Neryssa

"The Master's Muse" by Varley O'Connor

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Does anybody know anything about a novel called "The Master's Muse" by Varley O'Connor. It will be released later this spring. I am a bit wary...

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Hopefully not another dose of Musagète-like inventions.

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Thanks for alerting us, Neryssa. I'm wary too, although I see the author has received some good reviews for previous novels. So, according to the Amazon page, the author watched "hundreds of hours of documentaries and New York City Ballet footage to capture Le Clercq’s essence." rg would know better than anyone, but I'll be greatly surprised if hundreds of hours of Le Clerq or even Le Clerq-era footage even exist.

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saying hundreds of minutes with regard to films w/ TLC would even seem to be a stretch here.

most of what's on film w/ LeClercq in the pretty thorough NYPL cat. is silent and black-and-white, and overall bits-and-piece-y.

TLC was much photographed, but filmed?

not really.

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This sounds more promising. However, I find it curious that the author choses to tell the story as a novel, rather than a biography, if so much research went into its writing. Odd.

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It is curious. Unless O'Connor interviewed dancers and friends from the period, she knows much less than most people on this forum. She is imagining the rest... O'Connor has the right to do so but it just makes me uncomfortable. I don't know how to articulate my uneasiness and resentment - the latter which is silly, I suppose.

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Unless O'Connor interviewed dancers and friends from the period, she knows much less than most people on this forum. She is imagining the rest... O'Connor has the right to do so but it just makes me uncomfortable. I don't know how to articulate my uneasiness and resentment - the latter which is silly, I suppose.

I understand this sense of resentment, in that imagining Tanaquil Le Clercq's life - as opposed to transparent discussion of her actual circumstances and body of work - feels like a violation to me. I agree with Natalia, it seems odd that so much avowed research should be used in the service of fiction (though, in fairness, the author is primarily a novelist and not a biographer). I have long hoped for a full biography of Ms. Le Clercq, and am sorry that this won't be it.

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Unless O'Connor interviewed dancers and friends from the period, she knows much less than most people on this forum. She is imagining the rest... O'Connor has the right to do so but it just makes me uncomfortable. I don't know how to articulate my uneasiness and resentment - the latter which is silly, I suppose.

I understand this sense of resentment, in that imagining Tanaquil Le Clercq's life - as opposed to transparent discussion of her actual circumstances and body of work - feels like a violation to me. I agree with Natalia, it seems odd that so much avowed research should be used in the service of fiction (though, in fairness, the author is primarily a novelist and not a biographer). I have long hoped for a full biography of Ms. Le Clercq, and am sorry that this won't be it.

My sentiments exactly.

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- I have long hoped for a full biography of Ms. Le Clercq, and am sorry that this won't be it.

Me too, Bonnette. Or at least a book of photographs - although to be fair, Ballet Review published wonderful photographic tributes to Le Clercq after her death. Didn't she leave an archive?

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Didn't she leave an archive?

I do not know the extent of what she left - perhaps rg has this information. Oh, how I wish she'd written her autobiography!

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FYI, Bonnette: From The New York City Ballet for researchers link:

http://www.nycballet.com/researchers/archive.html

An overview of the NYCB Archive collections includes the: Ballet Society Collection, New York City Ballet Collection, School of American Ballet Collection, George Balanchine Trust Collection, and Tanaquil Le Clercq Personal Archive. (They misspelled her name as: Le Clerq) mad.gif

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I smell a rat somewhere here- either it is a biography or it is straight fiction. But to borrow a person, who at any rate has been alive in my life time, is IMO, a bit much. Dont really know what to make of it, but my gut feeling is that I am not interested. Will definitely not buy.

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- either it is a biography or it is straight fiction. But to borrow a person, who at any rate has been alive in my life time, is IMO, a bit much.

Yes. The so-called "narrative history" genre is very problematic, since facts don't matter as much as moving the story along. For legal purposes, O'Connor's novel would probably fall into the same category so often encountered in film adaptations: "As suggested by..." But it feels like a cheap shot. The title (The Master's Muse) is equally annoying - as if Tanaquil Le Clercq's entire identity revolved around her contribution to Balanchine's genius. Please.

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It's natural to feel protective toward artists who mean something special to us. However, novelists do this sort of thing all the time, nor is it unusual for writers of fiction to do research. Le Clercq has been dead for some time and can't sustain any personal hurt. Fiction can be preferable to biography for the writer's purpose precisely because it allows greater freedom in the way of speculation and imagining than is permitted to a biographer (a responsible biographer at any rate). I have no idea what this effort will be like, but it's not by definition a disrespectful or exploitative endeavor.

Thanks for the heads up, Neryssa - much appreciated. I hadn't heard about this.

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Yours is a strong voice of reason and moderation, dirac. I take your point. For me, the sense is that Ms. Le Clercq was robbed once by polio - and I bristle at even the suggestion that her closet might be picked through again in a posthumous work of fiction. But you're right, I feel protective to a degree that might be excessive or unwarranted. And I certainly echo your thanks to Neryssa for this heads-up.

