Muses Speak Out

Chloe Schama explains what it felt like to find herself in her ex’s novel:

I stayed up late that night and finished the manuscript, reading with a strange sense of honor. Isn’t it every woman’s fantasy, to some extent, to be someone’s muse — to feel as though her beauty, intelligence, and grace are so extraordinary that they inspire not just devotion but art? I’d never admit to desiring celebrity, but that doesn’t mean that I’d turn down the chance to be immortalized — or at least captured for a moment — by someone else. At art museums, I’ve always played a game: Matisse or Picasso, Manet or Degas, Rembrandt or Rubens — whom would I prefer to sit for?

But there was horror mixed with the honor. I’d never asked myself: Bellow or Roth, Hemingway or Fitzgerald, Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky? It seemed too terrifying to be made three-dimensional — to be faced with someone else’s portrait of your psyche. If the depiction seems to miss the mark, but includes just enough to make you recognizable, then you’d have to wage an endless personal PR campaign with anyone who came in contact with the text: No, reader, you don’t know me. But if the novel contained some shades of truth — perhaps the attributes you don’t share widely (aren’t they always the most compelling?) — then you face an even scarier prospect: Yes, reader, you know parts of me before we’ve ever met.

On a related note, Karley Sciortino considers why, aside from the allure of being a muse, many of us romanticize the idea of dating artists:

Last winter, Bret Easton Ellis had Kanye West as a guest on his podcast, and part of their conversation centered around the reality of being someone who creates things. Kanye mentioned that he felt particularly self-aware of the artist’s tendency to oscillate between periods of inflated ego and periods of self-loathing. It’s an intense life — there’s the pain of creation, padded by periods of downtime where one feels compelled to escape reality. And stereotypically, sex and drugs have been sedatives for that intensity. But that oscillation can make for a charged romantic relationship. One minute the artist appears so amazing and confident that you can’t help but open your legs, and the next minute they suddenly plummet and become vulnerable and insecure, and need you to open your arms to comfort them. In my experience, despite the fact that artists think they want to be with someone smart and critical, who challenges them — deep down most really just want to be babied. And this is why the artist is appealing not only to those seduced by rebellion and celebrity. It’s also attractive to the nurturing type. Some people love a fixer-upper.