Transit
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 family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions—personal, moral, artistic, 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 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 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 precise, short, and yet epic cycle of novels, 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.

Transit Details

TitleTransit
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJan 17th, 2017
PublisherFarrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN-139780374278625
Rating
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Contemporary, Novels

Transit Review

  • Fionnuala
    January 1, 1970
    I watched as the reader glanced up from the page, sat for a moment without moving, then closed the book. "That episode about the dog," she said, turning to me, "the episode where the creative writing student succeeded in conveying to the class that his dog was beautiful even though he didn't know how to explain it initially. What exactly did you intend in that episode?"I asked what she thought I had intended. "Well, I'm inclined to think you were making a point about the old 'show versus tell' I watched as the reader glanced up from the page, sat for a moment without moving, then closed the book. "That episode about the dog," she said, turning to me, "the episode where the creative writing student succeeded in conveying to the class that his dog was beautiful even though he didn't know how to explain it initially. What exactly did you intend in that episode?"I asked what she thought I had intended. "Well, I'm inclined to think you were making a point about the old 'show versus tell' chestnut," she said. While she had been reading Outline, she told me, she had had the thought that the book was something of a manifesto proclaiming that 'telling' can be as powerful a tool in writing as 'showing', and she had continued to ponder that notion as she made her way through Transit. When she had read the passage where the second student insisted that the first student show the class that the dog was beautiful instead of just telling them he was beautiful, she had thought I was setting readers up for a demonstration of some kind. "And you were," she said. There were layers and layers of telling in the following pages, she went on, as readers were given not only the narrator's version of the first student's account of his involvement with the beautiful dog, but also his story of the woman he met in Nice, and her involvement with the same breed of dogs. And that story in turn included a story about a man the woman had met years before who trained such hunting dogs. At the end of that series of dog stories, which the reader claimed she had read with increasing interest, she told me that she understood why the dog was beautiful and that she had become completely reconciled to my 'recounting' technique, although while reading Outline, and even earlier sections of this book, she had felt frustrated by it.I asked her why she had chosen to continue reading something that had frustrated her. "I'm interested in your project," she answered, "which is why I picked up the second book, in spite of the amount of pluperfect tense I was certain it would contain!" She had never come across the word 'had' used so frequently in a text, she said, smiling. But, in spite of the pluperfect tense and the eternal recounting, she had been intrigued by the inner workings of a writer's life that were occasionally revealed in the books. She imagined the text as giving a glimpse of the way writing is arrived at. Or not arrived at, she added, turning to me with a quizzical look, since the narrator of both books, who is a writer after all, she pointed out, didn't seem to be in writing mode during Outline or Transit, yet...Even while she was speaking to me about Faye not being in writing mode in the two books that existed in spite of that fact, she herself had taken up her iPad and had been typing furiously. I asked her what she was doing. She took a minute to answer, her fingers flying across the virtual keyboard. "Oh, you know," she replied at last, "something akin to what you and Faye do with your students, your hairdresser, your builder, the people you meet on planes and at literary forums.""What exactly do you mean?" I asked, already anticipating the answer."I'm using you," she said. And then she pressed Save
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  • Elyse Walters
    January 1, 1970
    “Transit” - book 2 - in the “Ouline Series”, was so incredibly magnificent from the start —that by the first touch of my finger turning my ebook Kindle page to the next - still only 1% read - half way down the page my eyes were watering. After I read these words ( after the ‘already’ eye catching - ears popping - very noticeable opening first sentence on the page before), these next set of words destroyed me, enlightened me, gifted me, putting me into an almost hypnotized trance space —— for “Transit” - book 2 - in the “Ouline Series”, was so incredibly magnificent from the start —that by the first touch of my finger turning my ebook Kindle page to the next - still only 1% read - half way down the page my eyes were watering. After I read these words ( after the ‘already’ eye catching - ears popping - very noticeable opening first sentence on the page before), these next set of words destroyed me, enlightened me, gifted me, putting me into an almost hypnotized trance space —— for most of the book. Especially yesterday - 65%% of it I read ‘before’ having a root canal. The remainder part of the book - I read early this morning- savoring what I had left to read - but that ‘trance’ was lifted. I was back to ‘normal’ type reading. ( is there such a thing?). Well- I wasn’t having a type of out-of- body experience any longer. I was in my present day. THESE ARE THE WORDS THAT TURN ON A PANORAMIC VIDEO OF MY ENTIRE LIFE YESTERDAY: “She could sense - the email continued - that I had lost my way in life, that I sometimes struggled to find meaning in my present circumstances and to feel hope for what was to come; she felt a strong connection between us and while she couldn’t explain the feeling, she knew too that some things ought to defy explanation”. Rachel Cusk’s writing continued and continued to be so exquisite, I almost couldn’t contain it. And it was as though through osmosis, I ‘knew’ the narrator - Faye- was going to tell us a story about A GUY! Sure enough, the first story was about an ex- boyfriend she walked out on years ago - oh - it’s about much more than that - but that’s enough without spoiling the story itself. While reading Rachel’s MAGNIFICENT WRITING - GUT PIERCING BEAUTIFUL - past -memories were rapidly displaying themselves on the invisible theater screen in front of me. People - places - things which I haven’t thought about in years came flying by - faster and faster. I couldn’t hold onto them. I was on the verge of tears - often re- reading sentences from Rachel’s book - while the slide show of my life kept flashing photos, feelings, memories. There was Art..... The psychologist from New Jersey. We lived together in Oakland for two years. He was great. He’s still great. On the night of our engagement party at a Chinese Restaurant in San Francisco with our family all attending — I came home from my afternoon job in Berkeley, “ The Pant House”, across from Sproul Plaza from UC Berkeley ( my part time job while going to school), - gave him about $200. worth of guys clothes with my 40% discount - ( bought a lot of clothes) - and gave him my engagement - to marry - ring back to him. I said.... “I’m sorry, I can’t”. I’m sooo sorry”. JUST LIKE THAT....I walked away. Other memories- many different types -kept coming ...And not to worry - there was more completion to the Art story.... but not for years. Today he is married - still a therapist - has adult kids - still a wonderful guy. We have a little connection still today. The FLOOD of memories kept coming. Bluebirds/ camp fire girls in grammar school -sweetest friends - then leaving them ( moving away). loss. Patterns of bolting in my younger years. Those fears of getting hurt, left, created intimacy issues for me for awhile - until I did some growing -healing - as many of us have had to do- especially those who came from broken families- (death in mine at a young age - etc.). Rachel taps into all issues below the surface. She’s not only a talented writer but very aware of the human conditions: profoundly. Ron....My boyfriend in 8th grade. We spent 3 hours each night on the phone together. Ron is still my friend today. But at some point in the school cafeteria- I took his ring off ( that was around my neck), walked up to ‘the boys’ table and threw it at him - in front of all his friends. Years later he told me he deserved it. We’re still friends today. But so many memories of leaving - loss - surfaced. Luckily I didn’t ‘feel’ the pain this time around - More I studied them - observed them. Was it Rachel’s intention for us to look at our own stories when she wrote this? I have no idea. I also have no idea how other readers will react. I only can report what happened to me. More ‘run-away’ memories from every guy I kept ‘running from’ kept flashing in front of me. It wasn’t a proud moment. But I didn’t beat myself up over it any longer. Rather I just noticed I don’t run anymore. I also will hang in to solve problems with anyone today if they are willing. Other memories - of feeling lost on campus in college came back- confused - in a bad space with the Vietnam war going on. I was a straight arrow ex-cheerleader/gymnast, ( still a virgin), who didn’t know how to ‘be’. Lots of memories of my two very close girlfriends Renee and Lisi since junior high.Years and years of activities- friends- so many I love with all my heart - silly times - quiet times -regretful times - ongoing and ongoing....then moved through marriage- children - my years with Paul - Katy and Ali ( who got married this month)...My sister ....my temple - local community - aging - Goodreads - present day “Transit” reads like linked stories - conversations - observations and interactions. Past memories - changes facing them and accepting them- and current life.....The depth of Rachel’s stories reaches down into a space inside us - layers deeper than we usually go on a normal day - but she does something specular: it’s possible she invites readers look at their BEST SELVES .... their most honest - vulnerable self. Remarkable- and meaningful..... Transit was deeply personal ......It’s LIFE......family, love, breakups, marriage, children, Home Renovation ( one of my favorite stories, as I saw symbolism), writing conference, oh....and a funny story in a beauty parlor. Obviously, as you can see, I found this book emotionally affecting! I was going to begin “Kudos”, today.....but since I’m still recovering from yesterday’s root canal enjoyment, I’m going to listen to one of my Audiobooks in the yard instead. But I’ll read Rachel’s next book soon Tea time over too! Blessings & love to the Goodreads community & my friends.
