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AVA

4.16 of 5 stars 4.16  ·  rating details  ·  462 ratings  ·  43 reviews
From her hospital bed on this, her last day on earth, she makes one final ecstatic voyage. People, places, offhand memories, and imaginary things drift in and out of Ava's consciousness and weave their way through the narrative. The voices of her three former husbands emerge: Francesco, a filmmaker from Rome; Anatole, lost in the air over France; Carlos, a teenager from Gr ...more
Paperback, 220 pages
Published May 1st 2002 by Dalkey Archive Press (first published 1993)
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55th out of 71 books — 29 voters
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56th out of 145 books — 48 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 981)
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Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Despite my abiding interest in extending he language of film, I find that people tend to pay more attention to the content--perhaps out of a longstanding, misguided notion that women, unlike men, are more concerned with content than with form.

Which is the reason I admire Carole Maso so much. And in AVA her attending to form, her risk in attending to form, produces a melancholic, pleasant, meditative effect approaching the condition of music. Perhaps one is tempted to say poetry, but in truth her
...more
Michael
Carole Maso's novel is absolutely stunning. The language is beautiful and clearly demonstrates her mastery of the rhythms of English. An experimental novel close in spirit to "le noveau roman", Ava paints a portrait of Ava Klein in words as she drifts between past and present in her last day of life. Maso gives nods to Virginia Woolf, T. 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 f ...more
Fluffy Singler
I will probably never finish this book. Not because I don't like it or because it's difficult, but because every time I pick it up, I put it down after a short while and go into a reverie about it. I love the non-linear style and one thing about all of Maso's books is the way they keep folding back in on themselves, returning to an earlier place. 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. She's a beautiful author ...more
Jason
Dec 17, 2012 Jason added it
Shelves: read-2010
A professor of comparative literature is dying. This is her life. I suppose the best way to put this is imagine someone's life as a massive crystal ball that is hurled to the ground and broken up into minute pieces. The majority of it is picked up and thrown away. What remains of the shards is something mixed up and confusing, but still part of the whole. This is how Ava is told, a series of sometimes just sentences, sometimes paragraphs, sometimes repeating, sometimes being similar.

The effect i
...more
Melanie Sweeney Bowen
This is my favorite book, rivaled only by her first novel, Ghost Dance. I read AVA in a class last semester, and it was the first book I had ever read that matched my own experience of loss and fear of death and a pure love for life -- not through the plot, but the fragmented, lyrical style in which it was written. Maso captures so accurately the thought process of a passionate mind. Through Ava, she earnestly attempts to articulate a love for the world that would probably be sentimental coming ...more
Zach VandeZande
A stream-of-consciousness novel/poem about a woman dying from a rare blood disease. The language is sanguine and beautiful and sad all at once, with the knowledge that Ava Klein will die at the last word of the last page giving each sentence a kind of poignancy that a standard narrative probably could not. Evocative of Woolf at her best, and definitely not for a reader who longs for each thread to tie up nicely at the end, the book is full of starkly beautiful sentences that struggle with what w ...more
Sherry Hays
This book truly touched my heart in a way I have difficulty describing. I find it hard to write this review without revealing too many details. It is a story of a woman who is dying, and it is her last day on earth. The words are her thoughts as the day progresses. It is a beautiful, circular mantra that reveals the details of her life slowly, lyrically. Reading this book is really visceral for me. I read it for the first time while in college -- but I have come back to it so many times since th ...more
Bridget
Ava is like floating through rolling hills of memory and dream. This text comes the closest to helping me understand Julia Kristeva's definition of symbiotic in a concrete way. The reader feels this text--experiences it with all five senses--maybe even a sixth. Take your time with this book. Don't move through it, but rather let it move through you. You will be grateful you made time for Maso's extraordinary relationship with language.
Phil
I think my take on it is very different from others'.

The lady (Ava) is dying. Now on her deathbed, she wanders through her web of memories, ostensibly bringing moments of “beauty” and “love” and “life” and “loss” to the surface.

In reality, she appears to be searching for some sort of legitimacy for her life. It was a life spent in near-uniform comfort, little real struggle. Many “love” affairs. Much art and knowledge (none of it of her own creation). Myriad “beautiful” memories, but little of ac
...more
Kimberly Ann
It took me awhile to get into this book because I shouldn't have read what it said on the cover about the book. One blurb advised reading this book slowly "with pleasure" (or something)-- the way that the fragments were on the page with lots of white space made me want to read it quickly. And I found also that if I tried to read it slowly, the narrative that emerged from the fragmented thoughts, memories, anecdotes, etc. seemed more piecemeal. Reading it quickly, the way I wanted to read it and ...more
Noelani
Oct 28, 2014 Noelani marked it as to-read
I was frustrated by this book as a freshman in college who had to read it for a class, and never even finished. I actually had two copies of the book but donated both of them after the class was over, in my aforementioned frustration. But I love unconventional forms of storytelling, and I have a feeling that I would appreciate this book a LOT more now than I did then. Hoping to pick it up at my local used bookstore sometime soon so I can give it another go.
robert
This is not an easy book, a fragmented novel - the consciousness of a single character on their last day on earth - made up of short blocks of text separated by white space. It is very much up to you to put the blocks together to weave the strands of Ava's life. It's very much non-linear, often without attributions and sentence subjects.

But I do think it's worth it. There's a lot of beauty in this book, an attention to sensual detail, and to sex. The relation of the body to the text, to not hav
...more
Kristin
Great novel in verse. I love the experimental narrative and its fragmented nature. I also love all of the white space.

