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Mourning and Metafiction: Carole Maso's The Art Lover.

They keep me near and at the same time bid me farewell. That is what real love is.

Carole Maso, The Art Lover

If we are trapped within Fredric Jameson's much-celebrated prison house of language, then the bars of that prison house can be broadly construed in terms of aestheticization--a process of discursive rendering that shapes our worlds through the ineluctable mediums of perception and articulation. This process of discursive rendering is, of course, at play in every literary work, though individual works may seek to varying degrees either to display or to hide the processes through which language is shaped and patterned into the literary work itself. At an extreme end of this spectrum, metafictional works relentlessly foreground, through their patent self-reflexivity, the aesthetic boundaries of their linguistic prison. By drawing attention, in a sustained and systematic fashion, to the literary conventions and linguistic medium that constitute a fictional work, metafiction exposes and examines the aesthetic conditions of the literary prison house.

Although the element of self-reflexivity that defines metafiction has long been recognized, the implications of this self-reflexivity have also been extended beyond the domain of metafictional works. For Patricia Waugh, the tendency of metafiction to scrutinize the conditions and limits of its own aesthetic construction can provide "extremely accurate models for understanding the contemporary experience of the world as a construction, an artifice, a web of interdependent semiotic systems" (9). In the same moment that metafiction illuminates and exposes its own aesthetic construction, readers are invited to contemplate and perhaps to demystify, in quasi-Marxist terms, the conditions and limits of their own discursively constructed worlds. Linda Hutcheon echoes this point when she isolates the metafictional paradox: in the moment that the reader of metafiction is estranged from the metafictional text by its refusal to allow any suspension of disbelief, the reader is simultaneously co-opted by the creative process of imaginatively constituting the text through the act of reading (Narcissistic Narrative 5). For Hutcheon, this paradoxical position forces, or at least invites, readers to become aware of how realities outside of metafictional texts are similarly constructed, because "[r]eading and writing belong to the processes of `life' as much as they do to `art'" (5). In essence, Waugh and Hutcheon argue that the self-reflexive scrutiny of aestheticization in metafiction embodies significant implications beyond the domain of literature because the process of aestheticization is itself ubiquitous. In this view, metafiction becomes a didactic genre.

The didactic potential of metafiction rests upon the genre's fundamental ambivalence toward the aesthetic constitution of its own textual body. The performance of literary conventions--patterns of emplotment, rhetorical tropes, modes of characterization, among others--bestows upon a text its form, while the exposure of those literary conventions tends to evacuate them of their habitual aesthetic effect. This is, of course, part of the process of demystification by means of estrangement that is valorized by Waugh and Hutcheon. When John Barth turns the structure of linear narrative back upon itself with an ironic twist of the page, in "Frame-Tale," he thereby alerts readers to the artificial construction of narrative plot that will explode even more exuberantly in the narrative gymnastics of "Menelaiad." When Art Spiegelman questions the ability of comics to represent adequately the events of the Holocaust (fig. 1), he effectively indicts the veracity of Maus as a whole in the same moment that Maus continues to portray Vladek's experiences during World War II. When Richard Brautigan employs fanciful figural language that stretches a reader's imagination by the incongruity of the image--"The trouts would wait there like airplane tickets for us to come" (56); "I waded about seventy-three telephone booths in" (56)--he implicitly foregrounds the artifice that inhabits language while still using that language throughout Trout Fishing in America. These examples all illustrate how metafictional self-reflexivity can expose the aesthetic components of a literary text with tremendously subversive effect. But at the same time, these examples also illustrate how those aesthetic conventions are the only means by which metafiction can make those subversive observations. In effect, Jameson's prison house is a prison only because there is no other house in town.

In the late sixties, early works of metafiction such as Barth's Lost in the Funhouse, Donald Barthelme's Snow White, or William Gass's Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife seemed to note with a kind of exuberant despair their imprisonment within a narrow aesthetic domain--a domain most notably associated with the oppressive legacy that modernism had bestowed upon these writers. The extremely disruptive narrative strategies and linguistic innovations of these early metafictions led Robert Alter to remark in 1975 that "one can admire the virtuosity with which narrative materials are ingeniously shuffled and reshuffled yet we feel a certain aridness; for the partial magic of a novelist's art, however self-conscious, is considerably more than a set of card tricks" (222). The "aridness" that Alter felt as a result of the relentless self-reflexivity and impulse to innovation in these early metafictions captured the spirit of Barth's literature of exhaustion. The fundamental ambivalence that inhabits metafictional self-reflexivity--the impulse to expose, with subversive effect, the nature of aesthetic conventions while simultaneously invoking, and thereby endorsing, those conventions--was apparently overshadowed, in the late sixties, by the tendency of these works to self-reflexively relate themselves back to the oppressive mantle of modernism, and consequently to despair over the apparent lack of a viable future aesthetic option. These metafictions hardly celebrate the possibilities of prose, and by the close of the sixties, the much-touted death of the novel had become less an object of debate than a commonly accepted sentiment. Critics and novelists alike were confidently declaring, in light of "the extreme desiccation of recent literary culture" (Koch 6), that "the age of the novel, like the ages of opera and reform, is past" (Newman 41). "It has passed on into history with the Epic Poem and the Volstead Amendment. The Great Age of Prose Fiction which began with Fielding and Richardson and reached its flowering in the first several decades of the twentieth century is drawing to a tawdry close" (Rubin 4). The few ignorant souls continuing to write modernist or, worse yet, conventional realist prose in the face of this perceived fact were only degrading American literature, so that the period of American prose from 1950 to the late sixties would "eventually be regarded as the lowest and most impoverished point in its history since 1870" (Koch 5).

Three decades after this "impoverished point" in American literary history, it seems clear that neither has the novel died nor are the works of that period especially deficient in relation to what was written before or after. Even more curious is the possibility that metafiction may well have played some part in sustaining the viability of the novel genre. In recent years, metafiction has moved away from its incarnation in the sixties as a rebellious literary reaction against the weight of modernism; instead, the metafictional impulse has become an integral element within the wider cultural moment of postmodernism.(1) Metafictional self-reflexivity lends itself well to "complicit critique"-- the kind of subversive inhabiting of cultural forms and institutions that has been identified as a privileged trope of postmodernism (Hutcheon, Poetics 3). While it seems obvious that the metafictional impulse has been co-opted by the rapacious forces of consumerism that define late capitalism, this fact does not necessarily evacuate metafiction of its subversive or disruptive potential. On the contrary, one need only look to works such as Maxine Hong Kingston's The Woman Warrior or Bharati Mukherjee's The Holder of the World in order to see how the metafictional impulse within literature has become one powerful strategy, among others, that contributes to the means of cultural critique and self-definition within postmodernism.(2)

Since the late sixties, metafiction has moved away from its status as the tombstone of the novel to its present status as one element among many that contributes to the dynamic matrix of postmodernism. But the taint of despair that initially inhabited metafiction has not entirely quit the genre; after all, in the same moment that metafiction illuminates the nature of the aesthetic prison that entraps us all, metafictional works build that prison anew. This ambivalence is, in my view, a fundamental and defining element of metafiction. Furthermore, this ambivalence clearly informs the metafictions of Carole Maso, who has emerged as a significant voice in contemporary American writing partly because of the willingness of her works to explore and to extend the fundamental ambivalence within the metafictional impulse.