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  • Jaidee
    January 1, 1970
    5 "refreshing, uproarious, precise" stars !!! 7th Favorite Read of 2018 Award In 2016 I read Outline, the first in this trilogy by Ms. Cusk and was blown away by her prose, her train of thought and the clarity of her understandings. I wanted and needed more of her prose pronto and that book was my Bronze award of the year ! I was looking for more of the same in this sequel but was not prepared for a very different sort of book. Instead of pristine distillations of thinking and insight I was 5 "refreshing, uproarious, precise" stars !!! 7th Favorite Read of 2018 Award In 2016 I read Outline, the first in this trilogy by Ms. Cusk and was blown away by her prose, her train of thought and the clarity of her understandings. I wanted and needed more of her prose pronto and that book was my Bronze award of the year ! I was looking for more of the same in this sequel but was not prepared for a very different sort of book. Instead of pristine distillations of thinking and insight I was immersed in something more earthy, moving from the mind down into the throat and staying here. We have here more of an interactional book about characters' interpersonal experiences rather than their musings. We meet a variety of very interesting self-absorbed characters that share their experiences with our heroine Faye who has moved back to London and is renovating her new house.We meet her ex-boyfriend, a few fellow writers, a gal pal, a new writing student, a cousin and his new family, an Albanian renovator and two twisted downstairs neighbours. Faye does not process, judge or even emotionally react. She simply absorbs and is like a mirror to others' experiences while she glides like a skater through her own life. This book is also at many junctures, hilariously funny and even the ridiculousness of some of the situations become profundities and ideas to reflect upon. Ms. Cusk never even closely goes near slapstick, cheap histrionics or sentimentality. Each fact is whole on its own but also contributes to the kaleidoscope of lived life. Ms. Cusk I love the way you write and the way your mind works. In vernacular, "you fuckin rock!"
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  • Adam Dalva
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this - an improvement on Outline. It has the same intensely observed, rigorous sequence of encounters, but here, the stakes are slightly higher, as our lead buys a flat (set up in part 1), goes on a date, and struggles with downstairs neighbors. When tension and curiosity are added in to Cusk's extreme talent, the result is a book I flew through. It WORKS as a part 2, but would also, surprisingly, function as a stand alone.
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  • Trish
    January 1, 1970
    It is strange, I suppose, for me to describe this trilogy of books as though they were thrillers, but they acted that way upon my consciousness. I read them out of order, 3-1-2, so I will discuss the totality of them in recognition of their separateness. There was a propulsiveness to the story as told by Faye, writer and teacher, former wife and current mother, and narrator of these three slim volumes. These easily contain some of the best writing I have enjoyed for many years.The perspective in It is strange, I suppose, for me to describe this trilogy of books as though they were thrillers, but they acted that way upon my consciousness. I read them out of order, 3-1-2, so I will discuss the totality of them in recognition of their separateness. There was a propulsiveness to the story as told by Faye, writer and teacher, former wife and current mother, and narrator of these three slim volumes. These easily contain some of the best writing I have enjoyed for many years.The perspective in these novels is female, but Cusk gives us a wide range of male personalities to consider. She is not cruel, though it may be true she leaves out that ‘divine spark’ that gives the male its essence, its truest expression. Her observations are deep enough to border on psychoanalysis, giving us the material with which to draw the conclusions. It is fortunate she is so funny because we recognize then that this is fiction. Real life is never so funny. Is it?The final scene in this novel recalls the title of a memoir of hers, The Last Supper, which is definitive, even conclusive, in some way. I have no idea whether the two are related in subject matter, but somehow I am tempted to believe they are. One leaves the dinner party shattered, with only shreds of one’s understanding of what makes a good spouse, a good parent intact. Everything we understood about marriage and parenting has been challenged and we are distraught to realize the only thing left of our understanding is that love must be in the equation somewhere. Scratch that. Everywhere. In great abundance.As a set-piece, this scene has no parallel that I know of in modern literature. The utter compulsion with which we listen to each new voice, each new revelation, gives the book its thriller aspect. What new terror is around the turn in the conversation? Parenting is something about which everyone has opinions. Even when we think we don’t, as soon as someone else acts, we realize that oh yes, we do indeed have opinions.During the dinner party, and several times in the course of this series of novels, Faye takes calls from her own sons, who for one reason or another are on their own while she is away. We see how she reacts, and sometimes, though not always, we learn what she says. We form opinions about her in these moments. Can anyone disapprove of how she handles these intimacies? We have to ask ourselves why she includes these moments in her novels. Is she modeling how she thinks love manifests? I think it may be so.This narrator, I should remind everyone, is practically invisible in these novels. She had a few opinions in the first novel, delivered to a man she met on an airplane and about whose life she really shouldn’t have had much to say, since he was essentially a stranger to her. Opinions like these gradually peter out over the course of the novels and when she is asked directly for her opinion on some topic, she may instead offer a memory of something that happened to her that could be construed as an answer. She uses this technique in her writing classes as well. She is challenged when she is teaching writing sometimes that she does not actually teach, and her novels make no sense. What we learn is that her questions in class about classmates’ experiences are meant to expose those things worth writing about, and how to get to that kernel each time. I think we can assume the author Cusk interrogates herself and her experience in this way to get to stories, though that can never account for the alchemy that makes these books literature.Struggling through her days as a single mother of two boys, Faye manages to engender rage in the residents below her second-floor flat. She determines to hire someone to soundproof the floor while updating the cabinets and finds the most expressive, articulate, introspective builder who reveals he would prefer to live “somewhere completely blank…where there’s nothing, no colors, no features, maybe not even any light…” Similarly, she finds a hairdresser who casually makes the deepest cuts: “To stay free you have to reject change.” Later, Faye will tell an old friend, “Freedom is a home you leave once and can never go back to.” Does she mean freedom, or innocence? Are they the same? Still later yet Faye wll say to that same friend that desire and self-control are not the whole story when we speak of ourselves in the world. There is also something that happens that some call fate but others might call powerlessness. This phenomenon may be especially observable in relationships, when other have will, but not, perhaps, exclusively. It is existential, a reason there are gods.Completely convinced of the potency and success of this trilogy, I am surprised to see how many of my fellows in literature did not share my opinion. She tried something unique in these novels that began as an answer to critics of her autobiographies. It worked. I am eager to discover all I can of her writing, and believe she should be close to the top of the list of our best for what she delivers and how she delivers it. Kudos indeed.Heidi Julavits interviews Rachel Cusk after the publication of Transit in 2017. “Silence,” she said, “is going to become a very powerful thing.”
