Ava Klein, thirty-nine, lover of life, world traveler, professor of comparative literature, is dying. 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 Granada. The ways people she loved expressed themselves in letters or at the beach or at the moment of desire return to her. There is Danilo, her current lover, a Czech novelist, and others, lovers of one night, as she sings the endless, joyous, erotic song cycles of her life, because "Dusk and the moment right before shapes are taken back is erotic. And the dark."
The voices of her literary loves as well are woven into the narrative: Woolf, Eliot, Nabokov, Beckett, Sarraute, Lorca, Frisch, among others. These writers comment on and help guide us through the text. We hear the voices of her parents, who survived the Treblinka death camp, and of her Aunt Sophie, who did not. War permeates the text, for on Ava Klein's last day Iraq has invaded Kuwait. And above all we hear Ava's voice. Hers is the voice of pleasure, of astonishment, the voice of regret, the voice of gratitude as she moves closer and closer to the "music that is silence."
AVA is an attempt, in the words of French feminist philosopher Helene Cixous, "to come up with a language that heals as much as it separates." The fragments of the novel are combined to make a new kind of wholeness, allowing environments, states of mind, and rhythms not ordinarily associated with fiction to emerge. AVA's theme is the poignancy of mortality, the extraordinary desire to live, the inevitability of death—the things never done, never understood, the things never said, or said right, or said enough. Ava yearns and the reader yearns with her, struggling to hold on to all that slips away.
AVA, Carole Maso's third novel, is that rare event, a formal literary experiment that is also compelling as a work of fiction. Maso is a writer of such power and originality that the reader is carried with her far beyond the usual limits of the novel. . . . Maso's voice is all her own: simultaneously cerebral and sensual, violently romantic and insistently woman-centered.
San Francisco Chronicle
Lovely . . . the product of a rigorous and imaginative formal intelligence.
Voice Literary Supplement
What [Virginia Woolf] did for the prose rhythm of the paragraph, Maso has done for the sentence. . . [AVA] is to be read slowly, with great pleasure.
Poetic, rapturous. . . . Like a piece of music, AVA uses repetition and thematic layering to create a shimmering, impressionistic portrait that eschews linear narrative in favor of the sensations aroused by resonant imagery.
New York Times Book Review
Presents heartbreakingly familiar emotions in an utterly original form.
Richly textured. . . . Maso has written another spellbinder.
Maso's third novel is a moving, symphonic testimony to the meanings that memory, desire, and life acumulate. . . . An erotic and moving book, AVA reconfirms Maso's reputation as one of our most refined and daring novelists.
Give Carole Maso and her publisher an A for audacity. . . . [AVA] reads like poetry.
Los Angeles Times Book Review
AVA is unique in its blend of prose, poetry, critical theory, and narrative. Maso has created a collage that further blurs the distinction between fiction and poetry and between the modern and the postmodern. Like Pound, she sets ideas and images against one another without drawing narrative connections, encouraging the reader to act as equal participant in constructing images, characters, scenes from Ava's life, and theory from music, literature, and the visual arts.
American Book Review
What is remarkable, unlikely, and therefore utopic about Ava is the extent to which war, urban violence, disease (especially AIDS), and consumerism have failed to dull her own ability to "throb.": . . . Ava is a dream of undamage and therefore an image of resistance to the flattening of experience by "administered life." . . . We are provided . . . with the seductive whispering of Ava's voice as she caresses for the last time both memory and the moment.