Maso, who has published six novels between 1986 and 1998 and who presently directs the creative writing program at Brown University, has written recently, "I do believe that there might be ways in language to express the extreme, the fleeting, the fugitive states that hover at the outermost boundaries of speech" (Aureole ix). This dictum may also inform her previous works, which stand as a sustained meditation on the nature and adequacy of fiction, in terms of both the evocative capabilities of language and the structure of novelistic plot. Within the finely woven tapestries of her works, Maso explores issues of mourning and loss, identification and sexuality, while simultaneously interrogating how successfully the novel and its prose can render these aspects of her protagonists' struggles in life. In this way, Maso's novels attempt to address problematic issues that stand at the edge of the representational capabilities of fiction, while simultaneously interrogating how successfully fiction itself can address these issues. Maso's works are therefore metafictional insofar as they relate the perceived limitations of the novel to the issues Maso's novels address.

Although Maso's works recurrently tend toward, at the very least, an implicitly self-reflexive examination of the aesthetic conditions and limits of the novel, The Art Lover (1994) most directly examines how the processes of aestheticization permeate our lives. The Art Lover achieves this end by exploiting the fundamental ambivalence toward processes of aestheticization that partly defines metafiction. In itself, this fact is not especially significant, because all metafiction embodies this ambivalence to a certain degree. The Art Lover differs, however, by positing this ambivalence not only as the thematic core of the protagonist's struggle in the plot, or fabula, but also as the fundamental principle that informs the construction of the narrative, or sjuzet, in the novel.(3) In essence, the textual structure of the sjuzet enacts part of the struggle of the protagonist in the fabula. But the relationship between fabula and sjuzet is not entirely symmetrical, because as the protagonist moves through the work of mourning in the fabula, the sjuzet of The Art Lover establishes a particular structure between the different levels of the diegesis that effectively arrests that work of mourning in the stasis of melancholia. The direction of the fabula toward the resolution of grief through the work of mourning is countered by the structure of the sjuzet, which creates the stasis of melancholia. And by creating a melancholic preserve in the structure of its sjuzet, The Art Lover demonstrates how the paradigm of melancholia is essentially an aesthetic retreat. Part of what Caroline, the protagonist of the novel, must overcome in the fabula is her desire for the permanence and stability that this melancholia through aestheticization affords. But that struggle is countered by the sjuzet of The Art Lover which establishes that melancholic paradigm. In this way, the tension between fabula and sjuzet, between mourning and melancholia, marks the means by which The Art Lover explores and extends the fundamental ambivalence of metafiction toward the process of aestheticization.

A detail from Giotto's Noli me tangere (fig. 2) that is repeatedly reproduced in various forms throughout The Art Lover functions as an emblematic figuration of the issues of loss and absence that traverse Maso's novel. The spatial distance between Mary and Christ suggests not only the difference in nature between the secular and the sacred, but more significantly for Maso's work "the very human tragedy of two people at a fateful and final moment, separated by an enormous gulf although they are close enough to touch," in the words of James H. Stubblebine (Giotto and the Arena Chapel Frescos; qtd. in Maso 27). The liminal space of mourning, captured in Giotto's work, resonates throughout Maso's novel, which strives to traverse the ineluctable gap between mourner and mourned, between ego and lost object. However, unlike Maso's previous work, Ghost Dance, which performs this desire most prominently at the thematic level of its fabula, where Vanessa repeatedly seeks her absent mother through her lesbian affairs, The Art Lover performs this desire more prominently within the material structure of its sjuzet.

In effect, the sjuzet of The Art Lover figures the desire of the protagonist, Caroline, to maintain a unified image of her fractured family by installing analogues of her family in a separate narrative thread; the sjuzet of The Art Lover thereby adopts a position of melancholia by pathologically maintaining its relationship to its lost objects within the structure of the narrative. This melancholic preservation marks the refusal of Caroline to withdraw her cathectic attachment to her missing family members. The effect of this melancholic position is to inscribe, in the textual structure of The Art Lover, Caroline's refusal to accept the necessary work of mourning and instead to favor the illusory security and stasis of melancholia.

Maso's work does not, however, ultimately endorse the illusory security that the melancholic retreat offers. Instead, The Art Lover relentlessly interrogates the adequacy of the melancholic position in which only the solace of art assures the preservation of the lost object: "`One loves art more than life; it's better than life, don't you think, Ali? It doesn't disappoint so,' she sighed. `It's not so frightening,' she said, her eyes filled with terror" (57). And, as the ambivalence of Maggie in this quotation intimates, The Art Lover eventually concludes that such a modernist quest to find a melancholic refuge in "these fragments I have shored against my ruins" is not adequate. Rather, The Art Lover rejects an aesthetic retreat of the kind that closes Ghost Dance, in which the bereaved siblings enact a Native American ritual that ushers a departed spirit into the afterlife (269-75). In The Art Lover, the potential hermetic perfection that the aesthetic offers is not sufficient to stave off the inevitable vicissitudes of life: "You were a painting by Matisse, but you took sleeping pills" (138). The Art Lover therefore quickly dismantles the narrative thread that preserves the lost objects and moves away from the melancholic position. At the level of the diegetic structure of its sjuzet, The Art Lover performs a movement from melancholia to mourning--from retaining its lost objects in the material structure of the sjuzet (which partly defines melancholia) to an acceptance of the limitations of such an aestheticization (which marks the beginning of the work of mourning). The recognition that the melancholic preservation of the lost object cannot be sustained strips away the defenses offered through narrative artifice and marks the beginning of the acceptance of loss. The failure of The Art Lover to preserve its lost objects consequently marks both the failure of narrative artifice to defer the ultimately necessary work of mourning and the beginning of that mourning process.(4)

In order to understand how The Art Lover moves from melancholia to mourning, it is first necessary to review briefly the paradigm of melancholia. Freud defines melancholia in terms of a conflict between reality testing and libidinal cathexis, which results in the sustained cathexis of the lost object. In his "Mourning and Melancholia," Freud notes how the loss of an object leads to a conflict within an individual:
   Reality-testing has shown that the loved object no longer exists, and it
   proceeds to demand that all libido shall be withdrawn from its attachments
   to that object. This demand arouses understandable opposition--it is a
   matter of general observation that people never willingly abandon a
   libidinal position, not even, indeed, when a substitute is already
   beckoning to them. This opposition can be so intense that a turning away
   from reality takes place and a clinging to the object through the medium of
   a hallucinatory wishful psychosis.