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  • Hugh
    January 1, 1970
    This continues the pattern started in its predecessor Outline. Once again the narrator Faye remains something of a blank cipher and most of the story is generated by the people she talks to, a shifting cast that allows Cusk to cover a wide range of subjects, experiences and situations. There is a bit more of Faye's own life in this one as she moves back to London and deals with builders and difficult neighbours, but for the most part the observational pattern is maintained.As always the writing This continues the pattern started in its predecessor Outline. Once again the narrator Faye remains something of a blank cipher and most of the story is generated by the people she talks to, a shifting cast that allows Cusk to cover a wide range of subjects, experiences and situations. There is a bit more of Faye's own life in this one as she moves back to London and deals with builders and difficult neighbours, but for the most part the observational pattern is maintained.As always the writing is beautiful, honest, smooth, funny and incisive, making the book a pleasure to read, but rather more difficult to convey in a succinct review. A typical line from early in the book: Besides, Clara needed relatives: it was Diane's view that bringing up a completely undamaged child was in bad taste.The final section in which Faye attends a dinner party and tells the stories of her fellow guests and their children is particularly effective (and entertaining). Highly recommended, and perhaps even better than Outline.
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  • Violet wells
    January 1, 1970
    Always happy to read Rachel Cusk even though I'm still to love any of her books without reservations. Her early novels now all blur together in my mind. There was often a sense that the conventions of plot she chose were stifling her gifts as a writer. They were usually beautifully written and observed novels but showed little special flair for narration, their reach like a day out rather than a three week adventure holiday. The book of hers I most enjoyed was her account of a family trip to Always happy to read Rachel Cusk even though I'm still to love any of her books without reservations. Her early novels now all blur together in my mind. There was often a sense that the conventions of plot she chose were stifling her gifts as a writer. They were usually beautifully written and observed novels but showed little special flair for narration, their reach like a day out rather than a three week adventure holiday. The book of hers I most enjoyed was her account of a family trip to Italy. The narration was more interesting. She carried something of this more direct autobiographical voice through to Outline. In that book there was a sense of a writer struggling to write herself out of a crisis of confidence, very like Nicole Krauss in Forest Dark. Not only confidence in herself as a novelist but also in the limitations of the novel as a form. The narrator in Transit is having her ruined house renovated and while this happens she reports a series of conversations she has with people involved in her life, often migrant builders also struggling to build a structure for their lives. We soon come to understand the ruined house with the nightmare neighbours is very much emblematic of her life and the novel investigates - without much sense of hope - the possibilities of restoration. It was a novel that made me think a lot about the role moral judgement plays in our reading of novels. Judgement is what Faye, the novel's narrator, with her pliable passivity, her defensive reticence, seems to be hiding from throughout the book, as if the less she tells us about herself the less she can be criticised. Ironically, her neighbours, who barely know her, hold her in absolute moral contempt. This perhaps is an easy device to win over our sympathy for Faye. But with each conversation we learn a little more about how she has reached this point in her life, though this often involves the necessity of reading between lines. At one point she writes: "It was as if she was trying to intercept my vision of her before I could read anything into what I saw." And this is very much what Cusk does with the reader. It's interesting that Cusk was sued and lambasted for her two non-fiction books. It's as if, on the one hand, she found her voice in those books and on the other hand then found that voice denied her. Outline and Transit are the result - a mischievous form of fiction that poses as autobiography but tells us more about the nature of the world her character is living in than about the character herself.
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  • Julie Ehlers
    January 1, 1970
    Rachel Cusk’s dreamlike Outline, about a writer’s trip to Greece in the aftermath of a divorce, was one of my favorite novels of 2015. Wandering in the languid heat of Athens, the main character, Faye, is something of an empty vessel, less supplying her own narrative than simply listening to the stories of the people around her—but all of these stories, viewed through Faye’s eyes, are about her just as much as they are about the students, dinner companions, and fellow travelers who pass through Rachel Cusk’s dreamlike Outline, about a writer’s trip to Greece in the aftermath of a divorce, was one of my favorite novels of 2015. Wandering in the languid heat of Athens, the main character, Faye, is something of an empty vessel, less supplying her own narrative than simply listening to the stories of the people around her—but all of these stories, viewed through Faye’s eyes, are about her just as much as they are about the students, dinner companions, and fellow travelers who pass through her life.Transit continues Faye’s story, but the narrative is brought back to England and, at the same time, firmly back to earth. There’s a theme of renovation—of tearing things down, learning to live with the dust and the noise, and (hopefully?) ending up better than ever, but I think, as the title might imply, we’re in a period of transition here—in the period of dust and noise—and the resulting novel was, sadly, less satisfying for me. Faye’s conversations with other characters, as in Outline, all seemed to reflect her current situation one way or another, but the structure felt ill-suited to the tale this time around, the level of detail the characters supplied ultimately straining both credibility and my patience. Outline and Transit are the first two books in a proposed trilogy. While a sense of ongoingness has been an important theme in this new work by Rachel Cusk, I have to admit I’m hoping the dust settles in the third volume and we see some indication that all this work has, for better or worse, actually been leading somewhere.
