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About Rachel Cusk
Rachel Cusk is the author of nine novels, three non-fiction works, a play, and numerous shorter essays and memoirs. Her first novel, Saving Agnes, was published in 1993. Her most recent novel, Kudos, the final part of the Outline trilogy, will be published in the US and the UK in May 2018.
Saving Agnes won the Whitbread First Novel Award, The Country Life won the Somerset Maugham Award and subsequent books have been shortlisted for the Orange Prize, Whitbread Prize, Goldsmiths Prize, Bailey’s Prize, and the Giller Prize and Governor General’s Award in Canada. She was named one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists in 2003. Her version of Euripides’ Medea was directed by Rupert Goold and was shortlisted for the Susan Blackburn Smith Award.
Rachel was born in Canada in 1967 and spent her early childhood in Los Angeles before moving to the UK in 1974. She studied English at Oxford and published her first novel Saving Agnes when she was twenty six, and its themes of femininity and social satire remained central to her work over the next decade. In responding to the formal problems of the novel representing female experience she began to work additionally in non-fiction. Her autobiographical accounts of motherhood and divorce (A Life’s Work and Aftermath) were groundbreaking and controversial.
Most recently, after a long period of consideration, she attempted to evolve a new form, one that could represent personal experience while avoiding the politics of subjectivity and literalism and remaining free from narrative convention. That project became a trilogy (Outline, Transit and Kudos). Outline was one of The New York Times’ top 5 novels in 2015. Judith Thurman’s 2017 profile of Rachel in The New Yorker comments “Many experimental writers have rejected the mechanics of storytelling, but Cusk has found a way to do so without sacrificing its tension. Where the action meanders, language takes up the slack. Her sentences hum with intelligence, like a neural pathway.”
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A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy.
A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma—and disrupts the calm of her secluded household.
Second Place, Rachel Cusk’s electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift—and to destroy.
A Finalist for the Folio Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
One of The New York Times' Top Ten Books of the Year. Named a A New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, Vogue, NPR, The Guardian, The Independent, Glamour, and The Globe and Mail
A luminous, powerful novel that establishes Rachel Cusk as one of the finest writers in the English language
A man and a woman are seated next to each other on a plane. They get to talking—about their destination, their careers, their families. Grievances are aired, family tragedies discussed, marriages and divorces analyzed. An intimacy is established as two strangers contrast their own fictions about their lives.
Rachel Cusk's Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.
Outline takes a hard look at the things that are hardest to speak about. It brilliantly captures conversations, investigates people's motivations for storytelling, and questions their ability to ever do so honestly or unselfishly. In doing so it bares the deepest impulses behind the craft of fiction writing. This is Rachel Cusk's finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant, original novels of recent years.
National Bestseller • A Finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize • A Finalist for the Goldsmiths Prize • Longlisted for the International DUBLIN Literary Award • One of Time Magazine's Top 10 Fiction Books of the Year
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book • Named a Best Book of the Year by Time, The Guardian, BOMB Magazine, San Francisco Chronicle, Commonweal, Southern Living, NOW Magazine, The Washington Independent Review of Books, Book Depository, The Globe and Mail, and The National Post (Canada)
The stunning second novel of a trilogy that began with Outline, one of The New York Times Book Review’s ten best books of 2015
In the wake of her family’s collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of this upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, and practical—as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city, she is made to confront aspects of living that she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life.
Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed novel Outline and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change.
In this second book of a precise, short, yet epic cycle, Cusk describes the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one’s life, and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real.
A New York Times Book Review Notable Book, A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother is multi-award-winning author Rachel Cusk’s honest memoir that captures the life-changing wonders of motherhood.
Selected by the New York Times as one of the 50 Best Memoirs of the Past 50 Years
The experience of motherhood is an experience in contradiction. It is commonplace and it is impossible to imagine. It is prosaic and it is mysterious. It is at once banal, bizarre, compelling, tedious, comic, and catastrophic. To become a mother is to become the chief actor in a drama of human existence to which no one turns up. It is the process by which an ordinary life is transformed unseen into a story of strange and powerful passions, of love and servitude, of confinement and compassion.
