cover image The Rape of the Muse

The Rape of the Muse

Michael Stein. Permanent, $28 (206p) ISBN 978-1-57962-223-7

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.)