In times of crisis, people tend to read “lighter,” beach-type novels or crime stories to take their minds off the situation they are dealing with. Happily for me, I began reading Miranda Seymour’s enchanting biography, Robert Graves: Life on the edge, without the slightest idea what fate was about to toss my way.
Neither the life of the poet, Robert Graves, nor his biography are light affairs, but they are intriguing and spellbinding. These qualities made me continue reading, even when the world I’d known around me no longer made sense. For the time I was reading, I was so immersed in Grave’s reality that I forgot about anything else. Just as Graves spent a substantial amount of time on the Island of Mallorca, so I spent my time on the island of his reality.
And what a reality it was! Shaped by his experience of growing up in an ultra conservative family, of going off to war, of marrying early and trying to make ends meet as a poet. The fabric of his existence was interwoven with the lives of his muses: women who, for a time, exerted special powers over him and his exquisite love poetry. Their power extends way beyond his life and enters the textual realm of the book: the author cleverly uses their names to name the parts or chapters in the book, thus creating a silent yet powerful dynamic between the poet and the muses: even though the biography describes the poet’s life, they’re the ones who are in control of his life and of the way we, the readers, perceive him, at least partly through their eyes.
In my non-reading reality, it seems that the worst is over and that my mom will live and recover. But this time period in my life will for ever be linked to the ability of Robert Graves and his muses to draw me into their own world and, for a time, take my mind off the sadness. And for that, I’m eternally grateful to Miranda Seymour, the great author, the muse under whose power the book was created.
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