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The Art Lover (New Directions Classics)

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  460 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
While her father and best friend are dying, a young American woman tries to find the limits of love and the power of art in the face of the inevitable.

What is the power of art in the face of death? In The Art Lover Carole Maso has created an elegant and moving narrative about a woman experiencing (and reliving) the most painful transitions of her life. Caroline, the novel'
Paperback, 260 pages
Published June 17th 2006 by New Directions (first published 1990)
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Dec 04, 2012 Kris rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kris by: Proustitute
This book is true. True to the fragmentation and ragged edges of life. True to all the ways that we open ourselves up to grief when we love another person. True to the ways that we can use art as a shield, a barrier to hold loss and pain at arm's length -- as well as to the ways that art can help us to truly acknowledge tears and heartache among laughter and joy, restoring life to its complex, multidimensional whole.

I know that this is a book I will revisit time and again, when I need to remind
Jan 05, 2013 Brian rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute
To be an artist is to be willing to have your heart broken every day.

In her beautiful ode to loss, Maso perfectly captures the essence of grief and mourning - both public and individual - through a series of interlocking narratives of rich characters and inventive story telling. The result is a stunning, impactful book of dealing with the parts of life none of us wants to ever face but will, inevitably.

There is a portion of the book that rattled my soul: one of the narratives is the story of a f
Laurie Neighbors
Aug 16, 2007 Laurie Neighbors rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. It's my friend. I think it doesn't have that many friends, though. Poor book. I think it's worth trying for, even if you are a little skittish about experimental literature. Plus, it appears to be lonely and in need of friendly reviewers who actually say something about it.

It has art in it. And it's a document of our first fumblings in trying to comprehend AIDS.
Let me amend what I have always thought. I love not things that are certain, but simply things in themselves.
There is a funeral being held for one of my high school friends today. It was one of those friendships wherein neither found much purchase in the other's surrounding friend and/or family group, which contributed to my decision not to attend. Doing so would have required simultaneous grief and intense refueling of barely there social relationships, to the point that any paying of re
Feb 15, 2017 Jenna rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, hiv-aids
"We are nothing but a little bit of solar heat stored up and organized, a reminder of the sun, a little phosphorus burning in the meninges of the world."

-Paul Cezanne, via Impressionism by Paul Courthion, via The Art Lover by Carole Maso

I didn't love this book at first. It initially felt ever-so-slightly frivolous: an exaltation of the lives of pretty, economically secure, bohemian people dithering at artists' colonies. I know writers are always enjoined to "write what you know," but this book i
This is an accomplished book, with moments of intense beauty and sadness about losing someone you love, often tied to artwork interspersed in the pages. (But don't expect quality reproductions.) One of the most prominent is Giotto's "Noli Me Tangere," as well as a Matisse drawing of a woman asleep. The author also brings in this excerpt from a book about Giotto:

"One of Giotto's most poignant figures is that of the Magdalen in Noli Me Tangere. Christ, in his first appearance after resurrection,
Kasey Jueds
Dec 23, 2010 Kasey Jueds rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
There is nobody else like Carole Maso. I'm a huge fan of hers, and though I didn't love Defiance, her most recent novel, I have adored everything else she's written. I'm not sure why I hadn't gotten to The Art Lover until very recently, but I'm so glad I had (unwittingly) saved it. It's a novel... but also part memoir, part novel-within-a-novel, and also a sort of scrapbook, complete with art reviews and maps of the solar system. It's also, to use a couple of overused words, incredibly lyrical a ...more
Melanie Sweeney Bowen
Oct 11, 2010 Melanie Sweeney Bowen rated it it was amazing
I'm at the mid-way point of reading all of Maso's works, and so far, this one stands out as the one that tries the hardest to approximate the healing power of art, bordering on articulating its devastating limitations. I love this book for its specificity of emotion and for its typical Maso meaning-making mechanism of association and repetition. It strikes me as the closest to an artist's statement as you'll get from Maso, and other artists should recognize themselves in it to some extent.
Nov 20, 2011 Megan rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book -- the format, the content, the crazy layering of stories, the combination of poetry and prose and fiction and nonfiction, the images, the repetition of the images, and most of all, its use of visual art with a super solid and powerful emotional center -- is one of the most innovative, beautiful things I have read in a very long time. I am a little bit in awe of Carole Maso.
I first read this book in 1996, when I was 14, and I've read it in two graduate school classes since then. It is absolutely one of my favorite books, and has shaped how I see writing and the possibilities of the novel.