In a book that is touching, hilarious, provocative, and profoundly insightful, novelist Rachel Cusk attempts to tell something of an old story set in a new era of sexual equality. Cusk’s account of a year of modern motherhood becomes many stories: a farewell to freedom, sleep, and time; a lesson in humility and hard work; a journey to the roots of love; a meditation on madness and mortality; and most of all a sentimental education in babies, books, toddler groups, bad advice, crying, breastfeeding, and never being alone.
“Funny and smart and refreshingly akin to a war diary—sort of Apocalypse Baby Now…A Life’s Work is wholly original and unabashedly true.”—The New York Times Book Review
New York Times 100 Notable Books of 2018 • Amazon Editors' Top 100 of 2018
Rachel Cusk, the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of Outline and Transit, completes the transcendent literary trilogy with Kudos, a novel of unsettling power.
A woman writer visits a Europe in flux, where questions of personal and political identity are rising to the surface and the trauma of change is opening up new possibilities of loss and renewal. Within the rituals of literary culture, Faye finds the human story in disarray amid differing attitudes toward the public performance of the creative persona. She begins to identify among the people she meets a tension between truth and representation, a fissure that accrues great dramatic force as Kudos reaches a profound and beautiful climax.
In this conclusion to her groundbreaking trilogy, Cusk unflinchingly explores the nature of family and art, justice and love, and the ultimate value of suffering. She is without question one of our most important living writers.
A New York Times Notable Book of the Year
Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award
The Country Life, Rachel Cusk’s third novel, is a rich and subtle story about embarrassment, awkwardness, and being alone; about families, or the lack of them; and about love in some peculiar guises.
“A brilliant oxymoron—a serious farce . . . Cusk’s ability to keep us interested in innumerable human collisions is uncanny.” —The New Yorker
Stella Benson sets off for Hilltop, a tiny Sussex village housing a family that is somewhat larger-than-life. Her hopes for the Maddens may be high, but her station among them—as au pair to their irascible son, Martin—is undeniably low.
What could possibly have driven her to leave her home, job, and life in London for such rural ignominy? Why has she severed all contact with her parents? And why is she so reluctant to talk about her past?
Arlington Park, a modern-day English suburb very much like its American counterparts, is a place devoted to the profitable ordinariness of life. Amidst its leafy avenues and comfortable houses, its residents live out the dubious accomplishments of civilization: material prosperity, personal freedom, and moral indifference. In Arlington Park, men work, women look after children, and people generally do what's expected of them. It's a world awash in contentment but empty of belief, and riven with strange anxieties. How are they to know right from wrong? How should they use their knowledge of other people's sufferings? What is the relationship of politics to their own domestic arrangements?
Set over the course of a single rainy day, the novel moves from one household to another, and through the passing hours conducts a deep examination of its characters' lives: of Juliet, enraged at the victory of men over women in family life; of Amanda, warding off thoughts of death with obsessive housework; of Solly, who confronts her own buried femininity in the person of her Italian lodger; of Maisie, despairing at the inevitability with which beauty is destroyed; and of Christine, whose troubled, hilarious spirit presides over Arlington Park and the way of life it represents.
Darkly comic, deeply affecting, and wise, Arlington Park is a page-turning imagining of the extraordinary inner nature of ordinary life, by one of Britain's most exciting young novelists.
A vivid and elegant account of a family's season abroad by one of our finest contemporary authors
Casting off a northern winter and an orderly life, a family decides to sell everything and go to Italy to search for art and its meanings, for freedom from routine, for a different path into the future. The award-winning writer Rachel Cusk describes a three-month journey around the Italy of Raphael and rented villas, of the Piero della Francesca trail and the tourist furnace of Amalfi, of soccer and the simple glories of pasta and gelato. With her husband and two children, Cusk uncovers the mystery of a foreign language, the perils and pleasures of unbelonging, and the startling thrill of discovery -- at once historic and intimate.
Both sharp and humane in its exploration of the desire to travel and to escape, of art and its inspirations, of beauty and ugliness, and of the challenge of balancing domestic life with creativity, The Last Supper is an astonishing memoir.
In 2003, Rachel Cusk published A Life's Work, a provocative and often startlingly funny memoir about the cataclysm of motherhood. Widely acclaimed, the book started hundreds of arguments that continue to this day. Now, in her most personal and relevant book to date, Cusk explores divorce's tremendous impact on the lives of women.
