Beauty Is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo
Carole Maso (Author)
Description"Maso's incantatory description of her conjured-up subject's embrace takes on extraordinary power . . . Like Frida Kahlo's painting--impossible to look away from." --Kai Maristed, Los Angeles Times At the age of eighteen, Frida Kahlo's life was transformed when the bus in which she was riding was hit by a trolley car. Pierced through by a steel handrail and broken in many places, she entered a long period of convalescence during which she began to paint self-portraits. A vibrant series of prose poems, Beauty Is Convulsive is a passionate meditation on Frida Kahlo, one of the twentieth century's most compelling artists. Carole Maso brings together pieces from Kahlo's biography, her letters, medical documents, and her diaries to assemble a text that is as erotic, mysterious, and colorful as one of Kahlo's paintings.
December 03, 2019
5.5 X 0.6 X 8.2 inches | 0.45 pounds
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About the Author
CAROLE MASO is the author of ten books: Ghost Dance, The Art Lover, AVA, The American Woman in the Chinese Hat, Defiance, Aureole, Break Every Rule, The Room Lit by Roses, Beauty Is Convulsive, and Mother & Child. She has received numerous awards, including the Berlin Prize and the Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction. Maso is currently a professor of Literary Arts at Brown University.
Praise for Beauty is Convulsive A Chicago Review of Books Best Book of the Month "Maso's incantatory description of her conjured-up subject's embrace takes on extraordinary power . . . like Frida Kahlo's painting--impossible to look away from." --Kai Maristed, Los Angeles Times "Maso repeatedly cites Rivera's description of Kahlo's art as ascetic and tender, hard as steel and fire and delicate as a butterfly's wing, adorable as a beautiful smile and profound and cruel as life's bitterness. Without a doubt, one might apply these same words to Maso's precise and poetic prose, which brims with emotion, imagination, intelligence, and beauty." --Trey Strecker, Review of Contemporary Fiction "An utter original, one of the true and plangent voices in American writing." --Mary Gordon, author of There Your Heart Lies "[A] consistently inventive writer. Maso's prose has generated wide respect, making this an important purchase for libraries with literary fiction collections." --Carolyn Kuebler, Library Journal "There's been more than enough written on Kahlo to fill bookstore display tables. This . . . may be one of the best." --Publishers Weekly "Maso, a highly original writer, distills her contemplation of Kahlo's indelible paintings and vital diaries and letters into a supple, discerning, and haunting prose poem, a biographical meditation that elegantly charts Kahlo's epic resiliency, artistic daring, unrelenting suffering, soul-saving 'sense of the ridiculous, ' and glorious defiance. Maso's spare yet lyric tribute, a genuine communion, is a welcome antidote to the mawkishness and sensationalism that is starting to blur our appreciation for Kahlo's pioneering art and incandescent spirit." --Donna Seaman, Booklist Praise for Ghost Dance "An exquisitely written and ambitious first novel." --New York Times Book Review "Although author, Carole Maso follows the contours of fiction, style is everything in Ghost Dance, a strangely lovely and perplexing book, a dazzling pyrotechnical display of word arrangements and sentence sculpting . . . Maso has a fine ear and her literary gift is impressive." --San Francisco Chronicle "Intensely demanding and rewarding . . . I can't remember a more striking depiction of madness, or the labyrinth family ties." --Los Angeles Times "Obsessive memories, both real and surreal, recur as a young girl tries to overcome the grief of losing her mother. A wonderfully delicate first novel." --Vogue "Its great scenes are orchestral." --E.M. Broner, The Women's Review of Books "In this irresistible first novel we hear a new voice, artistic, distinct and very female. " --Rocky Mountain News "There were many, many moments in this story when I felt like Vanessa herself, standing open-mouthed as small acts of great beauty unrolled before me." --Gay Community News "It is a beautiful and painful book because it says in incomparable language, the truth: that there can be no accommodation, that life is difficult and love even more so, that it will not be fine but still we live. The implicit hope throughout is that we will understand our lives, we will be the best we can be. We will be brave. We will say what we mean to say." --Helen Barolini, Belles Lettres "Carole Maso is that rare creature--an original! Her voice and vision are like no one else's. From the first page to the last of this meticulously written novel she strikes her own note: elegiac, epic. Never does she tell her story in a straightforward narrative way, but nevertheless her story gets told, mysteriously, indelibly." --Edmund White, author of Our Young Man "Ghost Dance is at once history, myth, family chronicle, and an extremely original evocation of that elusive meeting ground of creativity and hallucination. Its prose is like poetry, it is an inspiring first novel." --John Hawkes, author of An Irish Eye "Comparable more to musical than to literary forms, this first novel resembles a tone poem: its whispering minor-key passages rush suddenly into sexual ecstasy and return to, vary and enlarge upon the agonizing theme of death... these