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  • Kalliope
    January 1, 1970
    And here I am transiting between the first and final volume of Cusk’s trilogy. For Transit this is.Some time had passed since I read Outline and I picked up its continuation, so very different and so similar. One has to guess that we are with the same narrator as in the previous volume. She reveals so little herself that the reader has to pick up one hint here, one there, to make sense of an individual existing at all and of her being the same one. Each chapter reads almost like a detached short And here I am transiting between the first and final volume of Cusk’s trilogy. For Transit this is.Some time had passed since I read Outline and I picked up its continuation, so very different and so similar. One has to guess that we are with the same narrator as in the previous volume. She reveals so little herself that the reader has to pick up one hint here, one there, to make sense of an individual existing at all and of her being the same one. Each chapter reads almost like a detached short story in which we listen to the conversation with a different character, and we get to hear ‘their story’, for the voice of the protagonist keeps almost in mute, except for her promptings to her interlocutor. Gradually some themes begin forming. Fate, or destiny, is put on the page right from the start and we are to follow if in effect fate has the upper hand in the narrator’s life. Language and writing receive the focus in a couple of chapters, and these lead to the subject of representation as being sometimes more powerful than nature, as when one of the talking characters avows that ‘she takes photographs of food instead of eating it’. But representation of course requires the onlooker, an audience. I imagined her in the dusk of a Paris garden, untouched in her white dress, an object thirsting if not for interpretation then for the fulfillment at least of an admiring human gaze, like a painting hanging on a wall, waiting.. So may be the narrator, in her search of her life that she senses to be in flux, is looking for a guide in the interpretation of others, and this leads her to think that solitude is not being imprisoned in one’s perceptions but a state that would allow for a shared consciousness. May be this is the key to the string of dialogues in lieu of voicing out herself. Ad this detachment leads onto the notion that living is like reading a book; we just plod along wanting to know what comes up next. Transitions, such as renovating one’s house, meeting people on the street, translating a text into another language, changing one’s hairstyle, giving free rein to desires, moving to another country, listening to a fortune-teller, or taking refuge in the repetition of familiar sensations. Or writing. Or reading. And of the American painter that is mentioned in the novel, Marsden Hartley, I have chosen his version of Cézanne’s and Picasso’s Mount Saint-Victoire. (view spoiler)[ Picasso is buried nearby. He bought a mansion near the mountain so that he could look at Cézanne’s vision every day, but he chose not to paint it himself (hide spoiler)]. This is another kind of transition.*****Now on to transit further and pick up Kudos********Reading about Mahler in another very different book I come upon this notion - another take on 'Trasition'Shortly before Mahler was born, Wagner wrote to Mathilde Wesendonk: "I should now like to call my deepest and most subtle art of transition for the whole fabric of my art is based upon such transitions." The Ninth's first movement is the high point of Mahler's own practice in the deep and subtle art of transition, or organic expansion, of continuous variation. (view spoiler)[ The Symphony: A Listener's Guide (hide spoiler)]
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  • Teresa
    January 1, 1970
    I had found out more, I said, by listening than I ever thought possible.In this second installment of a trilogy, the narrator Faye (only named once, as she was in the first book, Outline) continues her listening ‘project,’ though with more of letting us into her life. She comes across as emotionless, almost affectless; but there’s no way she is. She just isn’t telling us, or even showing us, how she feels. As with one event in Outline, I supplied the emotion, though it didn’t happen until near I had found out more, I said, by listening than I ever thought possible.In this second installment of a trilogy, the narrator Faye (only named once, as she was in the first book, Outline) continues her listening ‘project,’ though with more of letting us into her life. She comes across as emotionless, almost affectless; but there’s no way she is. She just isn’t telling us, or even showing us, how she feels. As with one event in Outline, I supplied the emotion, though it didn’t happen until near the end.We don’t really know how Faye feels during the struggles of house renovation, nasty neighbors, dealing with children, and more. We don’t know how she feels when the unnamed Chair of a literary festival makes a pass at her. We get only one hint of her emotion when another character, after asking Faye a question, notices she’s blushing.Despite more glimpses into her life than in the first book, this book basically follows the same structure of recording, in Faye’s words, the stories of others. The most effective of these is the story of a “beautiful” dog, an example of “showing-not-telling” in Faye’s writing class, when she is initially silentl as a student takes the teacher-role. After finishing the book, I thought of the “beautiful” dog in contrast with the nasty neighbors’ pitiable dog. The image of Faye’s torn-up house as being ‘seen-through’ exists as a comparison to an earlier story told by one of the renovators. His story is of the house he built in Poland for his family; he purposely designed it to seem as if it had no outer or inner walls. There’s even more to be parsed.A scene near the end is a perfectly rendered one of almost-absurdity, of almost laughing then almost crying—not by the characters, but by the reader. Also near the end, a character elaborates on how he had to train himself from subconsciously wanting ‘comfort food’ to consciously desiring the delicacies he now creates. I wonder if this is what Cusk is trying to do for her readers. Though I’ve commented on the ‘end,’ there’s nothing to spoil in this book: it’s all in the writing.
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  • Ines
    January 1, 1970
    I am one of the few readers of GR to have found this book just of a paroxysmal boredom.... I finished it and found myself lighter, but can you be so stupid to feel compelled to finish unfit books? I found it a complicated accumulation of events, of characters Sine die et sine logicaand crossing each others as if they were gym drinks to share...Unfortunately I am not made for these new writers, ( personally) and this conceiving artificial stories with no clue.I console myself firmly believing I am one of the few readers of GR to have found this book just of a paroxysmal boredom.... I finished it and found myself lighter, but can you be so stupid to feel compelled to finish unfit books? I found it a complicated accumulation of events, of characters Sine die et sine logicaand crossing each others as if they were gym drinks to share...Unfortunately I am not made for these new writers, ( personally) and this conceiving artificial stories with no clue.I console myself firmly believing that of Kent Haruf, one is born in every 2 million!!! Sono una tra le poche lettrici di GR ad aver trovato questo libro di una noia parossistica.....L'ho finito e mi sono trovata piu' leggera, ma si può essere così stupide a sentirsi obbligati a finire libri non confacenti? L'ho trovato un accrocchio di eventi, di personaggi "Sine die et sine logica"e fare incroci come se fossero beveroni da palestra....Purtroppo non sono fatta per questi nuovi scrittori ( personalmente) questo concepire storie artificioseMi consolo credendo fermamente che di Kent Aruf, ne nasce uno ogni 2 milioni!!!
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  • SueKich
    January 1, 1970
    Is it a novel...…this sequence of unrelated interludes recounted in an aloof tone of voice? Rachel Cusk’s book opens as the narrator (a writer) moves back to her old London neighbourhood with her two sons, buying an ex-council flat sorely in need of improvement and with a pair of nasty neighbours living below. She bumps into an old boyfriend and they have an unrealistic conversation. She has her starting-to-grey hair tinted for the first time and her hairdresser conducts an unlikely monologue. Is it a novel...…this sequence of unrelated interludes recounted in an aloof tone of voice? Rachel Cusk’s book opens as the narrator (a writer) moves back to her old London neighbourhood with her two sons, buying an ex-council flat sorely in need of improvement and with a pair of nasty neighbours living below. She bumps into an old boyfriend and they have an unrealistic conversation. She has her starting-to-grey hair tinted for the first time and her hairdresser conducts an unlikely monologue. She meets with a seen-it-all-before builder who advises her to sell the flat and walk away. She attends a book festival where she and the other speakers get soaking wet on their way to the tent. She tutors Jane, a struggling would-be writer: “I found myself wondering who exactly she was: there was a sense of drama about her that seemed to invite only two responses – either to become absorbed or to walk away. Yet the prospect of absorption seemed somehow arduous…” Good point, I thought. And stopped reading.
