Rachel Cusk is the author of Outline trilogy, the memoirs A Life’s Work and Aftermath, and several other works of fiction and non-fiction. She is a Guggenheim fellow. She lives in Paris.
‘Authorial intelligence is burned into the syntax of every line.’
‘Outline is a poised and cerebral novel . . . transfixing in its unruffled awareness of the ways we love and leave each other. ’
‘Cusk has glimpsed the central truth of modern life . . . She moves through it as a blasted centre full only of instinct and superhuman hearing and hackles. ’
‘Ever inventive, Cusk keeps pushing the novel into new terrain. ’
‘A classic, but with contemporary urgency thumping through it. ’
‘The word that keeps coming to mind is “formidable”. It describes her intelligence in writing about everything from literature to parenthood. ’
‘A funny, knowing tale of middle-class, middle-twenties angst . . . Cool, resonant and accomplished. ’
‘Rachel Cusk is always an exciting writer: striking and challenging, with a distinctive cool prose voice, and behind that coolness something untamed and full of raw force . . .’
‘But what other people thought was no longer of any help to me. Those thoughts only existed within certain structures, and I had definitely left those structures.’
‘I was beginning to see my own fears and desires manifested outside myself, was beginning to see in other people's lives a commentary on my own.’
‘Whatever we might wish to believe about ourselves, we are only the result of how others have treated us.’
‘That tribe was one to which nearly all men in this country belonged, and it defined itself through a fear of women combined with an utter dependence on them.’
‘A degree of self-deception, she said, was an essential part of the talent for living.’
‘The air was held in the absolute stillness that presages a beautiful day. The sky got bluer and more blue and the green fresh banks of foliage were motionless in the warmth, and the blocks of light and shadow that bisected the streets were like the eternal primordial shapes that lie on the faces of mountain ranges and seem to come from inside them. The city was quiet and mostly empty of humans, so that it felt as though it were itself more than human and could only reveal it when there was no one to see.’
‘I had learned since then, I said, that I was naive to expect that other people would merely allow me to change when those changes directly interfered with their own interests, and the revelation that my whole life, which appeared to have been built on love and freedom of choice, was in fact a facade that concealed the most craven selfishness was deeply shocking to me.’
‘When people marry young, Jeffers, everything grows out of the shared root of their youth and it becomes impossible to tell which part is you and which is the other person. So if you attempt to sever yourselves from one another it becomes a severance all the way from the roots to the furthest ends of the branches, a gory mess of a process that seems to leave you half of what you were before. But when you make a marriage later it is more like the meeting of two distinctly formed things, a kind of bumping into one another.’
What are Rachel Cusk's views on the role of novels?
“I think the novel has to stay attached to life somehow. It has to share the terrain of life.
[You] build a novel. You have to build it like a building so that it stays standing when you’re not in it.
That’s where I wanted to get to. Not a feminist space, and not even particularly a sort of gendered space, but . . . a female sentence, a female paragraph, a truly female writing that is not a response to men and the ways in which women have been constructed, and that isn’t motivated by anger or injustice or anything else.
Freedom, when it comes, is nothing if it leaves people un-free behind you.”
Rachel Cusk, The Art of Fiction No. 246, The Paris Review, spring 2020 edition
Where can I read more about Rachel Cusk?
‘Cusk has glimpsed the central truth of modern life: that sometimes it is as sublime as Homer, a sail full of wind with the sun overhead, and sometimes it is like an Ikea where all the couples are fighting.'
‘The monologues in the Outline trilogy are controlled trances, like Stevie Nicks at the end of ‘Rhiannon’: you enter the speed and the artifice and the belief of it with her.’
‘At some point near the beginning of Kudos, as she is letting a disoriented and hilarious writer named Linda talk, I lifted off the ground. Cusk herself seemed across from me at the table. She is doing it, I thought. Go on, go on, go on.’
Patricia Lockwood: Why do I have to know what McDonald’s is? London Review of Books, May 2018