How could so much consciousness be packed into such a small object? ... It’s like one of those remote places populated by landrace flora and fauna that exist nowhere else on earth ... In a book about death, it’s not surprising that Davis is fixated on metamorphoses and thresholds. She trains her focus on 'ghost-moments': the instant a person steps off the edge of a cliff before she hits the ground, or the split second between opening a door and entering a room ... Traditionally a memoirist’s task is to gather the flukes of her life and marshal them into something resembling a story. But Davis has a different project in mind. She has written a memoir that mimics the atemporal quality of the episodes that give meaning to life ... an entrancing song.
... profound ... brief yet stunning ... An attentive reader and erudite writer, Davis plumbs her internal archive in search of solace and clarity in the face of ineffable tragedy ... Her husband’s memory thrums throughout the memoir, somehow both a presence and an absence. The prose is equally undefinable, caught between poetic and concrete ... Digressions about Virginia Woolf and Flaubert, the TV show Lost, and Beethoven’s bagatelles all miraculously align ... These disparate moments transform the memoir into something that flows more like a guided dream, rendered in daring, vulnerable prose, steeped in death but brilliantly transformative ... A transcendent work of literary divination.
Davis’ memoir gives art equal weight to real-life events as she reflects on the work of Virginia Woolf, Ingmar Bergman, Beethoven, Peggy Lee, and Grace Paley to find deeper meaning in her experience. By grasping at art to give a sense of purpose to her life, Davis highlights the pain and absurdity of being newly widowed.
... lithe and cerebral ... When her husband died from cancer in 2019 in his 60s, Davis’s vision of their future went with him as well. But as she vividly illustrates in nonlinear, dreamlike vignettes, her memories of their past, and her own, remained. Mining them to make meaning of her loss, she delivers a resonant meditation on impermanence ... Loosely following the trajectory of her marriage to its end, she injects her narration with moments that evoke the infinitude of love ... Bending genre and time, this is a pleasure to get lost in.
Reading and rereading novelist Kathryn Davis’ new memoir, Aurelia, Aurélia, I felt revisited by this crystal-clear realization — over and over again ... This tendency to sidestep reality has allowed her to successfully transcend the conventional let-me-tell-you style of memoir in favor of something rarer, more ethereal ... Aurelia is set in a cerebral atmosphere that lives in the 'ghost-moment,' or that time between a piano key being depressed and the dissipation of its reverberating note ... Davis’ slim but dense memoir is beyond scene, beyond self, beyond body ... These seemingly disparate facts are connected by Davis’ own loose memories, strung together by an assured stream of consciousness. When Davis allows them proximity, they cohere into a feeling of grief infused with pattern and meaning. To read it is to move through the darkened interior of the author’s mind.