An Idiotically Decorated Box

Both intrigued and undecided by Carole Maso’s Ava. A fragmentary novel, which impels with the force of allusion and cadence of the sentences. As with Markson’s fragmentary novels, I am not certain that the fragments cohere sufficiently as a narrative. But I am only two-thirds into Ava and will finish (and then intend to read her Defiance.) I want to capture here a couple of the fragments that accord so neatly with my view of the world I wish that I had written them (I did in my notebook, uncredited, so in a few years time I will think I did!):

No character in Beckett has ever admitted that existence is other than a cruel joke. But here in Company Beckett reaches into a darker dark than he has hitherto plumbed, to ask if the poor jokester didn’t, after all, create us, his joke, to keep his lonely self company? This is a way of asking if in our profound and agonising loneliness we have invented the jokester, God, to keep ourselves company?

And what is company? What have we not done for its sake? For everything human we have made up, beginning with our names. Our laws, our quaint systems of kinship, our cities, our technology, a Victorian clergyman’s carefully researched study of the Sumerian cosmology-fiction all. We’ve made it all up, to hide the mystery in an idiotically decorated box.

4 thoughts on “An Idiotically Decorated Box

  1. I have put all of Maso’s books on my list, because I feel that I’ve been reading “around” her for a few years now. I am very interested in fragmentary novels and how they work or don’t work to ultimately make some kind of narrative. And it’s time to see what I think of her work. (I have a list of these writers I need to get to – including Chris Kraus and Kathy Acker, neither of whom I’ve read yet).

    I am also curious about the book after I saw your tweet over the weekend re: your reaction to her (maybe) eroticizing cancer in the novel. This is tricky ground for a writer (and a reader) so I’m very interested to see how she does it and how I’d react.


    • I thought Ava was beautifully written. From time to time I almost gave up because it only barely coheres as narrative. Unpicking the allusions became a detective story, and it was what got me to the end. I am so glad that I didn’t read the list of sources until after finishing the book.

      Defiance,which I am reading now, is, I think, a far, far more successful novel, bold and thrilling. I’ve got The Art Lover on the way. I’m pretty sure I’ll end up reading all Maso’s books this year.


      • Would you suggest starting somewhere else – for example, starting with Defiance and once I’ve gotten to know her work, go to Ava. My tendency is to start at the beginning, so perhaps I’ll get Ghost Dance first. (I just saw that her latest is published with Counterpoint – that is good news. I do like their catalogue).


        • On the evidence of two books only, I’d suggest it doesn’t matter much with Maso. With the exception of one or two words she clearly enjoys (the interplay/ambiguity of ravishing/ravished), you wouldn’t particularly know that Ava and Defiance were written by the same person.


Leave a Reply to Michelle Cancel reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s