   (253)


However, this conflict between reality testing and libido does not always lead to a kind of quasi-psychotic hallucination that preserves the attachment to the lost object; the absent object can also be preserved through identification. Freud observes that the loss of the object can produce another melancholic position in which "the free libido was not displaced on to another object; it was withdrawn into the ego. There, however, it was not employed in an unspecified way, but served to establish an identification of the ego with the abandoned object" (258). When the ego identifies with the lost object, it need not relinquish its libidinal attachment with that object because the ego itself becomes the lost object through identification. This allows the libido that was withdrawn from the object to be directed at the ego in a self-reflexive turn of libidinal cathexis that partly defines narcissism. Freud continues his theorization of melancholia by noting how the willingness of the ego to identify with the lost object implies that "the object-choice has been effected on a narcissistic bias, so that the object-cathexis, when obstacles come in its way, can regress to narcissism" (258). In short, the ego can easily identify with the lost object because that object was chosen within the dynamics of narcissistic object choice in the first instance. The withdrawn libido is therefore able to return back to the ego that it narcissistically cathected, by proxy through the object.

This paradigm of melancholia is significant in the context of The Art Lover because "Spring 1985," the opening section of Maso's work (5-30), establishes with remarkable precision a textual economy in which the narrative structure of the text enacts the paradigm of melancholia. The narrative splits along two axes and sets one thread in relation to the second thread in a manner highly suggestive of the melancholic position. "Spring 1985" opens with an almost idyllic scene of a family "picnicking in the meadow near their summer house in Massachusetts" (8). Henry, Maggie, and their teenage daughters, Candace and Alison, dearly enjoy their time together, though the extradiegetic narrator of this section cannot help but import a proleptic hint of loss when focalizing through her own perspective: "They move closer for a moment as if to compensate for someone lost or gone away, someone missing. Wordlessly they move to shield each other from things yet to come" (5).(5) However, the image of a unified family dominates the opening pages and is supported by the narrator's assertion that "They are ... just a lovely picture" (8). That picture is modified immediately after its presentation when the narrator admits the artifice of her creation: "a word picture of a family really" (8). The narrator reveals herself to be "I, the onlooker, I the one who is telling their story" (8), and this introductory scene turns out to be a familiar metafictional ploy of the novel within the novel.

The narrative of the Massachusetts family and the image of family unity therein is immediately juxtaposed to the dominant first narrative of The Art Lover in which the novelist, Caroline Chrysler, reflects upon the recent death of her father, Max, a celebrated professor of art history: "You were elegant, graying, distinguished, with a slight paunch. You were cerebral, exacting, lively, passionate. You were not old" (9). Her reaction of shock to his premature death partly informs the desire that shapes her novel-in-progress: "my wish for them: that they stay together" (8); "[o]ne wants to keep this family well" (7). The events of Caroline's life influence the writing of her novel, and the novel-in-progress becomes, for her, a repository of her desire for the unified and idealized family that is denied her--an aesthetic retreat where she can maintain the objects that she has lost in her own life. In this way, the relationship of the dominant first narrative of The Art Lover, the story of Caroline, to the second narrative, the novel-in-progress, is essentially melancholic. The novel-in-progress preserves analogues of Caroline's lost familial objects in a discrete narrative thread that functions as a "hallucinatory wishful psychosis"--a wish to maintain an image of a unified family to deny the reality of her own fractured family which includes not only her recently deceased father but also her mother, Veronica, who committed suicide when Caroline was six years old (80). The splitting of narrative in this section of The Art Lover suggests the setting of the first narrative in relation to a fantasy second narrative as ego is set in relation to "wishful hallucination" in the first position of melancholia outlined by Freud.

While The Art Lover clearly establishes a melancholic structure between its two narratives, Maso's work distances itself from the seamless psychosis that defines the fantasy of the first position of Freudian melancholia by acknowledging the artifice of the novel-in-progress. Not only does Caroline acknowledge that her novel-in-progress is a fiction, but she is also unwilling to sustain the illusion of family unity in the novel-in-progress. The hint of proleptic loss that Caroline introduces into her novel-in-progress eventually explodes at the end of the "Spring 1985" section when the father, Henry, abandons his family in the middle of the picnic to escape with his younger

mistress. He writes in the letter that he leaves for his wife, "God forgive me, I loved another woman and made up an excuse to get up and call her.... I can't say I'll ever be back" (28-29). This letter shatters the unity of the family and reveals the unwillingness of the sjuzet of The Art Lover to sustain the narrative of "hallucinatory wishful psychosis" in order to ease the pain of loss in Caroline's life. The sjuzet of The Art Lover therefore moves away from the first melancholic position identified by Freud. Although readers might reasonably expect that this gesture would commence the work of mourning for Caroline in her narrative, that is not entirely true, because in the same moment that Caroline's novel-in-progress takes the father away from the family, the dominant first narrative of Caroline's life re-places the father within its own diegetic structure; Caroline's narrative installs the voice of her dead father in its own sjuzet.

Throughout the first narrative of The Art Lover, Caroline converses with Max, and Max responds; her narrative focalizes Max's utterances through an extradiegetic perspective that views both Caroline and Max. In the space of seven short paragraphs, Caroline's narrative installs Max as an active living voice in the sjuzet, and this installation is accomplished by means of a subtle grammatical shift in verb tense. Caroline notes how Max "would say" (13), perhaps in the future. But with the recognition of the fact of his death, she notes, in the conditional past, how he "would have said" (13). Then, in a dramatic disregard for the fact of his death, Max appears full-voiced to speak, significantly, his first unmediated word in the present tense of his voice: "No" (14). This "no" denies the fact of Max's death and marks the introduction of his voice into the present tense of the first narrative; Max's voice comes alive, in Caroline's narrative, and freely speaks in the present moment of the sjuzet of the first narrative. The active voice of Max suggests that the first narrative installs the lost object of Max in its narrative in order to retain Caroline's attachment to him. By moving the father figure from the wishful fantasy of the novel-in-progress to the sjuzet of the first narrative, The Art Lover moves from heterodiegetic attachment to homodiegetic attachment; from the wishful preservation of an external object in a discrete narrative thread to an identification with an internal object in the sjuzet of the first narrative; from hallucination to identification; from the first position of melancholia to the second position.

