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"The Master's Muse" by Varley O'ConnorNew novel about Le Clercq and Balanchine


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#121 Neryssa

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 08:51 AM

Neryssa:

I hope the verb "reinvent" [oneself/herself] is in it ... Wasn't Balanchine pushing Le Clercq to dance more classical roles such as Swan Lake by 1956?


Not only is it overused, it's a sort of an awful idea.

Agreed!
On November 25, 1956 Martin sadly writes this:

... she is a highly individual artist and, like all individual artists, virtually impossible to replace...

And, of course, she never was. One never gets over imagining what was lost. Quiggin, thank you for reproducing these reviews.

Edited to add: a brief review from the not so prestigious Oprah magazine: http://www.oprah.com...he-Masters-Muse
And this is what I was afraid of:
"...In O'Connor's telling, Le Clercq never got over her forever passionate but only occasionally loving husband; though not always likable, she emerges as a proud but sad woman battered by life and love..."

#122 joelrw

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 04:26 PM

Edited to add: a brief review from the not so prestigious Oprah magazine: http://www.oprah.com...he-Masters-Muse
And this is what I was afraid of:
"...In O'Connor's telling, Le Clercq never got over her forever passionate but only occasionally loving husband; though not always likable, she emerges as a proud but sad woman battered by life and love..."


This is a complete misreading of the book! A more accurate take can be found in the Kirkus Reviews review (http://www.kirkusrev...rs-muse/#review), which ends as follows:

this is not a novel about victimization or the malevolence of genius, but rather about the painful accommodations all of us make for the things and people we love.
Thoughtful, tender and quite gripping, even for readers unfamiliar with the historical events the author sensitively reimagines.

#123 Neryssa

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 05:51 PM

Edited to add: a brief review from the not so prestigious Oprah magazine: http://www.oprah.com...he-Masters-Muse
And this is what I was afraid of:
"...In O'Connor's telling, Le Clercq never got over her forever passionate but only occasionally loving husband; though not always likable, she emerges as a proud but sad woman battered by life and love..."


This is a complete misreading of the book! A more accurate take can be found in the Kirkus Reviews review (http://www.kirkusrev...rs-muse/#review), which ends as follows:

this is not a novel about victimization or the malevolence of genius, but rather about the painful accommodations all of us make for the things and people we love.
Thoughtful, tender and quite gripping, even for readers unfamiliar with the historical events the author sensitively reimagines.


Well, now that the book is published, reviewers and readers can interpret and/or deconstruct it to infinity - are you suggesting the reviewer didn't read the book? How can one misread a book if that was his or her impression? Yes, I've read the Kirkus Review.

#124 joelrw

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Posted 05 May 2012 - 09:32 PM

Well, now that the book is published, reviewers and readers can interpret and/or deconstruct it to infinity - are you suggesting the reviewer didn't read the book? How can one misread a book if that was his or her impression? Yes, I've read the Kirkus Review.


The reviewer read the book. The Kirkus reviewer had a different impression of the author's portrayal of LeClercq, as did I. I feel strongly that the O reviewer took away something from the book that wasn't in it. (Incidentally, I also thought the reviewer's impression of O'Connor's Balanchine depiction was off the mark). But different people see different things. Indeed, if a book gives rise to exactly the same feelings for all readers, it's probably not a very deep book. Nevertheless, it's important to realize that the O reviewer's take may not exactly be spot on. I can readily understand your "This is what I was afraid of" comment in light of how LeClercq is described in the review. On the other hand, no one around here is commenting, "This is what I was hoping for" in response to the Kirkus or the Publishers Weekly reviews.

Incidentally, the book isn't quite published yet. Two more days to go.

#125 Helene

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Posted 06 May 2012 - 11:06 PM

I also left O'Connor's response to such criticism, published in Publisher's Weekly, in my message ( I've given it here earlier in this thread). But perhaps needless to say, Ms. Tobias deleted my message soon after I posted it.


That's odd. It's there now:
http://www.artsjourn...ting-tanny.html

#126 joelrw

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 07:25 AM


I also left O'Connor's response to such criticism, published in Publisher's Weekly, in my message ( I've given it here earlier in this thread). But perhaps needless to say, Ms. Tobias deleted my message soon after I posted it.


That's odd. It's there now:
http://www.artsjourn...ting-tanny.html


She added it two days later.

#127 Helene

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 09:35 AM

It's probable that comments to her blog have to be reviewed and "approved" before they appear publicly, and there can be lag time before she gets back to it. This is normally used to prevent spammers from inundating the comments section with links to viruses and porn.

We have the same functionality for the blogs on this board, set on/off by the blogger.

#128 dirac

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 04:00 PM

Well, now that the book is published, reviewers and readers can interpret and/or deconstruct it to infinity - are you suggesting the reviewer didn't read the book? How can one misread a book if that was his or her impression?


Neryssa, all of this is to some extent subjective but it's quite easy for reviewers to misread books. I've read reviews of books that were inaccurate in large ways and small. When one is dealing with fiction then the subjectivity factor comes into much greater play, but it's still perfectly possible for a critic to be completely off base.

#129 Drew

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Posted 07 May 2012 - 08:06 PM

Think of all the novels, plays, and biographies that were written when we were in the grip of a now much discredited Freudianism.


