Rachel Cusk’s Unsparing Essays

Claire Jarvis at Bookforum:

Cusk is best known in the US for her Outline trilogy, a series of slim, challenging novels that follow Faye, a cryptic, intelligent narrator whose life and perspective seem to mirror Cusk’s own. Coventry gathers essays written before, during, and after the period in which Cusk was at work on the trilogy. Almost all have appeared elsewhere, but collecting them gives readers a chance to draw a link between Cusk the memoirist (there are essays on marriage and divorce) and Cusk the novelist (there are short pieces on writers like Edith Wharton, D. H. Lawrence, and Kazuo Ishiguro, as well as longer meditations on literary value).

The embrace of self-reliance at the end of “Coventry” is echoed throughout the collection. In “How to Get There,” an essay on what work can be done in the collaborative realm of a creative writing class, Cusk has a dismal view of those who crave sociability, who do not respect the solitude and asceticism she believes generate writing. She is just as suspicious of people who “configure writing as a ‘career’ full of obligations and appointments, in order to ward off the suspicion of amateurism and manage the insecurity of creative freedom.”

more here.