An unflinching chronicle of Cusk's own recent separation and the upheaval that followed—"a jigsaw dismantled"—it is also a vivid study of divorce's complex place in our society. "Aftermath" originally signified a second harvest, and in this book, unlike any other written on the subject, Cusk discovers opportunity as well as pain. With candor as fearless as it is affecting, Rachel Cusk maps a transformative chapter of her life with an acuity and wit that will help us understand our own.
«Mi marido y yo nos separamos recientemente y, en cuestión de unas semanas, la vida que habíamos construido juntos se desarmó, como un puzle convertido en un montón de piezas con los bordes recortados.»
En 2009, el matrimonio de Rachel Cusk llegó a su fin y su mundo se fracturó «como un puzle convertido en un montón de piezas con los bordes recortados». Despojos es el relato de esa ruptura, en el que una escritora y madre de dos niñas observa sus propias reacciones ante la destrucción de la vida tal y como la había entendido hasta entonces. Una mujer que, mientras crea una nueva individualidad para ella y un nuevo modelo de familia para sus hijas –en una sociedad que sitúa el amor conyugal como centro sagrado e inquebrantable de una familia–, descubre una inesperada vulnerabilidad, pero también libertades y fortalezas desconocidas.
Rachel Cusk, una de las voces más aclamadas y más originales de la literatura actual, utiliza su talento narrativo para crear una obra profundamente turbadora por su singularidad, cuya arrolladora franqueza y feroz autoconocimiento ha deleitado y conmocionado a partes iguales.
«Una clase magistral de disección de los sentimientos (…) Nos hace abrir los ojos con su capacidad de observación.» Julie Burchill (The Guardian)
«Cusk posee la gracia divina de una verdadera novelista: sinceridad, valentía y la habilidad de describir sus experiencias con un lenguaje hecho a medida, exquisito (…) La exigencia psicológica con la que aborda los complejos temas que trata es lo que otorga a su obra un gran valor literario.» Amanda Craig (The Independent)
«Brillante, tan fino y revelador como el portaobjetos de un microscopio.» Lisa Shea (Elle)
Since quitting work to look after his eight-year-old daughter, Alexa, Thomas Bradshaw has found solace and grace in his daily piano study. His pursuit of a more artistic way of life shocks and irritates his parents and in-laws. Why has he swapped roles with Tonie Swann, his intense, intellectual wife, who has accepted a demanding full-time job? How can this be good for Alexa?
Tonie is increasingly seduced away from domestic life by the harder, headier world of work, where long-forgotten memories of ambition are awakened. She soon finds herself outside their tight family circle, alive to previously unimaginable possibilities. Over the course of a year full of crisis and revelation, we follow the fortunes of Tonie, Thomas, and his brothers and their families: Howard, the successful, indulgent brother, and his gregarious wife, Claudia; and Leo, lacking in confidence and propped up by Susie, his sharp-tongued, heavy-drinking wife. At the head of the family, the aging Bradshaw parents descend on their children to question and undermine them.
The Bradshaw Variations reveals how our choices, our loves, and the family life we build will always be an echo—a variation—of a theme played out in our own childhood. This masterful and often shockingly funny novel, Rachel Cusk's seventh, shows a prizewinning writer at the height of her powers.
NPR's Favorite Books of 2019
Rachel Cusk redrew the boundaries of fiction with the Outline Trilogy, three “literary masterpieces” (The Washington Post) whose narrator, Faye, perceives the world with a glinting, unsparing intelligence while remaining opaque to the reader. Lauded for the precision of her prose and the quality of her insight, Cusk is a writer of uncommon brilliance. Now, in Coventry, she gathers a selection of her nonfiction writings that both offers new insights on the themes at the heart of her fiction and forges a startling critical voice on some of our most urgent personal, social, and artistic questions.
Coventry encompasses memoir, cultural criticism, and writing about literature, with pieces on family life, gender, and politics, and on D. H. Lawrence, Françoise Sagan, and Kazuo Ishiguro. Named for an essay Cusk published in Granta (“Every so often, for offences actual or hypothetical, my mother and father stop speaking to me. There’s a funny phrase for this phenomenon in England: it’s called being sent to Coventry”), this collection is pure Cusk and essential reading for our age: fearless, unrepentantly erudite, and dazzling to behold.