Lee Siegel has written an article in the Wall Street Journal called Where Have All the Muses Gone? Huh. Well, let’s see if we can make a half-hearted stab at figuring that out. Where have they all gone? The first important thing to realize is that muses are female. Apparently. I’ve read through Mr. Siegel’s article and find it loaded with male artists who seem to require the subtle services of female muses. Some of these men are even married to wives who are actual female artists but who function for Mr. Siegel and his article as ‘muses’ for their lucky men.
So it would seem that if you want to find out where all the muses have gone you would simply need to figure out where a woman would go who might be fed up with dragging her artist boyfriend or husband through the jagged ravine of his writer’s block. I don’t know for sure but my guess is you might find her down at the municipal court house filing divorce papers.
Honestly, reading through Mr. Siegel’s article just makes me laugh. Why doesn’t he have a single example of a female artist with a muse of her own? It staggers the imagination to think that the world has not known a single woman artist with a male muse. And Dante didn’t have a muse for goodness sake. Beatrice? Really? Dante was a nasty little Italian man with a bone to pick with every passerby he ever ran into. Reading Inferno is like reading through a litany of every petty wrong Dante felt he had to hold onto and seek literary revenge for. This guy would have driven any kind of self-respecting muse straight into the nuthouse. If I were Virgil I would have ditched him around the corner on the third level down.
You know who my muse is? It’s Mick Jagger.
The illustration is Carl Wilhelm Friederich Oesterly’s portrait of Dante and his supposed muse Beatrice Portinari.