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It's natural to feel protective toward artists who mean something special to us. However, novelists do this sort of thing all the time, nor is it unusual for writers of fiction to do research. Le Clercq has been dead for some time and can't sustain any personal hurt. Fiction can be preferable to biography for the writer's purpose precisely because it allows greater freedom in the way of speculation and imagining than is permitted to a biographer (a responsible biographer at any rate). I have no idea what this effort will be like, but it's not by definition a disrespectful or exploitative endeavor.

You make good points, dirac. But I wouldn't feel wary if you, for example, had written the novel. But when I read that the author is apparently not a real balletomane, but just "came across the facts about" Le Clerq, and her research included watching hundreds of hours of nonexistent footage to "capture" her "essence," a description which is purple prose or at least a cliche, as if the essence of someone's dancing could be captured in prose anyhow . . . all that makes me pretty skeptical. But I'm not knocking O'Connor for taking up the subject.

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You make good points, dirac. But I wouldn't feel wary if you, for example, had written the novel. But when I read that the author is apparently not a real balletomane, but just "came across the facts about" Le Clerq, and her research included watching hundreds of hours of nonexistent footage to "capture" her "essence," a description which is purple prose or at least a cliche, as if the essence of someone's dancing could be captured in prose anyhow . . . all that makes me pretty skeptical. But I'm not knocking O'Connor for taking up the subject.

Exactly. I am not under the impression that the author has a background in dance history. However, the subject is quite compelling. I will request the book from my library's interlibrary loan in April and post my thoughts here. I thank everyone who contributed to this topic.

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I am very wary.....I am now in the process of reading Colum McCAnn's book on Nureyev ("Dancer") and I frankly find it to be so much schlock---he took the man's life which he garnered from the many documentaries and biographies out there and gave it his own spin. It reminds me of the controversial bio of Reagan by Edmund Morris.

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The title (The Master's Muse) is equally annoying - as if Tanaquil Le Clercq's entire identity revolved around her contribution to Balanchine's genius. Please.

Well.....she was an inspiration to Balanchine, trained in his school, and her place in ballet history is defined by the roles he made on her, not to mention the socially recognized link of marriage. If anything the title's a bit obvious.

I agree with atm711 that these projects tend to be more schlocky than not.

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It's natural to feel protective toward artists who mean something special to us. However, novelists do this sort of thing all the time, nor is it unusual for writers of fiction to do research. Le Clercq has been dead for some time and can't sustain any personal hurt. Fiction can be preferable to biography for the writer's purpose precisely because it allows greater freedom in the way of speculation and imagining than is permitted to a biographer (a responsible biographer at any rate). I have no idea what this effort will be like, but it's not by definition a disrespectful or exploitative endeavor.

Thanks for the heads up, Neryssa - much appreciated. I hadn't heard about this.

I agree with the role of fiction and research, but disagree about sustaining personal hurt. Collateral damage cannot be ignored. One's personal legacy can be hurt. One's family can be hurt. One's dignity can be hurt. And, if you believe the Romantic ballets, or other sources, one can still sustain personal harm.

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I agree with the role of fiction and research, but disagree about sustaining personal hurt. Collateral damage cannot be ignored. One's personal legacy can be hurt. One's family can be hurt. One's dignity can be hurt. And, if you believe the Romantic ballets, or other sources, one can still sustain personal harm.

That is a good point about the Romantic Ballets, puppytreats (how I love that moniker). I struggle with this issue as a researcher who is ambivalent about publishing the results. I love the famous passage by Jung on the souls of our ancestors: "Moreover, my ancestors' souls are sustained by the atmosphere of the house, since I answer for them the questions that their lives once left behind. I carve out rough answers as best I can. I have even drawn them on the walls. It is as if a silent, greater family, stretching down the centuries, were peopling the house."

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It's natural to feel protective toward artists who mean something special to us. However, novelists do this sort of thing all the time, nor is it unusual for writers of fiction to do research. Le Clercq has been dead for some time and can't sustain any personal hurt. Fiction can be preferable to biography for the writer's purpose precisely because it allows greater freedom in the way of speculation and imagining than is permitted to a biographer (a responsible biographer at any rate). I have no idea what this effort will be like, but it's not by definition a disrespectful or exploitative endeavor.

Thanks for the heads up, Neryssa - much appreciated. I hadn't heard about this.

I agree with the role of fiction and research, but disagree about sustaining personal hurt. Collateral damage cannot be ignored. One's personal legacy can be hurt. One's family can be hurt. One's dignity can be hurt. And, if you believe the Romantic ballets, or other sources, one can still sustain personal harm.

I don't know what to tell you, puppytreats. I agree with atm711 that these projects often turn out to be more kitschy than not, but I don't quite get all the clutching of pearls. I expect Le Clercq's legacy to remain exactly as it was no matter what happens with this book, but maybe it's me.

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What can you say about her life in fiction that the hard facts don´t allow? The reality is so much more fascinating that the novel only dulls them or makes them into melodrama, or into kitsch as atm711 & dirac say - and with an awful lot of filler. Nureyev's life is like that too.

Ballet's a tough subject for a novel, in a way it's mute, opera would be much better - or little theater as in "Revolutionary Road." Maybe Don DeLillo could do it in a style like his last novel, a long interior meditation on watching it, then the intermission, people on stairs, etc.

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