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Recommendations galore in this essay by Carole Maso, but also this intro, which – just: yes.

November 18, 2012

Carole Maso

“Begin in Singing”



We have left the cathedral behind us. It is

the evening of the act of narration. Still, from

every part of this extraordinary world we hear

bells. I have come to celebrate. I have come to

praise. Begin in singing, Gertrude Stein once

said, and I shall. Sing for the growing number of

largely unsung women writers who are doing

the astounding work of changing the very nature

of fiction from the inside—taking it to new

places where intelligence is not refused, where

allowances of every sort are welcomed, crafting

generous, strange, beautiful, irreducible hybrid

books that enlarge our notions of what is possible.

Both Stein and Austen have said that the

novel is everything. And so it is. Imagine a door.


While the mainstream continues its garish

self-congratulation of the “cutting edge” nature

of its latest commodities, this new group of

women writers seems to be finding its way free

of the tyranny of working only in borrowed or

inherited forms. They are disassembling the old

models and constructing works of such variety

and range that I scarcely know where or how to

begin. I have decided to focus here, in the small

space I have been given, on some of the recent

and forthcoming books I have been lucky

enough to have read.


Among the writers I will look at, there is

no consensus as to what fiction should look like

or what fiction should do. No manifesto, no

club, thank God, one needs to be in. The only

common thread between them seems to be a

radical interrogation of standard narrative

techniques, a questioning of the assumptions of

what fiction is, along with an intimation, an

inkling, a dream of what it might be.


…Hear how the space, as Emily

Dickinson wrote, begins to toll.


* * *


Another must-read Carole Maso essay:


Rupture, Verge, and Precipice
Precipice, Verge, and Hurt Not


“But I, for one, am on to you. Your taste for blood, your love of competition, your need to feel endangered, beleaguered, superior. Your need to reiterate, to reassert your power, your privilege, because it erodes.

Let’s face it, you’re panicked.”

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