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  • Jimmy
    January 1, 1970
    Sometimes when I come upon a book by chance and not through premeditated research, there is a sense of excitement, as when I read my first books and every book that followed had the potential to be great or a great failure or both. Maybe it's the danger of going outside of any known rubric for selection. Fate looms, as if each book was meant to be stumbled upon at its time and place rather than arrived at through well-manicured avenues.Whatever the case, it's lead me to great reads before. I Sometimes when I come upon a book by chance and not through premeditated research, there is a sense of excitement, as when I read my first books and every book that followed had the potential to be great or a great failure or both. Maybe it's the danger of going outside of any known rubric for selection. Fate looms, as if each book was meant to be stumbled upon at its time and place rather than arrived at through well-manicured avenues.Whatever the case, it's lead me to great reads before. I once stumbled upon James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, recalling the name vaguely from some late night conversations. The next morning I discovered that it was autographed, with a note seemingly to me: "For Jimmy, or be that James".I found Rachel Cusk's Transit by chance in the PR6051 area of the library when it was cataloged as PR6053, which doesn't sound like a big difference, but it is in the labyrinthian scheme of the university library. I would have never found it otherwise, if I were looking for it under its correct call number.Maybe it was in transit between a bookcart and a holds shelf when it fell in with the wrong crowd and lost its way. Surrounded by the wrong influences many aisles from its home, it would never have otherwise found its way back, so I pulled it out thinking "Rachel Cusk, where have I heard of this name before? Wasn't she on my 'to read' list a while back? Maybe it's finally time to read this."In fact, I first heard Cusk on KCRW's Bookworm, where Cusk talks about eliminating dread:"I think dread is a massive component of narrative and it's the thing that I've [long pause, obviously uncomfortable with the next word] suffered from ... for me it's the place where living and writing and reading become very interwoven and to make the book light and free of dread to have it go up rather than down and the sentences go up at the end not down that was a really absolutely crucial kind of morality, because this is a different morality, it's not a Judeo-Christian morality, I'm trying to get to something else, that feeling of... I suppose you can call it suspense, that--you know, people could read my book and complain there is no plot, but for me at this point plot has become a vehicle of dread, the absolute vehicle of dread."At first I didn't know what dread she was referring to, but as she started talking about plot and suspense, I felt a kinship to what she was saying. This dread didn't come from the plot of the book but rather the way the plot unfolds in an almost constricting manner. It reminded me of something Abbas Kiarostami said about Hollywood movies, that they "took the viewer hostage". It's a similar feeling, a familiar construct ties you down and forces you to care in a way that is beyond your freedom to care. Instead of dropping you in and allowing you to look about of your own free will.This does not mean that Transit doesn't have a plot. It does. Things happen in the book. So what does Cusk mean when she refers to plot or suspense? She must not mean plot as in "things happening" then, but rather as the construct of things happening in a string of necessary causations that lead somewhere definitive. Instinctively, we look for the next thing. It's a construct that implies a higher power (the author? the Judeo-Christian conception of god?) in that things happen for a reason, and there's a place for good and bad. Or if not good and bad, then at least some kind of value judgement descends on the scene. But there is no room for boredom or transcendence in this model, no room for just existing when one is pulled along by the sensitive fleshy parts of the nose. One must be able to sit and be comfortable sitting, as in a Kiarostami scene unfolding in real time, perhaps even in the mystery of absolute darkness, without having one’s gaze be directed toward the human.This is a tricky balancing act and Cusk deftly navigates it by presenting moments to you as if independent from past moments. Cut off from a past or a future they are but observations. Theoretically you could randomly open this book and read any amount and still enjoy it as much as reading it from beginning to end. It is not that a past doesn't exist, or that memory doesn't exist, but personal history has intentionally been omitted and as Marianne Moore says about omissions, they are not accidents. The trauma that this narrator has [ dramatic pause ] suffered, the trauma that may have resulted in this sabotage on the personal, is instead infused and reflected outward into the conversations around her, stories that these others have carried with them and leave in their wake, transform into free agents floating about with the potential to connect in multiple ways.These stories are free from an overbearing narrative, or seemingly so; maybe it's an illusion, but the form for this novel fits the meditation that follows in vignette after vignette:"It wasn't a question of seeing my femaleness as interchangeable with fate: what mattered more was to learn how to read that fate, to see the forms and patterns in the things that happened, to study their truth. It was hard to do that while still believing in identity, let alone in personal concepts like justice and honour and revenge, just as it was hard to listen while you were talking. I had found out more, I said, by listening than I had ever thought possible."Was it fate that allowed me to come upon this book lost in the stacks or a willingness to wander without an end in mind?"I said that my current feelings of powerlessness had changed the way I looked at what happens and why, to the extent that I was beginning to see what other people called fate in the unfolding of events, as though living were merely an act of reading to find out what happens next. That idea -- of one's own life as something that had already been dictated -- was strangely seductive, until you realized that it reduced other people to the moral status of characters and camouflaged their capacity to destroy. Yet the illusion of meaning recurred, much as you tried to resist it: like childhood, I said, which we treat as an explanatory text rather than merely as a formative experience of powerlessness."As much as the narrator wants to live in a world free from plot or suspense, she is surrounded by traditional structures which she cannot avoid (or maybe she is attracted to them): the stories everybody tells her all have a beginning middle and end, many of which have clear personal significances and many are told in a way that don't resemble the "reality" the novel struggles to enact. And the narrator herself, maybe on a deeper level is moving towards these narratives inside of a frame of blankness in order to find a communal likeness, some common ground to place herself within this transition. It's also worth noting that this love/hate relationship with structure is both symbolic and real. Throughout the novel, while she is wandering about, builders are renovating her house, one that we imagine her settling into after this transition.Back to the interview:"As children you're forced to harden yourself in order to not be a child anymore, and I relate suspense very much to that hardening process, if you take a true child, they hate it, they hate the idea of being led alone into fear and uncertainty, it's almost like an awful test, a hardening up, and I suppose part of what I dearly wanted was to free myself from it and to return to a prose where there was no danger ever, and there might be nothingness, there might just be nothing, you know suspense comes out of belief, and if you don't believe in anything then suddenly you're in a very very different world."Children are most comfortable with uncertainty, just read a children's book and you'll see the type of freedom they're okay with. And yet the danger that Cusk is talking about here is one of the real world, of consequences. Otherwise I don't know what she's talking about. I think it's different than saying the danger of a plot which judges you. Rather, that judgement is a serious one enacted in daily life, in its values. I think she's talking about the danger of adulthood. Maybe children hate most the uncertainty of adulthood and consequences rather than the uncertainty of lightness and play.“[Gerard] had spent two years living with Diane in Toronto, and even though he had felt liberated there ... his sense of guilt was more powerful. And once [his daughter] Clara was born, the dilemma got worse: the only thing more unimaginable than the idea that Clara should have a childhood that resembled his own was the idea that she shouldn't, that she might live her whole life in ignorance of everything that for Gerard constituted reality.I asked him why he had used the word 'guilt' to describe what other people might have called homesickness, and what in any case was really just the absence of his own familiar world.'It felt wrong to be choosing,' Gerard said. 'It felt wrong for the whole of life to be based on choice.'"But you have to choose, that's the point. Paradoxically, there is no fate without choice. Nothing is purely chance. It might not even seem like a choice, but to be alive means you have to be somewhere, and to be somewhere necessarily limits your possibilities to a location and set of people you see on a daily basis. And your socio-economic status confines you inside of your myopic bubble. Recently, I heard of a guy who developed an app that aimed to pierce this bubble. It allowed you to drop into other people's bubbles at random by finding public events on Facebook that you would not otherwise have looked for based on your interests/friends group. It seems like an interesting experiment in fate vs. choice. We think we are free but we're trapped inside of a bubble that we don't even see anymore, a bubble that is dictated somewhere along the way by a choice we made a long time ago. Afterall, choices do have consequences. There seems to be a push-pull going on in these pages, a negotiation between being an active participant in our lives (choices matter) and a passive experiencer of life as it happens to us (fate happens)."For a long time, I said, I believed that it was only through absolute passivity that you could learn to see what was really there. But my decision to create a disturbance by renovating my house had awoken a different reality, as though I had disturbed a beast sleeping in its lair. I had started to become, in effect, angry. I had started to desire power, because what I now realized was that other people had had it all along, that what I called fate was merely the reverberation of their will, a tale scripted not by some universal storyteller but by people who would elude justice for as long as their actions were met with resignation rather than outrage."Can you go through the world like a nature documentary, without saving the prey? Can you experience the world while leaving the nature around you unchanged? Maybe there is no fate but just a confluence of chance and wills that bend reality in this way or that. What remains of fate is the result of that bending, which often isn’t what we expected. We twist the knobs without knowing what we're meddling with, there are too many variables in this fluid world. The illusion of control reassures us, but thankfully, something always surprises us too.
