in store now
The nameless and unemotional first-person narrator of Rachel Cusk’s acclaimed novel Outline, returns in her new book. Outline was a bloodless record of conversations the narrator had experienced, always less a participant than a reflecting and recording instrument.
Reading it was unsettling. The conversations were, on the surface, ordinary, but freighted with consequence. The narrator, ever attentive, remained elusive, visible only by how others addressed her, assessed her, or by what they expected of her.
It was a literary conjuring, brilliantly devised and executed, immaculately investing fiction with the accoutrements and feel of memoir, often leaving the reader suspended somewhere above solid ground.
I had no idea that the story would continue.
If Outline was an account of going away, then Transit is one of coming back, not always a comfortable proposition.
The format is the same, a series of conversations. Again important observations get the same weight as pleasantries; again significance is easy to miss.
Astonishing things happen to completely ordinary people. Life goes on.
Transit is as unsettling and jarring as its predecessor, and just as impossible to put down.
This time the matter of living with other people is at the heart of the narrative. This time, though, the narrator begins to take tangible shape. Amid the usual flat reportage, her own concerns arise. She has regrets. She has relationships.
She has a name!
Both of these impressive books are about how we talk to each other, and how we listen. You wonder, reading these books, if anyone really pays attention, if everyone only ever hears what they want to hear.
Transit is as unsettling and jarring as its predecessor, and just as impossible to put down. The development of the narrator, however, and the inescapable hope that there is more to come makes the wait for the next instalment deliciously excruciating.
Ben reads almost anything, for the most part with an eye for the unusual, the overlooked and the underappreciated. He regularly makes presentations of current noteworthy titles to interested parties, both in the store and out.