Off topic, but I feel compelled (as if by a strange unconscious force) to say something on behalf of Freud whose ideas are far from being simply "much discredited" and who was himself, not so incidentally, a remarkable and witty writer.

Of course, programmatic and bad novels, plays, and biographies are written all the time in the grip of Freudianism...and Jungianism, Aristotelianism, Marxism etc. Occasionally good ones too.

I don't read many novels these days and have read few of those mentioned above but I did like Fitzgerald's Blue Flower; I still remember thinking that like other British authors writing about continental figures obsessed with philosophy--living, breathing, eating philosophy--she gives the impression that she can't quite bring herself to take their obsession entirely seriously. (Stoppard is far worse in The Coast of Utopia.)

Writers have always imagined their way into historical figures: I confess that whenever they write a fictional work about a figure I have a deep interest in or about whom I care and know something, it vaguely gets on my nerves--as if the writer were cheating their way into seeming more interesting and important than they would otherwise be with an openly fictional story (even one that actually drew on the lives of people they knew). Same w. films: I still have not seen Bright Star (film supposedly about Keats and Fanny Brawne), but I remember saying to someone who asked me about it: "If they want to make a regency romance--and have run out of Jane Austen--why not just adapt a Georgette Heyer novel?" I did not add what I was thinking "That would be more honest."

That said, I have never been able to work up my vague irritation into a serious ethical account of why writers and other creative figures should not imagine their way into the lives of historical figures. It's entirely understandable that they should want to do so (and of course "history plays" have a long history of their own, as does history painting)...Even if one distinguishes between long dead Renaissance Queens and only recently dead modern ballerinas--as one could make a case for doing--I do appreciate why an artist might be drawn to explore imaginatively a compelling event/story. And if a great writer has the 'right' to try it--well I guess a lesser one does too...though the latter may well get more of a pasting from readers. At the same time, readers may well feel compelled to raise uncomfortable ethical questions too...if only because the genre seems to call for it.

To return to Leclercq: perhaps oddly, I feel intuitively that a "friend" or insider writing about Leclercq would seem more of a betrayal. Though here, too, writing seems to make its own laws. X or Y as "writer" and X or Y as "human being" are often two quite different things--and art rarely fits into neat ethical categories--certainly not great art and maybe not even bad/failed art or not-quite art...

P.S. I've never been particularly bothered by "reinvent"... sometimes it works...

#130 dirac

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 09:17 AM

Regarding Freud and "Bright Star" - good point about Freud, Drew. I found "Bright Star" much better than expected (link to discussion here) and it's by no means an Austen knockoff, although that was a perfectly reasonable surmise on your part - and perhaps the overlap in period helped Jane Campion to get the project off the ground, now that I think about it. ("Becoming Jane" is closer in approach to some of the historical fiction we're discussing here and it is a bit Georgette Heyer, freely taking liberties with the known facts. Wasn't a bad little movie, though.)

#131 Neryssa

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 02:15 PM

One can read a preview of the O'Connor book now on Amazon. It is when she imagines details of Le Clercq's relationship with Balanchine and Robbins at specific times that set my teeth on edge. I liked Amanda Vaill's biography which revealed touching details about the Robbins/Le Clercq relationship through their correspondence (and photographs) and left the rest to the reader's imagination. O'Connor's take on it is disappointing. Anyway, from what little I have read, it is neither horrible nor great...and not particularly moving - yet. I think I could footnote this book if I had it though.

#132 Helene

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 02:58 PM

You can also peruse a bit on the Simon and Shuster website by clicking "Browse inside" from this page:
http://search.simona...t-master's muse

#133 Neryssa

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 05:12 PM

You can also peruse a bit on the Simon and Shuster website by clicking "Browse inside" from this page:
http://search.simona...ster's%20muse


Thanks so much, Helene.

#134 Kathleen O'Connell

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 08:58 PM


Think of all the novels, plays, and biographies that were written when we were in the grip of a now much discredited Freudianism.


Off topic, but I feel compelled (as if by a strange unconscious force) to say something on behalf of Freud whose ideas are far from being simply "much discredited" and who was himself, not so incidentally, a remarkable and witty writer.

Of course, programmatic and bad novels, plays, and biographies are written all the time in the grip of Freudianism...and Jungianism, Aristotelianism, Marxism etc. Occasionally good ones too.


My point was simply this: Freud's theories are today more influential in the arts than they are in the sciences, where they have been largely abandoned as scientific explanations of human behavior and psychology. Writers who "imagine their way into the lives of historical figures" (as you put it so nicely) through the lens of Freud -- or Jung or Marx -- tell us as much if not more about the intellectual temper of their own time as they tell us about their subjects.

And I would hasten to add that good novels, biographies, and plays have been written in the grip of discredited or abandoned theories, too, not just bad or programmatic ones. Milton's ideas about women make me want to hurl "Paradise Lost" against the wall, but it is still a very impressive piece of writing.

#135 dirac

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Posted 09 May 2012 - 09:16 AM

Psychoanalysis isn't highly regarded in today's departments of psychology, true, but Freud's influence in the sciences is still very muh a live issue, I think.

Writers who "imagine their way into the lives of historical figures" (as you put it so nicely) through the lens of Freud -- or Jung or Marx -- tell us as much if not more about the intellectual temper of their own time as they tell us about their subjects.


Yes. The past is a different country, etc. The same can also be true of conventional biography.


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