“On Unnecessary Women” by Yara Y. Zgheib. ©2015 Yara Y. Zgheib. Published with permission. All rights reserved.

“I glanced at her and took my glasses off—they were still singing. They buzzed like a locust on the coffee table and then ceased. Her voice belled forth, and the sunlight bent. I felt the ceiling arch, and knew that nails up there took a new grip on whatever they touched. ‘I am your own way of looking at things,’ she said. ‘When you allow me to live with you, every glance at the world around you will be a sort of salvation.’ And I took her hand.” —William Stafford, When I Met my Muse  

In his masterpiece of a novel, An Unnecessary Woman, Rabih Alameddine writes, “There are two kinds of people in this world: people who want to be desired, and people who want to be desired so much that they pretend they don’t.” His heroine is a childless, seventy-two year old Beiruti divorcee who, in a small apartment overrun with books, muses on a lonely, unnecessary life that inspired no one and nothing.

Derived from 12th century Old French, the verb to muse is “to reflect, ponder, dream, wonder,”—to be absorbed in thought. At its root, a “muse” is actually a noun; a feminine noun that means divine and artistic inspiration, a protector of creative thoughts.

Once upon an ancient Greek time, Zeus and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, had nine daughters; nine muses, patrons of the arts and sciences. The ancient Romans gave them each a specific task: Calliope was poetry; Clio, history; Erato, art; Euterpe, music; Melpomene, tragedy; Polymnia, hymns; Terpsichore, dance; Thalia, comedy; and Urania, astronomy.

Female, beautiful, elusive, the muse came to represent the object of every man’s desires, and the epitome of every woman’s aspirations. “The muse is a lovely, slender woman with a deathly pale face, lips red as rowan-berries, startlingly blue eyes and long fair hair…” Continue reading »