The American Woman in the Chinese Hat

The American Woman in the Chinese Hat

by Carole Maso
     
 

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Carole Maso's stunning, erotic fourth novel chronicles the dark, irresistible adventures of an American writer named Catherine who has come to France to live. Set into motion by a single act of abandonmentÐCatherine's lover of ten years has left her—she falls deeper and deeper into an irretrievable madness.
With passionate abandon and detachment Catherine

Overview

Carole Maso's stunning, erotic fourth novel chronicles the dark, irresistible adventures of an American writer named Catherine who has come to France to live. Set into motion by a single act of abandonmentÐCatherine's lover of ten years has left her—she falls deeper and deeper into an irretrievable madness.
With passionate abandon and detachment Catherine pursues her own destruction. Forcing the boundaries of identity and the limits of her eroticism, she enters a series of blinding sexual encounters with a poet, a fascist, a young Arlesian woman, a fireman, and three thieves. Eerily she splits herself in two so that she is both the one who watches and the one who is watched, creator and creation, author and character, as she observes herself from afar. "And I would like to help her," the one who watches says, "but I can't."
This mesmerizing drama of sex, betrayal, and dissolution is played out against the dazzling backdrop of the beautiful, indifferent Cote d'Azur in summer. Written in a dwindling lexicon with a simple, warped musicality, The American Woman in the Chinese Hat is a dark, uncompromising, seductive work of art.

"Like Maso's AVA, this book may shock the genteel reader, but others will be enthralled. Highly recommended." (Library Journal 2-1-94)

"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 5-15-94)

"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 7-94)

"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 7-31-94)

"Maso's enchanting fourth novel unfolds in a fragmented, poetic prose that is exciting, delicious and lucid." (Publishers Weekly 3-28-94)

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Catherine, 33, beautiful and vibrant, bisexual (though preferring women) and passionately driven as a writer, drifts through the bars and bedrooms of Vence on the French Riviera seeking sexual partners. Maso's ( Ghost Dance ) enchanting fourth novel unfolds in a fragmented, poetic prose that is exciting, delicious and lucid. Jilted by Lola, her American lover, Catherine tries to quell her emotional turmoil with a chain of lovers, finally connecting with Lucien, a sweet longhaired youth she picks up at the village fountain. Under the glaring Cote d'Azur sun, Catherine feels herself ignited by a manic misery she compulsively funnels into her writing. Language is the shape of her pain and her desire: she continually inscribes her life as she experiences it, reinventing herself in the pages of her notebook. Maso remains in control of her preoccupation with the writerly act, e.g., splitting Catherine's identity into third- and first-person narratives, maintaining one voice that is mischievously aloof. Paradoxically, the author presents the novel as a finished artifact, yet creates an illusion of improvisation as Catherine suffers and scribbles. The fountain forms a recurrent motif, along with images of birds and radiant light, until the novel's striking finale. (May)
Library Journal
For bisexual novelist Catherine, love is ``small protection against the overwhelming desire to suffer.'' In fact, what Catherine calls love is actually the sort of sexual obsessiveness that has killed her brother, poisoned her relationships, and made Michael Jackson's show in Nice le concert de l'annee. When the American woman whom she has abused for years can't take it anymore, Catherine throws herself into a series of affairs despite the obvious threats of AIDS and her ever-deepening melancholy. Her only positive relationship is an unconsummated one with Sylvia, a fascinating older woman who has known some of the literary and intellectual giants of the 20th century. Like Maso's Ava ( LJ 4/1/93), this book may shock the genteel reader, but others will be enthralled. Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.-- Jim Dwyer, California State Univ. Lib., Chico

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780452275072
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
10/01/1995
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 8.01(h) x 0.56(d)

Meet the Author

Carole Maso, the director of the Creative Writing Department at Brown University, is the author of four novels and a book-length erotic prose poem, all of which have received high critical acclaim. She was the recipient of the 1993 Lannan Literary Fellowship for fiction, as well as numerous other awards. Maso has been profiled in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Poets and Writers, The Village Voice, and others. She splits her time between New York and Providence, Rhode Island.

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