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  • Lee Klein
    January 1, 1970
    There's a great moment in this episodic, suggestive, quasi-memoir in which the narrator Faye is teaching a creative writing class and a dominant, forceful student instructs another that he can't just say his dog is beautiful, he needs to show the dog, evoke it, and the dog owner student guy gets a little flustered and says something like I dunno she's a beautiful dog, and then Faye simply asks what breed it is, and the dog owner student totally naturally unleashes (no pun intended but hey look There's a great moment in this episodic, suggestive, quasi-memoir in which the narrator Faye is teaching a creative writing class and a dominant, forceful student instructs another that he can't just say his dog is beautiful, he needs to show the dog, evoke it, and the dog owner student guy gets a little flustered and says something like I dunno she's a beautiful dog, and then Faye simply asks what breed it is, and the dog owner student totally naturally unleashes (no pun intended but hey look at that pun!) an evocative story about his dog, how it's an Arabian breed meant to hunt in packs, with two dogs in the lead working in concert with a trained hawk or falcon above tracking down the quarry (perfect coordination of individuals working in tandem, united, connected, as opposed to feeling alone and disjointed). A saluki. (Cusk seems to excel when writing about dogs.) It's a great moment because it's representative of how this works, how the narrator removes herself like the best first-person narrators (neither Ishmael nor Nick Carraway talk much about themselves) and lets other people tell their stories to her, all of which, thanks to their selection among all the stories she could tell, suggest the concerns of a newly divorced writer with kids who's rehabbing the worst house in the best neighborhood of London. There isn't necessarily a conventional plot but there's definitely the scaffolding of re-establishing herself in London during a transitional time in her life, the workers in the house, student stories about relationships with men, the neighbors downstairs casting serious aspersions her way. One of the most entertaining parts comes when she's on stage with two other writers who write from their life, two men who couldn't be more different in tone and approach, one clever and openly in it for adoration and cheers, the other (a Knausgaardian type who's written a thousand-page memoir that, like the bible, everyone feels like they should own) somber and serious and searching for truth. There's talk about fate and freewill, passivity and action, and more than enough reflection on its own form to make it philosophically engaging, all while never feeling heavy- nor light-handed. The tone is like a lofting comforter, warm but airy, a place I looked forward to returning, reading on the subway immersed to the point of almost missing my stop more than once (I've haven't yet missed my stop thanks to a novel, but I look forward to it happening one day). The final episode, a dinner party interrupted by kids, seemed one of the weakest in this or Outline, maybe because the author seems to excel when she tells a story told by a character to her narrator -- she does better with summarized scenes and description/exposition more than dramatized scenes with dialogue and a handful of characters moving around a room. It's ultimately hard for people to simply have dinner together in a pack, let alone track down a fleet-footed quarry as one. If it had ended more strongly I may have bestowed the prestigious fifth star upon the second installment of this series. Alas, I deem it an admirable four stars and look forward to gobbling up the third installment as soon as it appears, or as soon as my mother gets it, reads it, and lends it to me -- my mom pretty much forced this one on me (always a good sign). File under books about other people, fiction that feels unlike fiction, novels that circle around and suggest something otherwise unstated at their core.
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  • Gumble's Yard
    January 1, 1970
    Like many others of my Goodreads friends, I re-read just ahead of the publication of the concluding book of the trilogy which this book commenced. My original review of this and the first volume Outline is below – on this reading I enjoyed finding quotes which summarised for me either Rachel Cusk’s underlying technique in writing the trilogy, or the choice of title for the first two volumes. In those days he was a sketch, an outline; I had wanted him to be more than he was, without being able to Like many others of my Goodreads friends, I re-read just ahead of the publication of the concluding book of the trilogy which this book commenced. My original review of this and the first volume Outline is below – on this reading I enjoyed finding quotes which summarised for me either Rachel Cusk’s underlying technique in writing the trilogy, or the choice of title for the first two volumes. In those days he was a sketch, an outline; I had wanted him to be more than he was, without being able to see where the extra would come from. But time had given him density, like an assist filling in the sketched-out form. They had arrived ... At the place where for each of them a relationship usually ended, and set out from there. It's a bit like a revolving door ... You're not inside and you’re not outsideReality ... could serve in the place of fantasy as a means of distracting people from the facts of their own livesI said that if she was talking about identification, she was right - it was common enough to see oneself in others, particularly if the others existed at one remove from us, as for instance characters in a book do They were more like thoughts, thoughts in someone else's head that she could see. It was seeing them that had enabled her to recognise that these thoughts were her own. Sometimes it seemed that the junction was a place of confluence; at other times, when the traffic thundered constantly over the intersection in a chaotic river ... It felt like a mere passageway, a place of transit. The translator was a woman of about my own age .... I had watched her create her own version of what I had written ... Sometimes talking [with her] about certain passages in the book, I would feel her creation begin to supersede mine, not in the sense that she violated what I had written but that it was now living with her, not me. In the process of translation the ownership of it .. had passed from me to her. Like a house.My eye continually drawn ... To the strange cloudscape that appeared to belong neither to night nor to day but to something intermediary and motionless, a place of stasis where they was no movement or progression, no sequence of events that could be studied for its meaningIt suggested that the ultimate fulfillment of a conscious being last not in solitude but in a shared state so intricate and cooperative it might also be said to represent the entwining of two selves. This notion the unitary self being broken down, of Consciousness not as an imprisonment in one's own perceptions but rather as something more intimate and less divided, a universality that came from shared experiences at the highest level For a long time, I said, I believed that it was only through absolute passivity that you could learn to see what was really there. But my decision to create a disturbance by renovating my house had awoken a different realityI like it that you ask these questions she said, but I don't understand why you want to knowI remembered the feeling of tension in the room, which seemed to be related to the provisionality of the situationWhen he thought about his life he saw it as a series of attempts to lose himself by merging with something else, something outside him that could be internalisedIt was hard to listen while you were talking, I had found out more by listening, I said, than I had ever thought possible I felt change far beneath me, moving deep beneath the surface of things, like the plates of earth blindly moving in their black traces ---------------------------------------------------Original joint review with OutlineOutstanding and innovative novels, the first two parts of a planned trilogy. The books are narrated by a writer and now creative writing teacher, a recently divorced mother of two boys – this together with her name (Faye) mentioned only once in each book is almost all we know about her. Instead the book, narrated in the first person, is the record of various conversations with she has in which she plays a typically passive role listening to the other person’s life story and perhaps making a few comments and questions.In the first book she visits Athens to teach a creative writing course, those she talks to include her neighbour on the plane (ex a successful shipping owner), the attendees at her creative writing course, friends, fellow teachers. The themes explored in the stories include the unreliability of other’s stories, storytelling itself, female identity, progression and improvement (and its inadequacy) but often basically people’s relationships with family.All of the stories feature protagonists in not dissimilar positions to Faye and we realise that in some ways the stories and her reaction to them tell us about Faye by a process (one that Cusk in interviews refers to as “annihilated perspective” which is made explicit at the end of the book, when another teacher tells Faye about a conversation she had with her neighbour on the plane “the longer she listened to his answers, the more she felt that something fundamental was being delineated, something not about him but about her. He was describing … what she was not …. This ant-description … had made something clear to her by a reverse kind of exposition; while he talked she began to see herself as a shape, an outline, with all the detail filled in around it while the shape itself remained blank ….(which) gave her … a sense of who she now was”. In the book’s last paragraph, the Greek seat-neighbour contacts her and says (as she does not want to meet” that he will spend the day in “solicitude”, which she corrects to mean “solitude” – again a key part of the book’s theme.The second book contains some slightly weaker elements – a key part of the book is Faye’s decision to buy a very run down flat and to bring it builders to renovate and soundproof it – her elderly and hostile neighbours downstairs are unconvincing and one dimensional (and oddly do not have any story of their own – almost uniquely across the two novels), however the overall effect is still compelling. Faye’s intervention in people’s accounts of their lives (her hairdresser, her builders, one of her students, some recently divorced and remarried friends), deliberately adding her own views and seeking their perspective on it, is much greater in this book – and as a result the accounts have more of a common theme looking at change and reinvention and its interaction with freedom. She also meets a man with whom she starts a tentative relationship – and has a feeling of pulling away from a precipice.
