Rape of the Muse, The

( 1 )


Rand Taber, one of The Times' "25 artists under 25 to watch" has painter's block. He needs to get out of New York to work again. Introduced to Harris Montrose, an artistic giant and eccentric who has secluded himself in Providence, Rhode Island, Rand becomes Montrose's studio assistant.

Rand has a front-row seat on the deteriorating relationship between Montrose and his life-long friend, the sculptor Simon Pruhar. When Montrose puts Pruhar in his new picture, "The Rape of the ...

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Rand Taber, one of The Times' "25 artists under 25 to watch" has painter's block. He needs to get out of New York to work again. Introduced to Harris Montrose, an artistic giant and eccentric who has secluded himself in Providence, Rhode Island, Rand becomes Montrose's studio assistant.

Rand has a front-row seat on the deteriorating relationship between Montrose and his life-long friend, the sculptor Simon Pruhar. When Montrose puts Pruhar in his new picture, "The Rape of the Muse," and publishes it in Vanity Fair, his oldest friend sues for libel.

Rand's journey, as he falls for a woman who pushes him to paint again, is one of artistic inspiration, love and betrayal, hero worship and disappointment.

This novel is based on a true art- world rivalry and courtroom drama.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A comic drama of artist friends treating each other badly, and sometimes well, Stein’s fifth novel (after In the Age of Love) is far less histrionic than its title suggests. Narrator Rand Tabor is a young New York City artist in a slump. He takes an apprenticeship with Harris Montrose, a legendary sculptor poised to make a comeback, at least until he publishes a photographic piece of art. In it, fellow artist Simon Pruhar, his close friend, is assaulting a young woman named Binny with whom Rand has a complex relationship. Simon sues for defamation and the novel chronicles the buildup to the break in the friendship between the artists, as Rand tries to get his career going and pursues the alluring Binny. Less driven by plot than character, the focus is on Harris (who people think is crazy) and Rand (who paints scenes of places people just left), but includes much rhetoric about art, be it history, criticism, processes, originality, or the scene. Though Rand believes that Binny is his muse, Harris seems equally influential to the young painter. Stein’s latest is a low-key look at pivotal moments in the lives of artists and an engrossing meditation on what it means to create art. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Taking a break from his New York City art studio, Rand Taber finds himself in New Haven, CT, helping stage a new show for eccentric artist Harris Montrose. While there, he witnesses the crumbling of an ages-old friendship between Montrose and Simon Pruhar. When Montrose creates a work of art titled The Rape of the Muse and allows it to be published in Vanity Fair, Pruhar sues for libel, contending that he is depicted as the rapist in the work. VERDICT Basing his story on a real-life drama, award-winning author Stein (In the Age of Love) crafts his quirky characters to reflect the complexities in all human relationships. It's a bit uncertain whether this story takes place in New Haven or Providence, but location notwithstanding, this work is a fascinating inside look at the art world and will appeal to most fiction readers.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Providence
Kirkus Reviews
Stein's deftly written literary novel examines the art world through the eyes of a young artist, Rand Taber. The plot centers on a dispute between two longtime friends, Simon Pruhar and Harris Montrose. Montrose paints a depiction of an artistic Muse being raped, and it appears on the cover of Vanity Fair. Simon believes the rapist looks a great deal like him, and feeling hurt and betrayed, he sues. The court trial forms the story's main narrative thread: Did Montrose maliciously portray his friend and in the process damage Pruhar's reputation? Unfortunately, the trial's outcome matters little to the reader. More interesting are the characters themselves—especially Montrose because of his casual cruelty to his friend—and the discussions about what constitutes art. Both men are colossal jerks, although Rand doesn't seem especially bothered by that fact. He's been hired as Montrose's assistant, but his main focus is on getting laid by Binny, who happily keeps a two-boyfriend-at-a-time policy. Rand asks another character, "When did you become an asshole?" It's a question he well could ask three or four people in this novel. Stein's writing is fun, with original phrasing and expressions that make this a bearable story even though it's about obnoxious, self-important artists. Montrose describes Michelangelo's David as the world's largest homosexual, and Rand observes of a woman: "She wore clothes only to show she wore nothing underneath." On the other hand, there is plenty of beautiful descriptions of irrelevancies, such as the grill marks on the salmon a woman is cooking. The novel is certainly a worthy read for anyone interested in the art scene, but readers seeking an outcome to care about may want to keep looking.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781579622237
  • Publisher: Permanent Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/1/2011
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

MICHAEL STEIN is the author of five novels. His most recent, In The Age Of Love, was a national Booksense/Indie Reader's Choice selection. His first book of non-fiction, The Lonely Patient: How We Experience Illness, won the 2007 Christopher Award. The New York Times called his second non-fiction book (2009), The Addict: One Patient, One Doctor, One Year, "idiosyncratic, gripping and illuminating." He teaches at Brown University.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Literature and art, a perfect combination

    A literary novel that reads like a painting, Michael Stein's The Rape of the Muse is based on a true art-world rivalry and courtroom drama, but plays out like rich allegory, painted with haunting colors and the passions of man.

    The Rape of the Muse is art-computer art to be exact, built with images layered and altered and bound together in form like a sculpted piece. The artist is a sculptor who's lived in exile (in Providence) since his long-ago triumph on the New York stage. His assistant is a young man who's lost his muse and might be falling for another. And his best friend, greatest ally and strongest supporter is either the quietly supportive wife or the unquiet, commercially savvy Simon Pruhar.

    I could ask all the questions now I suppose-does commercialism rape the muse of true art? Is love the only true muse? And so on. But asking questions feels prurient after reading this novel-better let the reader follow the story, eyes drawn aside by surprisingly powerful descriptions that paint fine art, ears bent to the everlasting argument, thoughts turned to why?

    The two sculptor friends now meet in court, young assistant playing the part of observer, filling in scenes with memories, then searching those remembered scenes for meaning. The muse turns out to be more than she confessed. The uncommunicative child parallels the artist whose vision stalls at man's incomprehension. And the interpretation of image and words shifts and changes. In the end the "truth," if such exists, of libel or allegory lies hidden in the eyes of a courtroom of beholders. The reader, like the observer, moves on, carrying interpretation "in accordance with his own values, beliefs, and lifestyle."

    Of all the books I've read recently, this is the one I'd label as art and recommend most highly to my most artistic friends, a novel filled with parallels real and imagined that leaves the reader breathless.

    Disclosure: I received a free bound galley of this book from the publisher, the Permanent Press, in exchange for an honest review.

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