Guide The Masters Muse: A Novel

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Ballet linked us to other cultures and other times, through its history. And as living dancers, we carried the past into the future. Any whimsical moments are quickly balanced by a cruel or unflinching thought. In , while touring with the company, Tanny contracts polio and finds she will never walk again. My legs: my weapons, my wings. Now there was time for everything: the fascination of the ballet itself, flowers, love, how the days opened out long and bright like a scarf.

Back in the room, steam clung to the brocaded wallpaper, making the walls look swollen. My thigh had this hitch, getting in bed. Some said it took so long to become evident because I was strong. Others said the severity of my case resulted from my exertion during the incubation period. Saturday blurred. I was feverish. It is the repetition—the thousands of repetitions for each single motion you execute on a stage—that carries you through.

I got through the matinee. My back ached. Dear Betty, our company manager, brought me a thick rug and one of the long metal heaters, a Danish delight! I must have slept. George opened the door in pitch-dark. The light. I drew my arm across my eyes. You care? I thought. I sat up. I shook my head. His strong lean body. But it was part of his sweetness, and I needed that. His parents left him as a child at the Imperial School. They shaved his head. Brought back, he secluded himself, playing piano. But one day he had looked through a keyhole at older dancers, three ballerinas at practice, and he saw something interesting.

It appealed to his intelligence. They looked as though they were solving a puzzle. He thought he could do it. He liked it. He gave himself to it and it saved him. So, Rat.

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The Master’s Muse: A Novel

My Rat. He pulled back. I washed, redid my makeup, and crosshatched my slippers. I danced. I stood in the wings pretending it was a hot summer day. I knocked wood and went through the door, stepping into the white silk room drifting as if from a breeze—fans blowing backstage—against the blue cyclorama of sky. Such bliss: lifts, sudden surges, flicking my hair off my neck. Toward the end, Jacques kissed my cheek. My hand touched the spot.

Soon came the applause. I listened that day. As I rested limply in my dressing room the sickness took me, traveling through me and pushing out of my pores, spilling heat that seemed to glow and settle like sand on the mirror, the lights, the brushes, the tube of greasepaint on my dressing room table, my costumes, those skins hanging on their glowing wires.

I sank to the edge of a chair, too weak to do more than pick up my robe, could not even put it around my sore shoulders. Hearing a voice in the hallway, I called to it, any voice, told it to bring George, and he came. Mother creamed my face back at the hotel. Nothing helped. I asked who was dancing for me tonight.

Otherwise it was just ache and time and the swollen flocking on the wallpaper turning to fanciful shapes—orchid, pinwheel, a rabbit scampering onto the dresser.

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George leaned over me and I nearly retched at the scent of vodka on his breath—crossing the Atlantic from Paris to New York, I was three, Mother was seasick, and I saw again her green face, her pale lips, Oh, gods —she rocked in the berth— curse the odor of onion soup. George was out on the balcony having a cigarette. Morning light, hazed by the drab day, filled the room like dirty dishwater.

The Master's Muse: A Novel - Varley O'Connor - Google книги

What was yesterday? I got sick. I must be better. Letting him smoke, I sat up. I pulled off the cover. I tested my toes. Ache, though. It was still there. The heavy left thigh was heavier. So was the right. Try again. No response. When I spoke, my tone was steady. I was too disoriented to panic. It was all too odd. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion.

We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book. Introduction It is often said, behind every great man, there is a great woman. In the case of celebrated and esteemed choreographer George Balanchine, there were several.

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How does their inability to dance or collaborate together after Tanny contracts polio affects their relationship? My legs: my weapons, my wings. What would be most difficult to have taken away from you?

The Master's Muse A Novel

How does she love each of them and how does each of these men affect her life—for better or worse? At a few different points in the narrative, Tanny reflects on the different versions of herself. After Tanny decides not to take her own life, she believes that George really would have helped her to end it if she wanted to.

Do you agree? Do you think he ever even got the pills? Why or why not? To people you know? How do her feelings about Diana differ from the way she feels about Suzanne? Why do you think George and Tanny stayed together as long as they did? When visiting George in the hospital, Tanny confides in him that she should have married Carl because it was what he wanted; it was something she could have done for him. Is that enough of a reason to marry someone? Why do you think she was resistant to the idea when Carl first brought it up? Is it Tanny? What do you take away from this title having now read the book?

Enhance Your Book Club 1. Tanny developed a passion for cooking, and even put together The Ballet Cookbook, which was published in Choose from dozens of authentic and delicious looking recipes at www. Luckily, the polio vaccine has made cases today almost nonexistent. To get a better understanding of the virus and its history, visit www. What interests you about the topic and made you want to write about it in two separate books? My father contracted polio as a child, when he was three. His entire childhood was about braces and surgeries and, finally, beginning to walk again.

But the journey shaped his personality. His polio made me curious about how illness and disability determines who people become, in positive as well as negative ways. My father had a tremendous power of will, as Tanny does. What attracted you to Tanaquil Le Clercq as a narrator for a novel? She became a huge international star, married one of the most famous men of her time, and then she was suddenly crippled.

I thought readers would be fascinated to hear what it was like to live a life of such extremes.


I certainly was as I delved into research, especially interviews she gave and stories people told about her. Describe the experience of creating a work of fiction about real people. What were the challenges and how was it different than the experience of writing any of your other novels?

I had to do a lot of research, but I like research. What was hardest was digesting the research. That way, the facts came through organically in the story. Or I hope they do. She was the person who originally drew me to the story, and I learned that she never wrote a memoir. So I wanted this to be her story. I tried to write the book of her life she never wrote. How did you go about your research for this novel? Because there was no memoir or biography about Tanny, the facts were scattered over many resources. It was quite a job connecting the dots! Harder were the parts in the novel when Tanny is alone.

Carl, for instance, is an invented character. Was there ever a time in the course of writing this book that you wished you could change the facts? Did you find that history or truth ever got in the way of good storytelling? I became so fond of my main characters that I wished Tanny and George would have gotten back together. I had to find ways to make the facts work dramatically. I knew very early in the process where it would begin and end. For me, the polio was a sort of refining fire for both Le Clercq and Balanchine.

It reshaped them in many ways, as individuals and as a couple. He helped her through her illness, and she helped him through his. What kind of ending might you have given George and Tanny if you could have written their real story? I have no idea.

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What are you working on next? Do you have any new projects coming up? There are two main characters, a young girl and a woman. It also involves illness and fame. And, at least for the woman character in the story, it is also driven by romantic passion. If you could ask Tanaquil Le Clercq one question, what would it be?

I hope she would like the novel.

I did everything in my power to write a book true to her essence and her world. See All Customer Reviews. Shop Books. Read an excerpt of this book! Add to Wishlist. USD 4. Sign in to Purchase Instantly. Overview An exquisite, unforgettable novel about the true love affair between two artistic legends: George Balanchine, the choreographer widely considered the Shakespeare of dance, and his wife and muse, Tanaquil Le Clercq.