The movement from heterodiegetic attachment to homodiegetic attachment corresponds to the movement from an external to an internal melancholic object. Rather than abandoning the position of melancholia altogether, the sjuzet of The Art Lover merely shifts the locus of its investment in the lost object and does not modify the nature of its investment. Caroline therefore does not commence the work of mourning at the beginning of the first narrative; instead, her narrative maintains the stasis of melancholia by performing an aestheticization of Max through narrative artifice. Caroline observes that her prose is, in effect, a kind of permanent heaven in which Max will reside (15), and this equation of prose and heaven suggests a strong faith in the palliative powers of art, or in what I am calling here more generally the aesthetic. This faith in art and artifice permeates The Art Lover in general, and Caroline's narrative in particular, where Giotto stands as the emblematic instance of the solace and stability offered by the aesthetic.

This faith in the aesthetic, emblematized through Giotto, can be seen immediately after the suicide of Caroline's mother, Veronica, when Max offers a bit of his knowledge of art history to a young Caroline in order to ease the pain of her grief. Max tells of the child Giotto who drew his sheep on a boulder with a stone:
   "Is it because he loved his sheep?" [Caroline asks.]
   "Yes, indeed."
   "And so that he could keep them? So they would not go away?"
   "Yes, my cherub."

   (52)


Max offers the Giotto story as a parable that might allow Caroline a way to mitigate her pain through aestheticization. Her narrative repeatedly affirms the palliative potential of aestheticization to order the chaos of life. Vermeer's Head of a Young Girl (58) is glossed in The Art Lover by an excerpt from Edward Snow's A Study of Vermeer, which notes Vermeer's sustained presentation of the girl's insistent gaze, in which her "real, unguarded human emotions" impress an "erotic intensity" upon the viewer (58). But for Snow, the importance of Vermeer's work rests not primarily in its ability to maintain the intensity of the gaze, but in the transgressive relationship it establishes with its viewer--a relationship that "involves all that art is supposed to keep at bay" (58). Vermeer's work elicits and demands, in Snow's view, an emotional and erotic commitment from viewers. The possibility of emotional engagement and erotic captivation--which define libidinal cathexis--through the aesthetic is what informs the faith in the palliative potential of art in The Art Lover.

The faith in the potential of art to order and to contain the chaos of life is not only a thematic implication of the fabula of Caroline's narrative but is also figured in the material structure of its sjuzet, in the voice of Max in its narrative and also in the nontraditional use of numerous graphics. Caroline's narrative employs a variety of graphics which function as emblems--representative signs--that express specific elements with a felicity that escapes language: a starburst motif in a window pane (30, 153) or in a wooden construction (39) figures the cerebral hemorrhage of Max, Steven's AIDS (87), and the general threat of loss; pure loss and absence is figured in an anonymous poster on a telephone pole for a lost parrot (40) or a lost ferret (152) or a sheet of zero sums from a child's grade school math class (94). Caroline's narrative uses these images as evocative units that supplement and often eclipse the language of the novel. In this way, the sjuzet of the first narrative expresses a profound faith in the capabilities of these aesthetic images to impart the pain of loss, the shock of death, or the pervasive threat of AIDS to readers. These graphics function as emotionally transgressive icons, as does Vermeer's Head of a Young Girl, to draw readers into the plight of Caroline's struggles in life. The fact that Caroline's narrative employs these images in this way reveals the profound faith of her narrative in the affective power of the aesthetic--a faith that extends even to the aesthetic arrangement of the stars in their constellations which are, of course, but one of humanity's ancient attempts to impose a recognizable order upon the infinity of the cosmos. Caroline appears to accept at least part of this attempt at reining in the chaos of the cosmos, though the paradigms of mythic constellations have been replaced, for her, by the scientific rhetoric of the Sunday New York Times star maps. The maps are, for Caroline, the "one perfectly safe and reliable part of the paper" (11), and she reads the uniformity and stability of these star maps to counterbalance the vicissitudes of her life; "Spring 1985" ends with the starburst of Henry's departure and Max's death but is itself followed by the ostensibly stable, safe, star map (30).

The faith in the stability and permanence of the aesthetic is quickly eroded, however, as the events of Caroline's life in the fabula of The Art Lover progress to greater sorrow and anguish. The gradual erosion is actually intimated in the first star map, whose accompanying column notes how "Recently two teams found evidence that the galactic center may be a black hole" (30). Ironically, the only manifest stability of these star maps is subverted by their diagnosis that the center of the galaxy--the point from which we orient our corner of the cosmos--is itself the most profound absence that space contains, a vortex of such power that even light cannot escape its gravitational pull. The only absolute that the star map suggests is the infinite limit of absolute darkness in that black hole. But as the notes to the star map observe, even the absolute of that black hole is only a research hypothesis, as yet unproven by science. The significance of placing this hint of absence at the beginning of Caroline's narrative is to underscore the fallacy of, and to undercut the faith in, the permanence and stability of artifice that mostly informs her narrative. As her narrative progresses, the ambivalence toward the stability and permanence of art and artifice becomes more pronounced.
   Caroline observes of her writing that the aestheticization of prose can
   keep the world at a distance. One uses "one" instead of "I." One does not
   look long enough, or one becomes frightened, fainthearted. One turns flesh
   too often into words on a page. Turns Ethiopia into a gem on the tongue.
   The temptation is to make it beautiful or perfect or have it make sense.
   The temptation is to control things, to make something to help ease the
   difficulty. One checks oneself as often as possible, but death still
   whispers in my father's ear in the form of a beautiful woman just about my
   age.

   (16)


While aestheticization through prose can insulate one from the world, Caroline continues to speculate on the futility and irrelevance of writing itself: "Despite my penchant for order. This is the world. We name it. And what good does it do? We arrange it on a page" (138). All her lists and categorizations of what remains and what does not (35), of what has moved and what has multiplied (43) in her New York neighborhood, help her to cope but do not stave off the pain of her grief. They are, at best, a distraction, but not an adequate solution. As she notes of her mother, Veronica,
   You were here and now you're gone.
   You were well and now you're sick.
   You were a painting by Matisse, but you took sleeping pills.

   (138)


The aesthetic view of life neither shields one from pain nor does it prevent tragedy from occurring.