Here are my notes from that first reading: "An absolutely stunning work in EVERY way. Beautiful in its sorrow and style, as well as the mixing of media."
May 03, 2015 Broch rated it it was ok
Shelves: us-lit, women-writers
I guess it is difficult to write about death. It felt too naive, even pretentious at times to keep it in memory
Oct 11, 2009 Julene rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
It was difficult to continue reading this book, I did not follow who was who in the family and there was no plot. I had heard it was a novel written in the form of a poem so I sought it out. What I did not know is the second half of the book is about a man, who seems to have been actual friend of the author, who died from AIDS. As soon as AIDS began to be referred to, when the major character Caroline returns to NYC, my interest started to engage.

This is an 'experimental' novel in many ways. Bo
Aug 13, 2010 Judy rated it it was amazing
The author spent 9 yrs. after college honing her writing skills while she was a part time fencing instructor, a waitress, an artist's model,and did house & cat sitting according to the info I read on the internet. Her father was a jazz musician and her mother an emergency room nurse. All of this and more is reflected in this book. The author's exploration of life and death and the relationships with the arts is beautifully written. The characters in the book and real life happenings such as ...more
Lizzie B.
Jun 23, 2008 Lizzie B. rated it liked it
This turned out to be a very good book. At first I though it was a little overwrought and annoying, but after the first fifty or so pages something happened--either I acclimated to Maso’s prose style or else she toned it down. I’m not sure which. My other initial reservation about this book was that it is written in the "pastiche" style, which I tend not to enjoy. In this case, however, I think the non-written elements were actually quite interesting and accessible (I say accessible only because ...more
Zach VandeZande
Aug 10, 2010 Zach VandeZande rated it it was amazing
Maso is like a highbrow Lorrie Moore, and that's a very good thing. Tight, clever prose, beautifully written female characters, an eagerness to explore the boundaries of storytelling-as-coping-mechanism. There is a core segment in this novel where Maso reveals herself fully that is hard to ignore. Also hard to ignore is the anxiety surrounding an ancillary character's restoration of Jesus' face in da Vinci's Last Supper. What will his revealed expression be? What if there's nothing underneath? T ...more
Feb 24, 2008 Beth rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone dealing with the death of a loved one
This is perhaps the most important book to me in the world. It's therapy for me whenever I'm going through something tough or wondering about the Big Questions. (I was confused when I started reading it, but once I figured out the story-within-a-story-within-a-story thing, it became a lot easier to understand and, thus, to appreciate.)

Maso uses visual art, star charts, torn sections from other books, geometric designs, and more along with her gorgeous prose to create a book that is more than a p
Feb 27, 2013 Dxlyaxe rated it it was amazing
The novel seems very disjointed at first, but with time it becomes easier to see all the connections and implications within the novel. She has a very lyrical style, using language at its highest capacity. This can make the book frustrating at times, some of the connective threads are so fine, it is hard to see or understand them. I'm glad I read this book in a college class where ideas and interpretations could be fleshed out and asked. Maso is a joy to read for sure, but not as an easy read.
Jenn Lee
Aug 22, 2016 Jenn Lee rated it it was amazing
An absolutely gorgeous and provocative narrative that invokes, aches, and pulsates. Each sentence feels hand crafted, intentional, and twists and turns to an unexpected finish. Unparalleled assonance and purposeful and effective repetition, Maso's prose reads like poetry, weaving a gorgeous web of description, heartache, nostalgia, and rage. A beautiful work well worth every one of the five stars awarded.
Sep 08, 2015 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
This text was required reading for my Advanced Seminar in American Studies course at the University of Utah.

A more thought-out review to come later.... A beautiful story about love, loss, fate, and powers that guide us. There ought to be something that language can do. We are writing for our lives, and it is terrifying.