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  • Marc
    January 1, 1970
    It was actually only 3 months ago that I read Outline - the first part of the trilogy of Rachel Cusk. That was a very awkward reading experience due to the dry sequence of conversations of a female writer with a number of friends and strangers, a woman who you only got fragmentary acquaintance with and of which you even heard the name - Faye - only at the end. Both Faye and her conversational partners remained largely sketches, ‘outlines’ (hence title of the book).Part 2 was given the title It was actually only 3 months ago that I read Outline - the first part of the trilogy of Rachel Cusk. That was a very awkward reading experience due to the dry sequence of conversations of a female writer with a number of friends and strangers, a woman who you only got fragmentary acquaintance with and of which you even heard the name - Faye - only at the end. Both Faye and her conversational partners remained largely sketches, ‘outlines’ (hence title of the book).Part 2 was given the title "Transit", and it soon became clear that that title too says something about the focus of this part. Again Cusk presents a succession of conversations, again with Faye as the hub for a colourful group of very diverse "talkers". But this seems quite another book. Because in this part Faye herself comes into the picture and speaks more herself and about her stance in life. And she also takes some decisive actions, such as the complete renovation of her newly purchased apartment. It soon becomes apparent that "change", "transformation" (transit!) is a recurring theme, both in conversations, situations and metaphors. What does change do to a person? Is change good, or is stability more beneficial? Is the truth a fixed point, or is it variable?As the book progresses, the philosophical content of the conversations increases and the most profound reveries about the things of life are discussed. But don't expect any line in this: Faye sometimes hears others tell the most absurd stories about their lives, she often gets involved in awkward situations, and the musings about life go in every direction. While the pace of the conversations is fairly slow at first, this book gradually turns into a chaotic cacophony of comments, reflections and situations.Once again you are left with the question: what the hell is this book about? And again you have that unsatisfactory feeling that you have apparently missed something. My suspicion is that Cusk is doing this on purpose: she deliberately confuses the reader by breaking the "normal" rules of novel writing. In my opinion, this second part was of a higher literary level than the predecessor, and because you soon think you have found the key to reading this part (transformation, change!), the confusion in the end is all the greater. Hence the 3-stars upgrade. I am curious which trick Cusk is going to use in part 3 to unbalance her reader.
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  • Rebecca
    January 1, 1970
    I finally made it through a Rachel Cusk book! (This was my third attempt; I made it just a few pages into Aftermath and about 60 pages through Outline.) I suspected this would make a good plane read, and thankfully I was right. Each chapter is a perfectly formed short story, a snapshot of one aspect of Faye’s life and the relationships that have shaped her: a former lover she bumps into in London, a builder who tells her the flat she’s bought is a lost cause, the awful downstairs neighbors who I finally made it through a Rachel Cusk book! (This was my third attempt; I made it just a few pages into Aftermath and about 60 pages through Outline.) I suspected this would make a good plane read, and thankfully I was right. Each chapter is a perfectly formed short story, a snapshot of one aspect of Faye’s life and the relationships that have shaped her: a former lover she bumps into in London, a builder who tells her the flat she’s bought is a lost cause, the awful downstairs neighbors who hate her with a passion, the fellow writers (based on Edmund White and Karl Ove Knausgaard?) at a literary festival event who hog most of the time, the jolly Eastern European construction workers who undertake her renovations, a childless friend who works in fashion design, and a country cousin who’s struggling with his new blended family.Like in Outline, the novel is based largely on the conversations Faye overhears or participates in (“I had found out more, I said, by listening than I had ever thought possible”), but I sensed more of her personality this time, and could relate to her questioning: why do her neighbors hate her so? How much of her life is fated, and how much has she chosen? I doubt I’ll read another book by Cusk, but I ended up surprisingly grateful to have gotten hold of this one (a free proof copy of the new paperback edition from the Faber Spring Party).Favorite lines:“whatever we might wish to believe about ourselves, we are only the result of how others have treated us.”“we examine least what has formed us the most, and instead find ourselves driven blindly to re-enact it.”“Without children or partner, without meaningful family or a home, a day can last an eternity: a life without those things is a life without a story, a life in which there is nothing – no narrative flights, no plot developments, no immersive human dramas – to alleviate the cruelly meticulous passing of time.”“‘When you are afraid of something,’ she said, ‘that is the sign that it’s something you must do.’”