What was disappointing to me is that although white space was used very well throughout--between disjointed lines and paragraphs--there was no breathing room. I'm okay with this in a shorter piece, but when reading a 200-page novel, even if it is fragmented, I still need to have the ability to stop.

Form is a function of content, but one continuous disjointed narrative, as far as
...more
Diana Higgins
I was geared up for experimental, I really was. I had read that this wasn't linear and I thought I could handle it. I picked it up, read two pages and couldn't shake the feeling that I was being had.

Maybe I am inadequate as a reader. Maybe I'll have to try this again one day and just plow through it and it'll all fall in place.

(But... I had it out on my couch for a few days after I'd given up and every single person who idly picked it up and started reading started to laugh. The consensus seems
...more
Leilani Clark
What an achingly beautiful book. The kind of prose that makes me happy I am human, that reminds me of the moments in life that are so perfect, yet so ineluctable at the time of experience. The entire novel takes place on the last day of Ava Klein's life. She is dying of a rare blood disorder at 39, and Maso recreates the images that course through Ava's mind as she moves between this plane to the next. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes experimental, beautiful prose. Anyone who loves lo ...more
Myriam
So, I own several copies of this book and have given some away and, no, I'm not willing to swap any of those remaining...I first read this book in the mid-nineties and have read it many times since. This is an experience, a song cycle, an epic poem, a novel without a beginning or end, all center. The story of a woman, not all that old, or all that young, dying, remembering and remaining alive to herself and to her others in shards of memory. It is what Debussy meant when he said that music exist ...more
twrctdrv
Consisting mostly of single line paragraphs, all separated by blank lines, this novel is not just one of the simplest, most pleasurable reads (not in little part because of the language of the piece, so often described at musical), but also one of the fullest. I could review it based solely on its handling of death or of travel or of life or of creativity or of appropriation or of meaning or of so on, each filling up paragraphs, but that would spoil the book. It's something to be read, not read ...more
Martin Koerner
Realistically this is close to a five star book but I'd sooner withhold my generosity. Superb, though. I sit here in contemplation.
sarah rouan
this is an incredible book of disjointed memories and conversations remembered by a woman on her deathbed.

"The way her voice rises to say, Such gorgeous Sun! And the way the light hit both of them at a certain hour in the garden seat that swung back and forth and back and forth. The smell of herbs. And he slowly moving his hand up my leg, through lace when the women retired from the heat. A lizard. A cat. An orange poppy."
Brianna
"Ava" is an absolutely beautiful book. Though it's difficult to riddle out and figure out how to talk about it, the imagery and the emotion within its pages are both breath-taking. Well worth the read, but requiring a mite bit of patience, and enough time to tackle large chunks at a time, or you'll never notice the leitmotif. Absolutely gorgeous.
Megan
i often loved this book but had a hard time with the bourgie-ness of its main character/narrator - maybe i am misreading ava's cosmopolitanism as bourgeois but in any case i resented it. it's beautifully written, yes. i prefer crudeness. also, too many men. i prefer women.
maybe i only want to read books about myself. is that true? gosh.
Nan
Wonderful book that puts you completely inside the head of a woman as she breathes through her last day on earth. References tons of stuff, including my beloved Tennessee Wms and Beckett. Reminded me of a female version of Krapp's Last Tape, but tons more expansive. Celebratory, sensual, beautiful, a real keeper.
Laura
Not what I would consider a novel, rather a book of poetry. One might lose his or her mind trying to read it as a novel. No sentence connected with the next. It was an interesting concept, but I just didn't like reading a whole book in that style. It was required reading for my fiction writing class.
Ginger
This very avante garde writing. At first I thought the book began with a poem. Then I realized that it was like some of journal entries and that's how it continued.

Memories - things long forgotten or just suddenly remembered. They may or may not connect to others, but they do to us. I liked this one.
David
Ava is a non-traditional novel that focuses on the sentence. Rather than a structured plot, there are layers of thoughts that build up to a life. It's an amazing read if one is able to discard notions of convention. Different, deep, and definitely unforgettable.
Katie McCleary
Oct 25, 2007 Katie McCleary rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poets and beauticians
If you want to hold the gorgeous heartbreaking nature of life close to your chest breathe, then this book will make you an addict of all those moments in life we want to hold forever. A dying woman's last day on earth through poetry, cyclical rhythms, and memory.
Tuck
when you start this novel you may think, damn, this isn't going to be any fun watching this woman die in this bed. but it is completely redeeming and so beautiful to listen to her talk about her life. i guess my idea is that she had to die to tell me her story.
Sara
God how I would have loved this in college; reading it now reminded me how much my tastes have changed. Although AVA remains structurally interesting and contains some stunning sentences this is indulgent overwriting at its best (or worst).
Doug
Never knew spare fiction could be so rich. Great experimentation with structure. The starkness of the sentences as set apart emphasizes both the loneliness and the emotional intensity of Ava's experience.
Niels
One of the first genuine experimental novels I read and it left its traces in my writing afterwards. The book is fragmented with enough white between the sentences to follow your own thread.
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Carole Maso is a contemporary American novelist and essayist, known for her experimental, poetic and fragmentary narratives often labeled as postmodern. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from Vassar College in 1977. Her first published novel was Ghost Dance, which appeared in 1986. Her best known novel is probably Defiance, which was published in 1998. Currently (2006) she is a professor ...more
More about Carole Maso...
The Art Lover: A Novel (New Directions Classics) The American Woman in the Chinese Hat Break Every Rule: Essays on Language, Longing, and Moments of Desire Ghost Dance Defiance

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“After sex, after coffee, after everything there is to be said --
The hovering and beautiful alphabet as we form our first words after making love.
And somehow I'm still alive.”
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