9781582430638 / 1582430632

Break Every Rule: Essays on Language, Longing, and Moments of Desire





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About the book:

Carole Maso's novels (Ava, The American Woman in the Chinese Hat) have been called postmodern. Avant-garde. You do not devour them, as you might "popular" fiction. You give yourself over to them: to their meanderings, their idiosyncrasies, their eroticisms, their quirky narratives. Maso is tired of the typical New Yorker short story; she bemoans writers' willingness to conform in order to get published; and, yes, she is downright bored by those who think an essay should have "a hypothesis, a conclusion, [and] should argue points." While it is clear from these essays that Maso rails against a white-male publishing establishment, she is not so much a contrarian as simply determined to do it her way--even if she has to move to Europe to escape the influence of others.

From the start, says Maso, "I was never much for ordinary narrative.... Even as a child ... I would wander year after year in and out of our bedtime reading room, dissatisfied by the stories, the silly plot contrivances, the reduction of an awesome complicated world into a rather silly, sterile one." Fiction, she feels, should offer "a place for the random, the accidental, the overheard, the incidental." She sees the novel not as a neat, little self-contained package, but "as a huge, shifting, unstable, unmanageable canvas. Smudged with lipstick, fingerprints, crumpled, tear-stained, many-paged." In these 10 essays, Maso alights on her feelings about language and fiction, the teaching of creative writing ("part of why I'm here is to teach them to be bad, to question, to disobey"), her friendship with the composer Gustave Richter, gay and lesbian writing, and countless other topics. The book meanders. It is idiosyncratic and poetic. No matter your feelings about traditional narrative--and traditional essay form--you can't help but be moved by Maso's ability to live and work outside the lines and by her unbounded passion for language. "When I write sentences I am at home...." says Maso. "In the gloating, enormous strangeness and solitude of the real world, where I am so often inconsolable, marooned, utterly dizzied, all I need do is to pick up a pen and begin to write--safe in the shelter of the alphabet--and I am taken home." --Jane Steinberg

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