From Rachel Cusk, her first collection of essays about motherhood, marriage, feminism, and art
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.
"First-rate, marked by candor and seriousness . . . [Cusk] is a poet of split feelings. Her inquisitive intelligence is the rebar that, inside the concrete, holds the edifice upright . . . I have quoted Cusk a great deal in this review. There are more of her words here than mine . . . But sometimes you just need to get out of the way." —Dwight Garner, The New York Times
"[Cusk's voice is] imbued with an authority that is all the more powerful because it is diffuse and flexible, aware of its limited perspective and willing to be measured against those of others . . . Cusk, like the best artists, has renovated her work from its deepest interior—the self—transforming her private crises into an expansive aesthetic vision." —Meaghan O'Gieblyn, The New York Times Book Review
"Cusk’s unsparing ability to see links between her own experience and broader literary and historical perspectives has always elevated her personal writing above mere memoir, and this collection cements her reputation as one of the most fierce and elegant chroniclers of how we live now." —Stephanie Merritt, The Guardian
“The essays [in Coventry] chip away at Cusk’s preoccupations—the tenuous agreements of civility, the tension between family life and the creative process, the making of a home—from multiple angles in order to chisel towards some sort of truth . . . As the language in her work becomes more streamlined, Cusk’s voice in Coventry resonates loud and clear.” —Mia Levitin, Financial Times
“Fiercely intelligent, with enviable prose that is at once luminous and precise . . . If residing in ‘Coventry’ has allowed [Cusk] to write with such devastating complexity, I hope she stays there.” —Kathryn Maris, New Statesman
"Opening up the deep crevices of everyday life's paradoxes, myths, and more, Cusk pulls apart the stories we tell to reflect on the mess underneath." —Maggie Taft, Booklist (starred review)
"Readers of the author's first-person fiction will be pleased with the acutely observant narrative voice that characterizes these introspective meditations on family, motherhood, marriage, and community . . . An eloquent and engrossing selection of nonfiction writing that will enhance Cusk's stature in contemporary literature." —Kirkus (starred review)
"Cusk turns her perceptive gaze and distinctive voice to a variety of topics in her arresting first essay collection." —Publishers Weekly
"Impressive and wonderful. Rachel Cusk sees the truth where the rest of us can only make out shadows. Coventry is Cusk's theory of forms." —Lauren Elkin, author of Flâneuse