Muses! I totally feel like there is a GLUT of puns awaiting me here. Muses, muses, aMUSEment, Francine PROSE, Prose’s prose musing on muses…could someone please bring me a cookie? I am apparently going to fail at life today.
So. The Lives of the Muses is (durr) about the lives of some muses. And ok but since that word is totally taboo now (implying as it does all kinds of passivity and subjugation and whatall) Prose has to qualify by talking a bit about what it means to be a muse and to move from muse to artist how sometimes artists can aMUSE each other HA! I knew it was in there.
And then she’s picked nine very different women to illustrate the various ways one can muse. Alice Liddell inspired Charles Dobson (aka Lewis Caroll) by demanding stories and being impish and frolicsome and young. Lou Andreas-Salome (whom Prose describes as a ‘serial muse’) inspired Nietszche and then Rilke and then Freud by not letting them sleep with her (or at least making them wait a verra long time), and then leaving them in TORMENT, because torment is the fertilizer of genius.
And as much as the muse affects the artist, the artist affects the muse. Lizzie Siddal and Gala Dali went starkers largely on account of their artists. Charis Weston devolved from treasured model to underappreciated hausfrau after she married her artist. Yoko Ono thought John was the muse.
And at times Prose BFFs the hell out of these girls, defending them where others have torn them down, and at times she cuts a bitch (ok, really only Yoko, and she gives her her due in the end), but mostly she is as even-handed as a biographer can be. Because the point is not who was a good muse and who was teh suck, but how the whole process works. Fascinating stuff!