vignettes of anger and fear and searching are in the end the author's lyric expression of love." --Publishers Weekly "Immaculately written . . . A stunning debut." --Booklist "This haunting, often surreal first novel vividly captures the struggles of a young woman, Vanessa Turin, as she attempts to recover her family and her past...Unconventional and intense, this novel tells a harrowing tale of the human search for love and understanding." --Library Journal Praise for Break Every Rule "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 "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." --Rain Taxi "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 "An original and compelling exploration of narrative strategies, highly recommended." --Mary Gordon, author of There Your Heart Lies "Maso's is writing that goes out on a stylistic limb." --Publishers Weekly "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." --Barcelona Review Praise for Mother & Child "Gorgeously written." --Kirkus Reviews "There is lyricism and then there's Carole Maso's lyricism. In her first novel since 1998's Defiance, each evocative sentence is an incantation that embraces the reader and refuses to let go. Maso's surreal exploration of the fraught mother-daughter bond (complete with magical journeys and mysterious creatures) should be read in the afternoon shade, when you can savor each line." --Publishers Weekly Praise for The Room Lit By Roses "Maso gives us a beautiful and surprising guided tour of creation . . . Turning biology and chemistry into poetry, she celebrates every microscopic development . . . The result, The Room Lit by Roses, provides a glimpse into an invisible world." --Village Voice "She renders the wonder and agony of childbirth and the glimpse of eternity in every newborn in searing, often sublime prose." --San Francisco Chronicle "Amazingly right on, Maso's stream-of-consciousness musings about brand-new motherhood--especially the tumult of emotions that follow a birth--blew this brand-new mother away." --Utne Reader "Maso's take on this journey is enchanting." --Rain Taxi "The Room Lit by Roses is one woman's heartfelt account of one of life's greatest moments and can be shared by those who have experienced it and those who haven't with the same degree of excitement and bittersweet wonder." --Jana Siciliano, Bookreporter Praise for Defiance "Forthright and uncompromisingly provocative . . . risky, vibrant, and vitally intelligent." --The Boston Book Review "Maso is a writer of such power and originality that the reader is carried away with her, far beyond the usual limits of the novel." --San Francisco Chronicle "A stunning example of Maso's lifelong search for a language that heals as much as it separates--to quote Maso's dying heroine, Ava, who in turn is quoting Maso's icon, French philosopher Helene Cixous. It's a phrase that beautifully incorporates the dual irony of language as played out in Defiance." --The Nation "Astonishing in its dark brilliance, its power to disturb, its fearlessness in taking on the terrifying subjects of sex, class, gender and the life of the mind--to say nothing of its stated subject: murder. Carole Maso is an utter original, one of the true and plangent voices in American writing." --Mary Gordon, author of There Your Heart Lies "Carole Maso's Defiance is a passionate performance, stylistically brilliant, authentic, daring. The novel reads as a fable written from a dark place, yet it is an illumination for the reader." --Maureen Howard, author of The Rags of Time "This last testament of a brilliant unrepentant murderer taking on her century is ferocious and uncompromising . . . Defiance is a work of great craft, intelligence, and passion." --Robert Coover, author of Huck Out West "A writer of daring originality and moral consequence." --Publishers Weekly "It may not be all that conventional, but along with the structural and stylistic intricacies, it is as suspenseful a novel as any in the suspense genre. The reader, like Bernadette's students, is pulled along by the hypnotic, lyrical power of seductress Maso. As revelation follows revelation, building to the inevitable click, one is left in awe of the genius manqué Bernadette--one of the most memorable characters in contemporary fiction--and her divine creator, Ms. Maso, who gives voice to the underlying rage--often unrealized and unarticulated--that is as much a part of American society as apple pie . . . and the NRA, the Boy Scouts, and Huntsville, Texas." -- Jill Adams, The Barcelona Review Praise for Aureole "Carole Maso is a writer who succeeds brilliantly at relaying the fragile notion of life's enigma . . . This is a book about the difficulty of thought, of truly feeling experience, of really connecting with the physical world--as well as the joy of trying." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "A sexy, funny, smart and gutsy exercise--gutsy because Maso is never afraid of being too much in love, too graphic, too 'stylish.' There is a rare energy here and an even rarer honesty. But what is especially compelling is Maso's ability to simultaneously engage us as lover and readers, so that we mirror those women dizzy and mad for each other who make love as they read aloud, seduced by the infinite vocabulary of desire." --Rikki Ducornet, American Book Review "Maso goes further than anyone in exploring the hanging, gorgeous place between poetry and prose, dispensing with the clichés of most erotic writing to develop a more physical kind of writing to stimulate the various states of physical desire . . . Maso goes further than any writer working today to create a style that does justice to the polymorphously perverse energy of eros. Carole Maso will make you see the angels." --Review of Contemporary Fiction "Carole Maso is not just a wickedly brilliant writer, but a daringly feminist one at that. At once challenging and transcendent, her luxurious prose breaks all the rules. With Aureole, she once again proves herself to be a fearless chronicler of that space where lust and literature collide." --City Pages Minneapolis "The fragile space--in the place right before the heart breaks--this is the space Carole Maso explores brilliantly and sensuously in her astonishing new prose fiction. Whether she is writing about two women washing lentils or a man's desire for a woman's pair of ink-stained hands, Maso charges her very sentences with such sexual energy that form and content literally become one. Reading Aureole is pure pleasure." --Marjorie Perloff, author of Poetics in a New Key Praise for The Art Lover "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." --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 "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 "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. Its 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." --Belles Lettres "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." --Maine Progressive "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 "Maso's writing is whole and steady, and as groundbreaking in style as Cezanne's apples." --Calyx "As the brokenness of inexplicable grief and loss compel us to rebuild a world of reasons, the stunning and bold brokenness 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." --Jorie Graham, author of Fast "[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." --Publishers Weekly Praise for American Woman in the Chinese Hat "Shrewd, subtle, unsettling, the artistry of The American Woman in the Chinese Hat lies in the intimacy one feels with the author--the kind of intimacy that Catherine herself fails to discover, but that the story of her doomed consciousness makes possible between reader and writer." --New York Times Book Review "Maso chronicles Catherine's disintegration in a prose that is precise and rhythmic. Catherine loses control but Maso never does in this exquisitely calibrated evocation of longing and lust." --Vogue "Ultimately, the book succeeds on many levels: thematically, formally, narratively, emotionally. More importantly, Maso seems to be in the midst of creating something new, and reading through her published works so far, one can witness a genuinely innovative and restless artist at work, developing, revising, and continually finding her voice. Whatever her literary indulgences, she is one of the few published contemporary writers in this exhausted age who is in the middle of an exciting creative struggle, moving on from her old work and making something happening now." --San Francisco Bay Guardian "It's a book that begins and ends in a flash of light, with a clatter of voices all speaking French. In between is silence, a glass of wine, a knife, a dark room and a lot of passion." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "Maso's novel explores the relationship between eroticism and language: a subject much discussed in feminist circles but rarely illustrated with such precision and beauty." --Belles Lettres "It is perhaps the book's greatest achievement that it can be read many times and still reveal something new, still offer secrets to be puzzled out. This open-ended yet rigorously composed fiction is far more satisfying that the artificial straitjacket of the linear narrative where everything must be neatly resolved, leaving nothing for the reader to reflect on . . . When the history of the twentieth century is written, I have a hunch that Maso will be recognized as one of our greatest writers--and one of our greatest lesbian writers." --Lambda Book Report "Once again Carole Maso proves that high-wire fiction can be both narratively clever and emotionally compelling." --Magill Book Reviews "The writing is intense, beautiful, and without fail among the best in America." --Feminist Bookstore News "Like Maso's AVA, this book may shock the genteel reader, but others will be enthralled. Highly recommended." --Library Journal "Maso's enchanting fourth novel unfolds in a fragmented, poetic prose that is exciting, delicious and lucid." --Publishers Weekly Praise for AVA "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 "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 "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." --Chicago Tribune "Lovely . . . the product of a rigorous and imaginative formal intelligence." --Voice Literary Supplement "Give Carole Maso and her publisher an A for audacity . . . [AVA] reads like poetry." --Los Angeles Times Book Review "[AVA is] immensely satisfying." --Bustle "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." --Exquisite Corpse "Presents heartbreakingly familiar emotions in an utterly original form." --Publishers Weekly "Richly textured . . . Maso has written another spellbinder." --Library Journal "Maso's third novel is a moving, symphonic testimony to the meanings that memory, desire, and life accumulate . . . An erotic and moving book, AVA reconfirms Maso's reputation as one of our most refined and daring novelists." --Booklist