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Our May Author of the Month: RACHEL CUSK

Saturday, May 01, 2021 at 2:32pm

Rachel Cusk was born in Canada in 1967 and spent much of her childhood in Los Angeles before finishing her education at a convent school in England. Her first novel, Saving Agnes (1993), won the Whitbread First Novel Award. A Life’s Work: On Becoming a Mother (2001), is a personal exploration of motherhood. In The Lucky Ones (2003), she uses a series of five narratives, loosely linked by the experience of parenthood, to write of life’s transformations; of what separates us from those we love and what binds us to those we no longer understand. Her novel, Arlington Park (2006), was shortlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction. She has also published a memoir of a 3-month family stay in Italy, The Last Supper: A Summer in Italy (2009); and a novel entitled The Bradshaw Variations (2009). In 2014 her novel Outline was published by Vintage. It was inspired by Cusk’s experience of teaching a creative writing course in Athens supported by the British Council. Shortlisted for several major awards, it was the first in a trilogy, followed by Transit (2016) and Kudos (2018).

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 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.

Categories: Authors, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Author of the Month

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Second Place

- by Rachel Cusk

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On a sun-soaked Parisian street, M, a mother on the brink of rebellion, wanders into a famous artist's gallery show. The artist's paintings speak--quite literally--to her, promising a liberation usually reserved for men. She returns to the coastal home she shares with her husband, but the unsettling impression of the art, and the evasive artist, remains. So she writes, inviting him to stay in their second place, a modest cottage salvaged from the land.

When historical catastrophe upends daily life, M's daughter returns to the marsh, along with her prim, privileged boyfriend. The painter arrives, too, accompanied by a lithe, cosmopolitan lover. Resigned to the perilous indoors, fissures form within the strange group. The painter's quietly demonic presence wreaks havoc with M, plunging her into existential disarray. As secrets, alliances and private desires come to light, she is forced to choose between her deepest impulses: to comply or to rebel completely.

Like her acclaimed Outline trilogy, Rachel Cusk's Second Place transcends its form. Inspired by Lorenzo in Taos, Mabel Dodge Luhan's 1932 memoir of the writer D. H. Lawrence's fraught visit to her communal property, the novel hovers between past and present, Gothic and contemporary, fable and truth--continuing to haunt us long after we've looked away.

Kudos

- by Rachel Cusk

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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.

 

The Last Supper

- by Rachel Cusk

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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.

Aftermath

- by Rachel Cusk

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In 2003, Rachel Cusk published A Life's Work, her provocative and startlingly funny memoir of the cataclysm of motherhood, and launched debates that continue to this day. Now, in her most relevant work yet, Cusk offers an intimate exploration of divorce and its tremendous impact on the lives of women--and discovers opportunity as well as pain.

An unflinching chronicle of the upheaval of her own recent separation, Aftermath is also a vivid study of divorce's complex place in our society. With candor as fearless as it is affecting, Rachel Cusk maps a transformative chapter of her life with wit and acuity, and in a way that will help us understand our own.

A Life's Work

- by Rachel Cusk

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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

"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

A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother is Rachel Cusk's funny, moving, brutally honest account of her early experiences of motherhood. When it was published it 2001, it divided critics and readers. One famous columnist wrote a piece demanding that Cusk's children be taken into care, saying she was unfit to look after them, and Oprah Winfrey invited her on the show to defend herself.

An education in babies, books, breast-feeding, toddler groups, broken nights, bad advice and never being alone, it is a landmark work, which has provoked acclaim and outrage in equal measure.

Outline

- by Rachel Cusk

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Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner. She goes swimming with an elderly Greek bachelor. 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 is Rachel Cusk's finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant and original novels of recent years.

The Outline Trilogy

- by Rachel Cusk

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"These novels are among the most important written in this century so far." --The Globe and Mail

Rachel Cusk's ambitious Outline trilogy has received acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Outline (2015) was a finalist for both the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for Fiction. Transit (2017), has been called "dreamlike" (Toronto Star), "extraordinary" (The Daily Telegraph) and "a work of stunning beauty, deep insight and great originality" (The New York Times Book Review). And Kudos (2018) has been called "intellectually entrancing" (The Globe and Mail), "radical and beautiful" (The New Yorker) and "bracingly compelling" (Vogue).

Brought together in one exquisite collection, this groundbreaking trilogy follows Faye, a novelist facing divorce and family collapse, as she teaches creative writing in Athens, rebuilds a family in London and travels to European cities for literary events--along the way meeting people who help to reveal the merit in suffering, the fear that accompanies mysterious, inescapable change, and the hope of new possibilities that open from it. Cusk's original and powerful writing captures brilliant and startling insights into facing a great loss and the trauma of change.

Transit

- by Rachel Cusk

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**FINALIST for the Scotiabank Giller Prize; FINALIST for the Goldsmiths Prize; a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year; A New York Times Notable Book of the Year**

"A work of stunning beauty, deep insight and great originality." --The New York Times

"Brave and uncompromising. . . . A work of cut-glass brilliance." --Financial Times

"Cusk's writing feels, exhilaratingly, unlike any other fiction being written." --Toronto Star

Internationally acclaimed author and Scotiabank Giller Prize finalist Rachel Cusk returns with Transit, a powerful novel that captures a woman's experience with the fear and hope that accompany unavoidable change.

Faye has moved to London with her two young sons in the wake of family collapse. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions--personal, moral, artistic, practical--as she endeavours to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living 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 the keenly intelligent Faye, Transit sees Rachel Cusk offer 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 precise yet epic novel, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language toward it. 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.

"An extraordinary piece of writing--stunningly bold, original and humane." --The Daily Telegraph