At best, the aesthetic perspective provides a permeable barrier of the kind that insulates but does not perfectly seal the mother, Maggie, from her family in "Spring 1985." Maggie's painterly perspective places her family in a compositional tableau that strips them of their identity: "To watch these shifting forms fall into order and balance--there is no greater joy than this" (18). This motif of the alienating effect of aestheticization recurs in Caroline's narrative when she notes how even though her father, Max, has loved his daughter, "We had, it seemed, been saying good-bye our whole lives. From the time I was little and he called me his cherub. Even then he was saying good-bye, putting me into a painting, holding me afar and admiring" (11). The fabula of Caroline's narrative suggests that insofar as the aesthetic perspective mediates human relationships, it distances individuals from each other rather than uniting them. The inevitability of that distance, which is afforded by that perspective, is partly what leads the sjuzet of Caroline's narrative to move away from its initial affirmation of the aesthetic position which underlies the melancholic nature of her narratives.

Two clippings from The New York Times profoundly challenge the previously expressed faith in artifice (120): the first is a rather mundane correction to a published recipe for Chiu Chow braised duck; the second concerns the controversy surrounding the reassessment of the volume of Rembrandt's works, many of which are now thought to be by lesser artists. The significance of these two clippings, which are juxtaposed in their degree of relative importance, concerns the lack of permanence or security in anything; neither a simple culinary recipe nor the attribution of paintings to a Dutch master can be trusted in this world. Uncertainty is ubiquitous, and that uncertainty cannot be staved off by aestheticization. This mutability is underscored when Caroline returns to Max's apartment to sift through his belongings. She admires his pantry full of gourmet food and decides to defrost a duck from his freezer; but "[t]he duck unthawed turns out to be a goose" (118). This motif of mutability again recurs when Max finally decides that the Caravaggio he has been assigned to authenticate is a forgery: "He picks up a copy of David and Goliath, the painting in question. Groans. Cries. `I think not,' he howls, collapsing in his chair" (188). The impermanence of the aesthetic even extends to the project of Caroline's brother, David, who is restoring a Leonardo in Milan. As the layers of paint are stripped away to reveal the original work of the master, all begin to wonder what will be revealed beneath Jesus's face:
   "It is said," David reports, "that Leonardo had great trouble conceiving
   the head of Jesus. A fellow artist told Leonardo, `It is your fault. You
   gave such divine beauty to apostles Philip and James the Elder that now you
   can do nothing else except leave the face unfinished.'"

      "Is the face unfinished? Could Leonardo not paint it?" a man with tears
   in his eyes asks.

      "I fear," David says, "that the features of Christ have vanished. It is
   possible that all that remains is the glue and paint of restorers, of
   people like me. Caroline, it is possible the face of the Savior is blank."
   He laughs a little--his stupid sense of humor.

   (124-25)


This incident serves to illustrate how art itself, apart from any emotional commitment imparted to it by human viewers, does not always function to maintain its own stability of origin. Since that is the case, we cannot expect that the faith that the sjuzet of The Art Lover formerly expressed in the aesthetic be borne out in the novel. However, the erosion of that faith does not prevent Caroline from still desiring a world in which the aesthetic will provide a stable retreat: "I am tired of things that divide, that change shape, that become anything other than themselves.... I am tired of any deception" (148).

As the pain of Caroline's life becomes more profound, that desire will haunt her still.

This desire for the palliative potential of the aesthetic becomes even more pronounced when Caroline discovers that her dear childhood friend Steven is dying of AIDS. The fact of his inevitable death forces Caroline to reassess the significance of her writing:
   "Tell me about the book." He is trying to be a good host, even now.

      "I don't know." I'm reluctant, but it's what he wants to hear. "The
   words don't work anymore, given all of this." I look at my friend,
   thirty-two, under a flourescent light, dying.

   (143)


Even though Caroline feels that "It should be possible to do something with words" (149), the words begin to fail her, and the structure of narrative in The Art Lover begins to dissolve; the distinction between the dominant first narrative and the second narrative of the novel-in-progress begins to blur in the section called "The Night of Pity and Self-Loathing" (179-91).

This section ostensibly narrates the events of an evening's meal and conversation between Max and Caroline in which Caroline is finally able to voice her anger over what she feels is her father's role in Veronica's suicide: "'She needed a husband.' ... `She needed you to treat her other than as an object of beauty, of art. She needed you, Max'" (185). The evening ends in a tableau of reconciliation and love. But the section contains a single detail which opens the novel to the violation of narrative protocol that will explode in the Gary Falk section which follows in a few pages. The detail is the name of Max's lover--Biddy (180)--which is the name of the mistress for whom Henry left his family in the "Spring 1985" section that opened The Art Lover. The fact that Caroline's narrative, and more specifically her father's lover, turns out to be the model upon which the novel-in-progress is built suggests two things. First, the conflation of the fictional mistress and Max's lover suggests that the novel-in-progress has a relationship to the desires of Caroline's life beyond simply installing the lost object of the recently dead father in the stasis of melancholia. Second, the violation of the narrative boundaries between the first and second narratives of The Art Lover suggests the relative inadequacy of the novel-in-progress to express the material of Caroline's narrative.

The relationship of the novel-in-progress to the position of melancholia is complex. Where the novel-in-progress opens with the image of family unity, which apparently stands in relation to its author's recent loss of her father as a compensatory melancholic gesture, "Spring 1985" immediately abandons that position by allowing the father to leave the family. But instead of moving from melancholia to mourning in which the loss of the father would be worked out, Caroline's novel-in-progress presents a movement in which the youngest daughter, Alison, forms an intimate and loving relationship with her mother, Maggie, while the older daughter, Candace, moves to New York to rage against her father and relentlessly track the details of his lover's life with him: Maggie and Alison "hated the idea that they had lost her because of Henry, that she had become so strange, losing many of her Candace qualifies, except for her passion, which was all rage now" (95). In this way, Candace becomes the expression of a daughter's rage against her departed father--a rage that Caroline herself acknowledges she cannot afford to express in her daily life. In a rhetorical question to Max, Caroline asks, "Do I try to find a manageable shape for you? Do I put my rage for you into art, where it is acceptable?" (117). Candace becomes the vehicle for Caroline's anger at her father's death, while Alison becomes the vehicle through which Caroline expresses love for and closeness with a mother she hardly recalls: "Can I miss the mother I barely knew? A woman I only vaguely recall? A patterned dress, a scent of spices, dark hair that fell around white shoulders. Is it possible to miss her, this phantom mother?" (14). The novel-in-progress allows Caroline not only to miss her mother, but to love that mother through Alison. After Henry's departure, the formerly distant Maggie, who saw her children as aesthetic abstractions--Candace viewed from afar is simply "an orange shape" (21)--becomes a loving and engaged mother, empathically attuned to the pain and suffering of her youngest daughter: "She looked at this daughter and loved her with an intensity she had never felt before" (220). The daughters in the novel-in-progress might, therefore, be seen as analogues of aspects of Caroline's divided self, a self split by anger at her dead father and a desire to keep the mother she never knew. Candace and Alison would fulfill the functions of anger and desire respectively in that second narrative. The novel-in-progress, therefore, is a locus of wish fulfillment for Caroline. But the wishes that are fulfilled are not only melancholic. Rather, the novel-in-progress allows Caroline to express her love and anger in the relative safety of an aesthetic retreat. While the father leaves the family, the mother grows closer to the younger daughter, and this second component of the fabula of the novel-in-progress might be seen as a melancholic gesture to preserve the missing "phantom mother" of Caroline's life.

