The pages unfold with sentences spaced apart from each other running down the page. An opportunity to join the notes of music in circling closer to what cannot be reached, glimpsed, but gives the artful attempts meaning enough to fill a life.
And in AVA her attending to form, her risk in attending to form, produces a melancholic, pleasant, meditative effect approaching the condition of music. So that the form takes as many risks as the content-- Chrysanthemums. You are a rare bird, Ava Klein.
I happen to really like associational books, books built of fragments and images and repetitions, which build themselves in their accumulation in your head rather than as a linear narrative, and AVA is a classic--a passionate and well-travelled, well-read, sensual woman, a singer, a writer, a teacher of comparative literature, dying at 39 of a rare blood disease, as she dreams back through her life in phrases and images. "Determined to reshape the world according to the dictates of desire--" Other characters include a friend who died of AIDS, Aldo, a fellow singer; Anatole, her French second husband, whose child she miscarried; Carlos, a very young Spaniard who she married on a whim; her current lover Danilo, a novelist, Czech or Polish, the worrier. "Danilo laments the U.S.A. He says we have forgotten how to be American." There are also a host of women whose separate identities are are less clear though no less beloved; Carlos' mother (grandmother?) Ana Juiia and her satin shoes that someone steals; Marie claude and Emma--Anatole's mother perhaps? Marie-Claude and Emma and Anatole and me, smiling in the bright light and so much sea, in the room called Joie de Vivre." And the images and voice of her mother, a survivor of Treblinka, who in turn meditates on her own family, her sister Sophie who did not survive the camps. There are lines from other writers throughout, including Eliot and Paul Celan and Lorca, as well as refrains of feminist thinkers Monique Wittig and Helene Cixous and the overarching figure of Collette.
But here in Company Beckett reaches into a darker dark than he has hitherto plumbed, to ask if the poor jokester didnt, after all, create us, his joke, to keep his lonely self company? Beckett in Company connects these two points of existential helplessness. But the fragments and the staccato bursts of memory (and letters, and sensations) build over the course of the book to sketch out Ava's life. It is (much like the other Maso book I've read) at times deeply erotic, at others it is melancholy, or anguished, but at the end it seems to be at peace.
Digesting this framework is somewhat like reading David Marksons prose, offering up a mixture of story and event, trivia and quotations, and a healthy dose of confusion within the prior two to build a story that is unique to each reader based on their experiences in literature and life. Unlike Markson who tends to hard attribute his trivia/quotations to create a very literature-oriented experience (a damned fantastic one too) and confusion between fact and fiction, Maso rarely attributes her collage-like use of excerpts, constructing a dreamscape of literature, the academic world, and the life of Ava Klein. In Ava you are rarely told this is an allusion (which Markson handles in a very unique way to play with the readers expectations of truth really, go read him), but instead are left to process the information freely so these streams of textual information (in Masos own words) in no way interrupt the trance of the text.
Ava Klein sits in her hospital bed waiting to dieas she reflects on her life, her loves, her travels, she captures the beauty of those halcyon days in a way that avoids the destructive idealizing of nostalgia, rather, she presents them as they are but in sensory snippets that bounce off one another, recur, trigger other thoughts, dreams, memories.
S. Eliot, Robbe-Grillet, Sarraute, Max Frisch, and Beckett to acknowledge their influence and to signal the novel's genre, but these references never distract from the narrative flow and are in character with Ava Klein's "passionate and promiscuous" reading habits. I read the rest of the work almost in one sitting, and when I finished I wept for Ava Klein, for the beauty of Maso's language, for the beauty of life, and for mortality -- my own and that of the whole living world.
at first i thought the comparisons to david markson might have just been superficial and based solely on the format, but the similarities go deeper: both writers play with this kind of cyclical repetition of phrases/ideas that works toward building a character's full consciousness.
This is the most extreme of that style, but she does it in almost all of her books - at least the four or five that I've read.
Her best known novel is probably Defiance, which was published in 1998.