muses, which made it less engaging. Also, when it came to the artists that had visual work, it would have been nice to have visuals included. (Show, don't tell.) Not recommended!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Penny

    I found this a fascinating read. A look at nine artists and their muses, from Samuel Johnson (Hester Thrale) to the creepy, however much they tried not to make it seem so, Charles Dodgson with his Alice, to the most recent, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It took me a long time to read - I had originally intended to read one muse a day, interspersed with other reading, but I spent a lot of time looking up things that were referenced in each chapter, on the internet. Dali paintings, Weston and Man Ray I found this a fascinating read. A look at nine artists and their muses, from Samuel Johnson (Hester Thrale) to the creepy, however much they tried not to make it seem so, Charles Dodgson with his Alice, to the most recent, John Lennon and Yoko Ono. It took me a long time to read - I had originally intended to read one muse a day, interspersed with other reading, but I spent a lot of time looking up things that were referenced in each chapter, on the internet. Dali paintings, Weston and Man Ray photos, Suzanne Farrell dancing for Diaghilev, even listening to parts of Double Fantasy. I also needed more time to digest. Some fairly common themes - becoming an art wife is fatal to musedom. The artist will, in all likelihood, move on to the next. Being a muse in most cases was not a lot of fun - nor was being an artist, it seemed. Definitely worth a read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Mymuseisme

    Offers engaging narratives and provided insightful details of the women's unconventional relationships with their artists and, in my opinion, the illusions/disillusionments that pervaded many of their relationships. Those who read The Meaning of the Oxford English Dictionary might be interested to read the chapters on Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale and Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell. Ms. Thrale's friendship and support quite literally enabled Johnson to survive and write his dictionary. The c Offers engaging narratives and provided insightful details of the women's unconventional relationships with their artists and, in my opinion, the illusions/disillusionments that pervaded many of their relationships. Those who read The Meaning of the Oxford English Dictionary might be interested to read the chapters on Samuel Johnson and Hester Thrale and Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell. Ms. Thrale's friendship and support quite literally enabled Johnson to survive and write his dictionary. The chapter on Lewis Carroll saddened me. Alice in Wonderland just might be illustrative of the sublimation of personal desires, but his behaviors would be judged very harshly by today's standards. Ms. Liddle's silence preserves the questionable, childlike innocence of the story. The chapter on Dali and Gala-Dali was an eye-opener since I was unaware of his emotional disturbances. Again I am saddened that artistic achievement is fueled by pathology. Many of Dali's paintings manifest his inner view of Gala, and the one that gave me pause was the Madonna of Port Lligat. The painting seems incongruous in light of Gala's tumultuous relationship with her daughter from her marriage with Paul Eluard, and with whom she maintained intimate relations while married to Dali, but interesting when viewed in light of her behaviors with Dali. I won't comment on the Pope's sanction of this painting. I chuckled at Lou Andreas-Salome's proclivity for intellectual relationships much to the physical dissatisfaction of her male counterparts. She is connected with three artists, the poet Rilke, the philosopher Nietzsche, and the psychoanalyst, Freud. Lee Miller's personal life is a revelation and certainly contributed to many of her emotional problems, possibly enabling her to learn from Man Ray and become an accomplished photographer in her own right. Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine show how a gifted artist and gifted muse can bring out the best in each other if they are able to overcome negativity.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Howells

    What is a muse? This book attempts to tell us. It consists of 9 pen portraits of women who are said to have inspired a variety of 'artists'. It's difficult not to feel slightly uncomfortable as it's clear that on this reading to be a muse you a) are a woman b) likely to be the subject of an often unhealthy sexual fascination by a man. This isn't always the case (both Gala Dali & Yoko Ono were older than the men they are linked to, whilst Lee Miller became a truly inspiring photographer in her ow What is a muse? This book attempts to tell us. It consists of 9 pen portraits of women who are said to have inspired a variety of 'artists'. It's difficult not to feel slightly uncomfortable as it's clear that on this reading to be a muse you a) are a woman b) likely to be the subject of an often unhealthy sexual fascination by a man. This isn't always the case (both Gala Dali & Yoko Ono were older than the men they are linked to, whilst Lee Miller became a truly inspiring photographer in her own right) but for me the portraits that stand out are those of Hester Thrale & Alice Liddell. The former was an intelligent woman who locked horns with Samuel Johnson. By all accounts she more than held her own, but it's clear that he was infatuated with her. The latter was Lewis Carroll's inspiration for Alice in Wonderland. Carroll's liking for young girls is well known and this book does nothing to dispel the sense of unease as you read about their story. The author is generally even handed, although for some reason she really takes against Yoko Ono. A reasonably entertaining book but it did make me slightly angry that in most cases the women portrayed were almost all exploited either explicitly or implicitly.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Catherine

    The Lives of the Muses is a consistently compelling non-fiction work. It both looks at the idea of the muse over the years and picks 9 muses to create short biographies of them and their relationship with their artist as a representation of the undefinable role of the muse. It also uses the muse to go into the role of the female, how the muse is quite obviously a sexist responsibility but how each muse either redefined it in their own way or submitted themselves fully to the idea of the muse. Wh The Lives of the Muses is a consistently compelling non-fiction work. It both looks at the idea of the muse over the years and picks 9 muses to create short biographies of them and their relationship with their artist as a representation of the undefinable role of the muse. It also uses the muse to go into the role of the female, how the muse is quite obviously a sexist responsibility but how each muse either redefined it in their own way or submitted themselves fully to the idea of the muse. What makes this so interesting is how it functions as multiple biographies but also as theory. Hester Thrale and Samuel Johnson, Alice Liddell and Lewis Carroll/Charles Dodgson, Elizabeth Siddal and Rossetti, Lou-Andreas Salome and Nietzsche, Rilke and Freud, Gala Dali and Salvador Dali, Lee Miller and Man Ray, Charis Weston and Edward Weston, Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine and finally Yoko Ono and John Lennon. My personal favorites were Thrale, Liddell, Siddal, Dali and Ono. Each of them have fascinating stories and it makes for a wholly satisfying read that makes you want to learn even more about each of them.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Alison

    A book I read by accident that became a text for my course on Women in the Visual Arts. After all, at least 4 of these muses were "in the visual arts." I find the chapter on Lee Miller the most fascinating, and the most likely to inspire me to research her more. Why don't more people know about Lee Miller? It's a travesty, except...her own son knew nothing of her life before she became an ex-pat housewife to Sir Penrose, and took up gourmet cooking. The muses are all fact stranger than fiction, A book I read by accident that became a text for my course on Women in the Visual Arts. After all, at least 4 of these muses were "in the visual arts." I find the chapter on Lee Miller the most fascinating, and the most likely to inspire me to research her more. Why don't more people know about Lee Miller? It's a travesty, except...her own son knew nothing of her life before she became an ex-pat housewife to Sir Penrose, and took up gourmet cooking. The muses are all fact stranger than fiction, and I love the way Prose writes of them, making each historical figure very real. This book also got me reading about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (those creeps!) and if you liked the chapter on Lizzie and Dante, you should read "Pre-Raphaelites in Love" by Gay Daly. As for my students... usually only the young men know who Yoko Ono is. It's a good opportunity to get them to stay awake in class, even if you can't take the screeching. She conveniently appears in many things now posted on youtube.

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