The fact that The Art Lover explicitly violates the narrative boundary between the first and second narratives by conflating Biddy's identities suggests the relative aesthetic inadequacy of the novel-in-progress to the material in the fabula of Caroline's narrative. Had the novel-in-progress been able to adequately capture, work through, express, or mitigate the pain of Caroline's life, then her narrative would not have had to move Biddy from the second narrative of "Spring 1985" to the first narrative of Caroline's life. But as Caroline notes, she will write "Spring 1985" because
   It is a way of telling the truth. Or nearing the truth. The absolute truth?
   The literal truth? Well, yes. Well, no. But something of the whole.

   (15-16)


From the outset, she knows that the execution of her novel-in-progress will not sufficiently capture its material. Her comments suggest that her work will always fall short of its goal because of unspecified factors that frustrate its successful completion. Those factors are not listed by this compulsive list maker, but can, I think, be summarized under the heading of the aesthetic--all those elements of language, narrative, perspective, and plot that are involved in the whole literary landscape of representation. Instead of successfully fulfilling their representational or evocative mandate the kind of faith in the aesthetic that opens The Art Lover--they stumble and fail and introduce mediations that confound the issues. By shifting Biddy from the second narrative of the novel-in-progress to the first narrative of Caroline's life, The Art Lover suggests that the only recourse available is to return to the original--to get back to the origin that underlies the representation. However, just as the first star map notes the black hole at the center of the galaxy, and just as David's restoration may uncover a missing face of Jesus, so The Art Lover refuses this easy gambit of a return to an unproblematic origin. Instead, the sjuzet of The Art Lover suggests that the origin remains as obscure as any representation.

The faith in the original that is expressed by the movement of Biddy from the second to the first narrative is undercut by the movement of the sjuzet of The Art Lover, in which Caroline's voice in the first narrative gives way to the voice of Carole Maso in a third narrative; this movement corresponds to the shift from Caroline's dear friend Steven to Gary Falk in the "More Winter" section (193-206). Steven and Gary are clearly correlated, not merely by their identical affliction with AIDS and hospitalization in St. Vincent's, but also by the repetition of incidents in the first narrative and "More Winter." A visit to the beach with Steven (77-78) is repeated in "More Winter," and Gary uses the same words that were used earlier in the first narrative to describe the experience: "it feels so wonderful" (195, 78). This movement from Caroline to Carole, from Steven to Gary suggests that the original narrative of "More Winter" will somehow fulfill its mandate to narrate Gary's struggle with AIDS with a felicity that escapes the narration of Steven's slide into death in the first narrative. But again, the inevitable mediation of the aesthetic intercedes and prevents "More Winter" from rendering with any special success Carole's pain over the slow demise of her friend. A successful rendering of Gary's struggle escapes Carole here as it escapes Caroline in her novel-in-progress and in her first narrative: "I am just trying to get ... this down" (196). Yet even as Carole struggles to get this down, she acknowledges: "I know, Gary, to write it down is always to get it wrong. But here, wanting you back, it's the closest I can get to heaven--which is where I like to picture you" (199). Carole states that she wants her writing to preserve Gary in the limited heaven of her prose, a kind of melancholic refuge that will preserve her lost friend. But as the entire course of The Art Lover has suggested, such a quest is always already doomed to failure because of the inevitable imperfection of the aesthetic. The pain that resonates through Carole's voice is not staved off by the aestheticization of the event: "Nothing has made it stop. Not the ocean, not the dunes, not the screams of the seagulls. Not the Slovak poet and his moody translations of Trakl. Not the Dewars or the Absolut. Nothing makes it stop, Gary. Nothing. Not the writing of this. Not the writing of The Art Lover" (206). With this admission, the voice of Carole implicates the entirety of The Art Lover as a work of mourning and melancholia: a melancholia that attempts to preserve the loved ones in the heaven of its prose but which fails to mitigate adequately the painful losses that plague its characters; a mourning that commences at this moment in the fabula of The Art Lover, and which is played out in the sjuzet of the final pages of the novel.

Maso has commented in an interview:
   In The Art Lover, for example, I moved into the first-person, nonfiction
   section because I came up against the limits of fiction: it was dear that I
   would never be able to save my friend Gary's life, no matter what I wrote.
   It was a real test. All the way through writing the book, I thought that,
   quite possibly, I'm not going to be able to believe in writing enough to be
   able to do it. And only at the very, very end was it clear that this was
   going to be okay, that the effort is beautiful as much as the final
   product.

   ("Carole Maso" 66)


This move from despair to cautious optimism clearly marks the final section of The Art Lover. Although the section opens with a moderately optimistic note about the warmth of "this false spring," Caroline quickly accepts the fact of "this spring" in March: "It's spring, regardless of the date" (209). But even with the acceptance of this true spring, Caroline still faces the problem that she has confronted all along: "How to continue at all, how to speak, given everything" (214). Now that the aesthetic has been revealed to be an ineffectual retreat from pain and loss, and the melancholic position which depends upon the aestheticization of the object therefore cannot be sustained, Caroline must face the inevitable process of mourning. Significantly, the first graphic introduced in this section (217) is a late self-portrait of Picasso that is glossed by an excerpt from a review in The New York Times. The accompanying text highlights the affective power of the portrait to impress the inevitability of loss upon viewers: "we are as scandalized as he that even the old warrior, who in his late work seemed to have devoured nature itself, would one day have to say goodbye" (215). Even Picasso's art, which conquered nature, must inevitably confront the absolute and ineluctable reality of death. The Picasso portrait stands, then, as an instance or as an exemplum of the mourning process.

