Break Every Rule
Essays from the standard bearer for experimental belles lettres.
With joy, verve, and irreverence Carole Maso dreams in these essays of the place where language and form might set one free--free of borrowed or inherited shapes, free of prescribed, the formulaic--a place where a blank page or a screen shimmers before one, beckons and anything is possible. Accuse me if you like of overreaching. Refusing to be marginalized or categorized by genre, Maso is an incisive, compassionate writer and pioneer in combining poetry and fiction with criticism, journalism, and the visual arts. Known for her audacity, whether exploring language and memory or the development of the artistic soul, Maso here gives us a form-challenging collection, intelligent, and persuasive.
An original and compelling exploration of narrative strategies, highly recommended.
The strength of Maso's latest book Break Every Rule comes in its desire to enable writers and readers to move forward…Maso poses questions intended to loosen the straps that limit our writing and reading…Smart, witty, filled with risk and velocity Break Every Rule is a strong essay collection, one very useful both to those interested in Maso and to those interested in the possibilities of writing. It proves that Maso remains a writer—one of the very few—who continues to write on her own terms, who is genuinely interested in provoking others to do the same.
Maso rages on. Breaking the rules, stretching genres, introducing an erratic and stunning body of work. She invents, one book at a time, the viable future of fiction she so irreverently calls for. With vulnerability and strength, she challenges the boundaries of "twenty-six figures of fire" - our language.
Review of Contemporary Fiction
Line by line I have tried to get closer to an erotic language...and enter a sexual reverie on the level of language. Thus Maso, author of six novels (Ghost Dance; Defiance) and a powerful presence in the New York literary world, describes her critical/creative project of ecstatic criticism in this latest offering. Defying generic distinctions like personal essay, critical theory, poetry and autobiography, Maso provides readers with 10 pieces that, on one level, are freewheeling in style and content and, on another level, are deeply focused and agenda-driven. Maso, who is from Paterson, N.J., considers herself a daughter of William Carlos Williams and Allen Ginsberg, although the guiding presence of Gertrude Stein seems stronger throughout, especially in a piece such as "A Novel of Thank You" (written "for Gertrude Stein"): a meta-novel, an outline for a yet-to-be written novel, including lines of thanks to Stein for your freedoms. Released at last from the prisons of syntax. Story. Maso's is writing that goes out on a stylistic limb.
The pieces in Break Every Rule describe Maso's struggle to defend her voice and the artistic underpinnings of her trademark poetic prose style. Yet to call it simply 'style' is a disservice: Maso, acutely aware of her identity as woman, lesbian and defier of convention, is after far more…Maso is engaged in the effort to discover a new way of writing that is ruthlessly honest and fundamentally female. Anyone interested in fictional form will find these meditations rewarding.
San Francisco Chronicle
In these ten essays Carole Maso explores the limitless possibilities of language to awaken the senses and open the mind to new levels of thought and creativity. Throughout the essays, she frequently quotes her cultural heroes - Woolf, Stein, Susan Howe, Jean-Luc Godard, Tarkovsky, etc; she employs her trademark repetition of line (a form of the sentence as incantation); and, as with the Stein essay, she shows by example the liberating power of lyric prose. Momentum builds in the collection, slowly creating an ecstatic, Ginsbergian howl - let fully loose in the final piece - which decries the conventional and challenges the reader and writer alike to break every rule, as a way of saving oneself, a way to artistic salvation, to freedom. Reading these intelligent and impassioned essays is an exhilarating experience. And the message - so loud and clear and so necessary in this market-driven world - is nowhere better expressed, better sung, than it is here. Essential reading.