Maso has created a masterpiece of words - a patchwork of people and families created so that we may tell our own stories.
Jan 15, 2008 Amy rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Kelli
An obscure book, but one that is fascinating both in form and subject. Not a traditional novel, it tells three stories that never really come together, mixed with various reproductions of fine art and random fliers. Maso made me think about the lines between fiction and nonfiction, author and narrator, art and kitsch, death and life. Absolutely worthwhile.
Jun 05, 2010 Jackie rated it really liked it
In college we sponsored a reading by Ms. Maso and she chose to read the chapter "more winter"... it was beautiful. I return to this book often, because I find the 'textualization' of photo, painting, newsclips, etc. very interesting. She one one of the first authors I ever saw who used this narrative technique.
Jan 12, 2013 Jenn rated it it was amazing
This book was my first introduction to meta-fiction, read in a postmodern lit class as an undergrad. I wrote 2 papers about it and my original copy of it is marked up in 3 colors. Well worth the read if you're up for multi-layered, surreal and sometimes melancholy storytelling.
Jul 31, 2015 Yahu rated it it was amazing
One of the best books I have read in my life!
Feb 26, 2017 J.I. rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2017
A story of loss. Told as a series of cascading fictions, this story of death and loss and infidelity and friendship probes what it means to tell a story, and why. How loss invites us to borrow into fiction, even if the truth must burble into it somehow.
Nov 27, 2013 Jennifer rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: chicks with daddy issues, experimental lit. groupies
Shelves: lapl
Most of the time this felt too deeply personal and scattered for me to connect with it. Unrelatable, distant. It felt like the writer was in her own cryptic universe and then there was me trying and failing to understand her grief. That I was additionally forced to decipher whether the narrator, her fictionalized character of herself, or Jesus (yes, Jesus) was speaking increased my frustration. There were effortlessly beautiful sections of storytelling, but then they would end abruptly and sudde ...more
Aug 17, 2012 Benjamin rated it liked it
Recommended to Benjamin by: ENG 353
Shelves: poetry
This was one of my assigned readings for my women's writers class from the summer (2012). As you can see, it is September and I'm just finishing it. Truth is, I never read it during the class and still managed a 4.0.

Anyway, this book was very good, except for the fact that there were a lot of plots and characters who all happened to occupy the same pages, but never overlap with their stories. There were obvious parallels between Carol and Caroline, along with the family that Caroline created in
Beth Rosen
Jul 25, 2014 Beth Rosen rated it it was ok
This really wasn't my book. It bounces between two very similar women narrators and their very different childhood families. It seemed to bounce along loosely addressing a "loss of a parent' theme until it focused on her dying friend in New York. Then it found a solid emotional center, but it was just too late for me. By then I had trouble keeping track of the similar characters, and couldn't remember what plot elements went together. By the time she changed the name of the dying friend, I was d ...more
Susan J.
May 26, 2008 Susan J. rated it liked it
I admire Maso for the risks she takes with narrative, but this is more of a study piece than a finished work of art. There are flashes of brilliance in the beginning but ultimately the book falls flat, I think, because she has too lofty of ideals in keeping to the "truth" of representation in the non-fiction sections about her dying friend. She assumes no distance there, which I find amounts to an incognizance of her craft. The later works I've read of hers, AVA and The American Woman in the Chi ...more
Dec 03, 2007 Paul rated it did not like it
Carole Maso actually sat down with one of my lit classes in college to discuss the book. I found the art lover charming at times but simply too scattered to hold my interest. Of course, i read the entire thing in a day so i'd be prepared for the discussion, and steam rolling through a book like this can kind of kill it.

Maso gathered all the news clippings and illustrations from the various nooks and crannies of her daily commutes through New York. if i remember correctly, the decision to start
Jan 09, 2014 patty rated it really liked it
Nonlinear in form, honest in content, loss and grieving in subject. Written before cell phones and the internet entered our lives, but not before AIDS. Almost rated this a five, but the Jesus interludes knocked it down to a four. Looking forward to reading more from this author. This book was likely considered "trendy" in the early 90's. I wouldn't know -- back in those days I only had time to read about two books a year.
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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
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“How I love them. How good they are. They endure endless hours of me talking about the future. They keep me near and at the same time bid me farewell. That is what real love is.” 17 likes
“But sometimes even the sky is dangerous. I look up and see your face in the stars.” 14 likes
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