That process is enacted in Caroline's narrative where, for the first time, she experiences a genuine feeling of loss for her long-dead mother: "I look up across the Swift River into the center of a single pine tree and miss her. Her face does not come back, nor her figure. Not a single fragment of her voice or anything she ever said. But I miss my mother, looking at a tree. It is only a tree. A lake. A sound of a body moving through water, a wave" (215). It is important to note that Caroline refuses to metaphorize the natural elements which trigger her remembrance of her mother; the tree, water, and wave are not aestheticized into a representational abstraction of her mother. They simply remain what they are and, therefore, are removed at least from the overt abstractions of the aesthetic.

This momentary mourning ushers in Caroline's eventual acceptance of loss. Alison--the loving daughter who corresponds to Caroline's love of her missing mother--finally accepts, with a piercing cry, her pain at Henry's abandonment (224). And even though Caroline admits her desire for a reunited family and a healthy Steven in a dream (227-29), she moderates that desire with an acknowledgment of the artifice of the dream. Her statement, therefore, that "maybe, just perhaps, holding hands here through this final fiction, we've already risen" (229) does not carry the conviction that The Art Lover previously expressed in the palliative potential of artifice. Instead, Caroline cooks a gourmet feast for Steven during a remission in his pneumocystitis, the AIDS-related pneumonia. At that meal, Caroline resolves to face the burden of his illness to its eventual conclusion: "I will not leave his side. I will stay with him through whatever is to come. Of this I am sure. I will love him even more than I do now" (238). As she basks in the moment of his remission and the warmth of his personality, she knows that "looking at him and knowing all of this, I realize it is as perfect a moment on earth as I can expect" (238).

While Caroline retains hope for Steven's health and longevity, the "hieroglyphs of hope" (238-39) that follow her recognition of the inevitability of Steven's death reveal her acceptance of that fact: the hope for treatment (the "AZT S friend" graphic) moves to the hope for an absolute cure (the graphic of the Giotto probe), to the language of the hand that strives to reach across the barrier between hearing and deafness (the sign language graphic), to a Giotto detail cropped to show the inevitable distance between Jesus and his mourners (239). The closing words of The Art Lover are an author's note which reveals how Carole Maso was, finally, "In the end ... only hands to him. The last thing I ever heard him say was, `Are these Carole's hands?' My hands on his hands" (243). And the only achievement of an absolute aesthetic limit in The Art Lover is Gary Falk's sight of perfect darkness in the final moments of his blindness: "'It's the most miraculous thing,' he said. `I can see again!' I put my left hand on his left hand and waved my other hand in front of him and realized that both his eyes were darkened now with his wonderful and perfect sight" (243).

The Art Lover concludes, then, by accepting the distance that is figured in Giotto's work (49), the distance that defines the liminal space of mourning a lost object: "He puts his hand on her shoulder. He takes it away. She moves toward him. He moves back. They make strange jigsaw shapes in order to maintain the void that must always exist between them" (101). But in the moment of that acceptance, The Art Lover does not relinquish entirely its enormously eroded faith in the evocative power of the aesthetic. Not only is the presentation of that mourning process itself embodied in the inevitable aesthetic vehicle of Maso's prose, but the narrative continues to employ graphics to capture or to suggest the emotional vicissitudes of Caroline. The hieroglyphs of hope concisely express the trajectory of Caroline's reaction to Steven's eventual death: from realization to hope to despair to acceptance. And the ultimate final moment of The Art Lover is a photograph of Carole Maso with Gary Falk (243). This poignant memento of Maso's lost friend expresses with more force than words the exhaustion that lies just at the border of Maso's prose: "I am sick of myself trying to give shape to all this sorrow, all this rage, all this loss--and failing" (148). The photo functions to affirm implicitly the capacity of the aesthetic to gesture toward, if not to capture completely, those elements that lie just at the limit of verbal expression.

The Art Lover clearly explores a defining element of metafiction by extending the fundamental ambivalence of metafiction toward the aesthetic. Whereas metafictional self-reflexivity necessarily exposes and endorses the conditions and limits of aestheticization, The Art Lover extends that tendency by implicating that ambivalence within both the fabula and the sjuzet of the novel. Not only does The Art Lover split its narrative along three discrete lines, and thereby implicitly expose the conventions that govern linear narrative, but Maso's work establishes a particular structural relationship between those narrative threads in order both to implicate the entire process of aestheticization within the sjuzet and to counter, and therefore heighten, the struggle of the protagonist in the fabula; in essence, as the fabula works through the work of mourning, the sjuzet attempts to sustain the stasis of melancholia. In this way, The Art Lover pushes metafictional self-reflexivity beyond its usual limit in order to create a dramatic tension between what the story says and how it is told.

On the one hand, The Art Lover manipulates the boundaries of narrative between the three fabulas of the novel in order to evacuate the aesthetic of its palliative potential to maintain the melancholic position. But on the other hand, The Art Lover relies upon the graphics in the sjuzet of the novel, and also the inescapable aestheticization of The Art Lover itself in its very prose, to express that sentiment about the limitations of the aesthetic. The Art Lover therefore appears suspended between contradictory mandates: both to rely upon and to distance itself from the aesthetic in general. This ambivalence is of course due to the fact that the aesthetic permeates discourse.

While The Art Lover surely exaggerates the ineluctable aestheticization of Jameson's prison house by focusing narrowly upon a band of the aesthetic that is associated with visual art and, in places, aestheticization through prose, those two narrow loci are part of the larger process of discursive construction which I am here suggesting is essentially an aesthetic act. If the aesthetic is ubiquitous in discourse and is, therefore, always already a part of perception and expression, then the only recourse a writer has to escape this trap is not to speak at all. For Maso, such a retreat into a Beckett-like silence would, of course, be death. Significantly, Maso's next work, The American Woman in the Chinese Hat, "is about death. It is about the end of possibility: linguistic, narrative, sexual, emotional. I needed a dead form to tell it in; I needed an exhausted, played out, tired form to enlarge, really, the kind of shutting down that is going on in the narrator's psyche" ("Interview" 10). The American Woman in the Chinese Hat takes up where The Art Lover leaves off and extends Maso's speculations on the limitations of the aesthetic to their most dismal conclusion--a kind of "literature of exhaustion" that John Barth isolated three decades ago. But it is important to note that this tone of exhaustion, while present in The Art Lover, is counterbalanced by what The Art Lover suggests is the beauty that resides in the struggle to cope. The odd tension between fabula and sjuzet in The Art Lover suggests that while the permanence of the aesthetic is an illusion and the palliative potential of art always eludes our grasp, some measure of solace and peace can be found in the space between our desire for these chimeras and our despair at their impossibility.

