the Rape of the Muse , by Michael Stein. Publisher: The Permanent Press (October, 2011). Literary fiction. Hardcover, 168 pp.
The word in the art world in 1999 was that Montrose, having blown his career long ago, now lived in sad seclusion. The story of Montrose was a tireless, looming presence among my art school gang. Although he was seldom discussed in artistic terms, he was analyzed as mystical, political, apocalyptic.
Novels about artistic people and artistic endeavors attract my attention. As a writer, visual artists fascinate me. I also feel that writers and artists often live similar lifestyles and relate well to each other. Many artists and writers befriend or date each other or just hang out together. Very simpatico. The Rape of the Muse is an engaging and detailed novel which delves into many aspects of the art world through a court case.
A promising young artist, Rand Taber, earns an assistant position with a famous yet reclusive artist, Harris Montrose, in New Haven. Rand faced a bit of a slag in his own painting and thought that getting away from New York and learning from Montrose might help him reconnect with the canvas. The Rape of the Muse tells the story through Rand’s point-of-view. This enabled me to really become involved in the story as Rand didn’t know that much about Montrose or his best friend, the sculptor Simon Pruhar. Although they’re best friends, the two artists remain immensely competitive. Pruhar teaches and Montrose thinks he’s less of an artist because of that. But Montrose hasn’t shown his art in decades and Pruhar’s earning some commercial appeal.
Author Michael Stein uses an effective set-up and approach in detailing the characters and unraveling the court case. He interweaves courtroom settings with earlier events. This novel keeps your mind engaged. The Rape of the Muse is about friendships, competition, artistic integrity and passions. Author Michael Stein writes in an alluring and erudite manner. He describes a scrappy, cut-throat, exuberant creative world of ups and downs. The art world vacillates between fame and glamor and starving artist. in a moment one can become the most talked about artist in New York and the next one can drop off the scene completely. The vocabulary and phrases make this a desirable, fulfilling read. The Rape of the Muse is one of the best novels I’ve read all year.
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