The Art Lover
What is the power of art in the face of death? Traversing the white space of loss and death, The Art Lover shows Carole Maso in exquisite form creating a moving and elegant narrative about a woman experiencing (and reliving) the most painful transitions of her life.
Caroline, the protagonist of this lyrical story, is a writer who has returned to Manhattan to sell the family's apartment after the death of her celebrated art historian father. Through the chaos of complex feelings for her father and mother (dead for twenty-five years, a suicide), Caroline discovers that her best friend is dying of AIDS.
The Art Lover, published in 1990, is groundbreaking in form and content. In the novel, Maso breaks the fictive form by relating a personal experience with a dear friend's death. It is a daring move, startling in its empathetic power. It helps make clear the degree to which art is a necessary bridge between life and the surrealness of death. Maso also uses illustrations to explode the novelistic conventions, and intersperses the narrative with a novel within the novel.
The Art Lover is a novel of reckless love, wild hope, dark hilarity, and devastating sadness. In its inventions, transformations, designs, and cadences, it is also an act of faith, and a testament to redemption.
Heartbreakingly perfect…In The Art Lover Maso's prose is by turns elegiac and colloquial, but always clean and supple, disciplined by an intelligent and finely tuned sensibility.
The San Francisco Chronicle
Though it takes the incoherence of grief as a compositional principle, The Art Lover in its realization is fully coherent, moving and elegiac, a genuine consolation.
The New York Times
As the brokenness of inexplicable grief and loss compel us to rebuild a world of reasons, the stunning and bold brokeness of Carole Maso's The Art Lover fiercely awakens in the reader a desire for wholeness and meaningful integrity. We feel ourselves reconnecting, rebuilding, reinventing the story and, in the process, our shaky notion of reality itself. It is a frightening and healing experience to be the reader of this uncompromisingly honest and passionate book.
The novel becomes like a symphony or a long poem, summoning to a surprising unity every image that has seemed random.
Honor Moore, The Boston Review
[Maso] brings to life a bombardment of images and sounds, fashioning a pattern of astonishing complexity and beauty. The tough-mindedness, originality and wit of her perceptions are intoxicating.
The Art Lover is an aptly rendered portrait of the life of an artist that exposes the act of creation in a poetic and illuminating way. It success as a social document, however, is just as great, for it embeds the problem of the AIDS crisis in the larger picture of society, giving it a place in history and allowing it to stand out in even more stark, jagged, and threatening relief than one could think possible.
The Art Lover is at once a love story, an elegy, a philosophical inquiry and a cry of rage and despair against the human condition.
Carole Maso's second novel moves elegiacally and by collage to chronicle a year—spring 1985 to Spring 1986—of loss. This is a sophisticated, subtly choreographed novel, with the sure steady tone of a threnody.
Review of Contemporary Fiction
The Art Lover is a novel of brutal pain that seems to have been written on air. Acting as a kind of literary cinema verite, Maso's fiction erodes into the real-life event of the death of her closest friend, artist Gary Falk…The Art Lover questions the core of our illusions, of human existence…Maso's writing is whole and steady, and as groundbreaking in style as Cezanne's apples.