(1.) Metafiction is no longer solely a narrow literary phenomenon; it has become a widely established cultural fact. The prevalence of metafictional devices in popular culture has exploded in recent years. One need only look to American network television--surely the most obvious index of current trends in mainstream American popular culture--to note the abundance of self-consciousness in the seasonal offerings. The most popular comedy series of the past few years, Seinfeld, exploited a range of metafictional devices. The metafictional tenor of this series, which aired on NBC, was most prominently revealed through a string of episodes ("The Pitch," "The Ticket," "The Cheever Letters," and "The Pilot") in which the main character, Jerry Seinfeld, and his friend George pitch an idea for a new comedy show to fictional network executives at NBC. The new show, called Jerry, exactly mirrors Seinfeld itself. In subsequent episodes, Seinfeld even goes so far as to portray the casting calls for this mirror-Seinfeld, which creates the disconcerting phenomenon for the viewer of watching the fictional characters of Seinfeld attempt to cast yet more fictional characters to play the characters that the Seinfeld cast are themselves. The layers of self-reflexivity that are at play in these episodes between Jerry and Seinfeld, between the fictional process of creating and casting Jerry and the actual process of creating and casting Seinfeld, create the impression that these episodes of Seinfeld are about Seinfeld--precisely the kind of self-reflexivity that characterizes metafiction today.

(2.) Hong Kingston splits the diegetic structure of The Woman Warrior into five discrete threads and thereby creates a fragmented and achronological sjuzet which metafictionally actualizes the conventions that govern Western narrative. The structure of the sjuzet of The Woman Warrior arguably embodies part of the cultural values of the text by performing what Hong Kingston dubs "talk-story"--the narrative medium through which the elder Chinese immigrants to America attempt to inculcate cultural values in the younger, Americanized generation of the family. Mukherjee's The Holder of the World implicitly invokes and metafictionally rereads the captivity narrative and, in particular, Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, in order to explore how literary tradition and narrative convention constrain the articulation of identity.

(3.) The distinction between fabula and sjuzet is clearly defined in narratological analysis. The fabula refers to the proper chronological sequencing of the events that are narrated in a text. The sjuzet refers to the presentation of the narrated events as they occur in the text. I find it helpful to think of the fabula and sjuzet in terms of plot and story, respectively--fabula as the ideal chronological ordering of plot elements and sjuzet as the actual diegetic structure of the narrative itself. It is worth noting that few, if any, narratives have a matching fabula and sjuzet.

(4.) It is important to note that by discussing Maso's work in terms of mourning and melancholia, at no time does this discussion anthropomorphize or, worse yet, psychologize the novel itself. The identification of mourning and melancholia in The Art Lover rests upon the observation that the sjuzet of the novel establishes, between different narrative strands, a structural relationship that evokes the paradigm of Freudian melancholia. This melancholic narrative structure is highly significant to the fabula of The Art Lover because the protagonist, Caroline, struggles to move through the stasis of melancholia to the work of mourning and the ultimate resolution of her grief. The Art Lover therefore plays the direction of the fabula off the structure of the sjuzet in order to dramatize, and reify, the contradictions within Caroline's struggle.

(5.) The extradiegetic narrator, whom I gender as "she" for reasons that will be outlined below, also narrates three other sections of "Spring 1985" in which the family picnic takes center stage. Each section is focalized through a different member of the family and therefore imparts a characteristic inflection to the scene: pages 17-19 are focalized through Maggie, the mother, and reveal the emotional distance of Maggie from the family; pages 19--24 are focalized through Alison, the thirteen-year-old, and reveal the most innocent idealization of the family; pages 24-26 are focalized through Candace, the eighteen-year-old, and reveal an understandable self-absorption and plans for the future in a young woman who has taken her first tentative steps on the road of self-determination; pages 28-29 present a letter from Henry, the father, and might therefore be focalized through him, even though a letter necessitates a reader to mediate its presentation. The consequences of the letter, regardless of its focalization, are profound and will be discussed below.

WORKS CITED

Alter, Robert. Partial Magic: The Novel as a Self-Conscious Genre. Berkeley: U of California P, 1975.

Barth, John. Lost in the Funhouse. New York: Bantam, 1968.

Barthelme, Donald. Snow White. New York: Atheneum, 1967.

Brautigan, Richard. Trout Fishing in America. New York: Dell, 1967.

"The Cheever Letters." Seinfeld. NBC. 28 Oct. 1992.

Freud, Sigmund. "Mourning and Melancholia." On Metapsychology: The Theory of Psychoanalysis. Pelican Freud Library. Vol. 11. Ed. Angela Richards. Trans. James Strachey. London: Penguin, 1984. 245-68.

Gass, William. Willie Masters' Lonesome Wife. 1968. New York: Knopf, 1971.

Hong Kingston, Maxine. The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood among Ghosts. New York: Knopf, 1976.

Hutcheon, Linda. Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox. London: Methuen, 1984.

--. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1988.

Koch, Stephen. "Premature Speculations on the Perpetual Renaissance." TriQuarterly 10 (1967): 4-19.

Maso, Carole. The American Woman in the Chinese Hat. New York: Penguin, 1994.

--. The Art Lover. San Francisco: North Point, 1990.

--. Aureole. Hopewell, NJ: Ecco, 1996.

--. "Carole Maso." Poets & Writers Magazine. May-June 1996. 64-73.

--. Ghost Dance. San Francisco: North Point, 1986.

--. "An Interview with Carole Maso." Review of Contemporary Fiction 14.2 (1994): 186-91.

Mukherjee, Bharati. The Holder of the World. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1993.

Newman, Charles. "Beyond Omniscience: Notes Toward a Future for the Novel." TriQuarterly 10 (1967): 37-52.

"The Pilot." Seinfeld. NBC. 20 May 1993.

"The Pitch." Seinfeld. NBC. 16 Sept. 1992.

Rubin, Louis D., Jr. The Curious Death of the Novel: Essays in American Literature. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State UP, 1967.

Spiegelman, Art. Maus II: A Survivor's Tale: And Here My Troubles Began. New York: Pantheon, 1991.

"The Ticket." Seinfeld. NBC. 23 Sept. 1992.

Waugh, Patricia. Metafiction: The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. London: Methuen, 1984.

GRANT STIRLING recently completed a Ph.D. dissertation at York University, North York, Ontario. He has published articles on Carole Maso, Franz Kafka and ethnicity, and tropes of language in postcolonial literary criticism.
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