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  • Nathan
    January 1, 1970
    One common marker of the postmodern condition is ahistoricality. Myself (personally), I take a great interest in the history of literature (specializing in post=WWII american fiction (a very narrow range, true)) ;; and I mean it always helps in understanding, for example, any intellectual giant, to trace out the arc of their bio=history (Heidegger's infamous Kehre). Anyways, I'm often terribly struck by how ahistorical are the processes of many folks trying to understand things, like for One common marker of the postmodern condition is ahistoricality. Myself (personally), I take a great interest in the history of literature (specializing in post=WWII american fiction (a very narrow range, true)) ;; and I mean it always helps in understanding, for example, any intellectual giant, to trace out the arc of their bio=history (Heidegger's infamous Kehre). Anyways, I'm often terribly struck by how ahistorical are the processes of many folks trying to understand things, like for instance The God of the OT (who is a character who emerges historically out of the experience of a small community of wandering=around folks and eventually ends up mating with the Aristotlean unmoved mover).Anyways, with just a little understanding of what's been happening in, for instance, american fiction of the past 70=100 years, silly stuff like the following review wouldn't/couldn't be written ::"Monica Ali on Rachel Cusk’s Risky, Revolutionary New Novel"https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/23/bo...[hint :: it's just another newly pub'd book] following is my blurbed readerly=response, dialogue kind of thing because if you can talk back to the Television, you can talk back to the InternetZ ::"“Transit” is a novel that all but dispenses with plot." So?"A recently divorced novelist buys a dilapidated house [...] has conversations with builders [etc]. She appears at a literary festival where she brings “something to read aloud” ([...]) teaches, goes on a date and attends a disastrous dinner party." That sounds pretty plot=thick in my book. (oh, right ; "all butt")."...in which Rachel Cusk’s project appears to be nothing less than the reinvention of the form [of the novel] itself." okay. That's a good thing to want to do. But you have to provide evidence of a) what that would mean and b) that it has been approached. This sentence struck me so thoroughly that I read the whole review and but was then disappointed to learn that there was in fact no such effort made (I dunno ; did the reviewer fail to support the claim or did the author in fact not attempt this).And this is what I mean by my opening salvo. Ali could have convinced me to give Cusk's new novel a go in the name of 'reinventing the novel' simply by demonstrating knowledge of the long history of the reinvention of the novel (ie, connecting up Cusk's novel with the Tradition out of which it had emerged as an inventive activity) or even simply by some kind of off=hand remark about how the very form of the novel itself is always about reinventing itself. But "all but dispenses with plot" is not a novel reinvention no=way no=how. Because "plot" has nothing to do with the form [of the novel] itself.'“Once you have suffered sufficiently,” [Cusk] told an interviewer after the publication of “Aftermath,” her memoir about the demise of her marriage, “the idea of making up John and Jane and having them do things together seems utterly ridiculous.”' The idea of making up John and Jane is utterly ridiculous whether or not you've written a memoir. "What, then, is to be done? How is the novel to be written?" As it is always written, novel=y. "Cusk’s answer is to eliminate John and Jane in favor of an altogether different narrative structure, in which a shadowy narrator, Faye — named only once in each novel — becomes a conduit for multiple stories." okay. If but if you wanna talk about "altogether different narrative structure" you really need to, for example, discuss a bit (just a bit, a name drop maybe) other instances of "altogether different narrative structure[s]" especially those instances of "altogether different narrative structure[s]" which are pretty much exactly like the ones you are talking about in the book you are reviewing. Or something totally different like how Barth's Tidewater Tales are narrated in the first=person dual p.o.v. (it's a gender bender and you should read it). But having a conduit for multiple stories is as old as the 1001 Nights are long. And that's OKAY ; but it's just simply not true (historically ; it's so damn important to have some kind of historical sense) that it indicates a reinvention of the very form (of the novel) itself."These stories are not, as it were, played out John-and-Jane style; they do not unfold before us, nor are they — by and large — composed through dialogue. " Cool. but, again....."Instead they are delivered by Faye, who sums up what often amounts to the story of a life." I don't get it. This sounds like a thoroughly conventional novel. "It is a risky business, this summing up. Show, don’t tell, say the creative writing manuals. Cusk has torn up the rule book, and in the process created a work of stunning beauty, deep insight and great originality." These two sentences are informative. I mean, they get my spidey=senses all a-tingle and I am being warned against bothering to be interested even in paying attention to what other attentive readers might say about it. I mean, the rug is entirely pulled out from under the book. In other words, I'm not detecting a novel here that would further distract me from my already yhuge pile of tbr.You read the rest of the article and tell me ;; With a decent knowledge of literary history, could any of the claims for this novel have been made? link is up above there Here's just a few more tids ::"Best of all, she has given us all this in a novel that is compulsively readable." [I know that that is a positive ; but it always leaves a negative impression.]"While her prose style is economical, she has a flair for imagery, sometimes bordering on the Dickensian." [I've seen that proper name=adjective in some pretty undesirable positions in recent years, so it too, like 'compulsively readable' tends to be a deterring claim than an eager=making claim]"“Transit” is a slender novel that contains multitudes." [that's good, but...]“...the ultimate fulfillment of a conscious being lay not in solitude but in a shared state so intricate and cooperative it might almost be said to represent the entwining of two selves." [quoting clunky prose?]{DISCLAIMER :: I've not read this book. I (very likely (I mean really veryvery likely)) won't read this novel. Some of it's just a matter of economy (I ain't got the time, just no time for the latestly reviewed by a random review I clicked=on on the internet) --> But, since we all make judgements about books before we read them (this is the nature of prejudice ;; and this Review is just me being HONEST about my prejudices ;; sort of like using this as a case study about how ONE particular reader makes a judgment to not be interested in a particular novel because there is no way in hell you can ever pretend to be interested in every novel published ever just out of some liberal sentiment that all novels are the same until you've read them) --> At some point we have to make a decision whether or not to read the book. These are PREJUDICES. You cannot even get started without them. Of course you need to have the right prejudices. And I think a really good place to start is to have some kind of thorough grasp of the history of literature which is a thing you can really only gain by leaning upon the superior experience of an EXPERT. One reallyreally great place to start, just having it on your shelf as a reference work is like American Fictions 1940-1980: A Comprehensive History and Critical Evaluation (for instance; he has read just about everydamnthing) and of course the indispensable two (third Coming Soon!!!) volumes of Moore's history (he's read the rest of everydamnthing). Of course it's always important to "know what I like" but it is also fundamentally important to know the history of that which you like because in 9 cases out of 10., that which you like has an historical being.}
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  • Claire
    January 1, 1970
    It’s official, I think Rachel Cusk is a genius. Transit is easily going to be one of the best books I read this year. In short, if you read and loved Outline, this follow up lives up to the high expectations your surely have. Back in London, the conversations the Faye has in this novel really centre on relationships, how we make them and break them, and both love and terrorise each other within their bonds. Underneath all this is a fearful narrative of change. Where many stories centre on our It’s official, I think Rachel Cusk is a genius. Transit is easily going to be one of the best books I read this year. In short, if you read and loved Outline, this follow up lives up to the high expectations your surely have. Back in London, the conversations the Faye has in this novel really centre on relationships, how we make them and break them, and both love and terrorise each other within their bonds. Underneath all this is a fearful narrative of change. Where many stories centre on our fear of change and the unknown, Cusk’s novel is one grounded in the fear that change will never come, and that everything will remain as it always was. The undercurrent of imminent violence in many of the interactions creates tension in what is otherwise a laconic, meandering story. Transit is told in characteristically sparse but highly nuanced and observant prose. It is a novel which again made me wonder how it is possible that Cusk has not won a major literary award.
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  • Jill
    January 1, 1970
    The structure of this book is brilliant. I love how the stories focus on these deep conversations with all the other characters she comes across, and that we only learn about Faye through what she volunteers in these interactions. I do think we learn a lot more about Faye in this book, and it's clever to only use her name once. I liked Outline well enough, but I think Transit was much more interesting. For me, it was as though in Outline the author explored her ideas about structure and found The structure of this book is brilliant. I love how the stories focus on these deep conversations with all the other characters she comes across, and that we only learn about Faye through what she volunteers in these interactions. I do think we learn a lot more about Faye in this book, and it's clever to only use her name once. I liked Outline well enough, but I think Transit was much more interesting. For me, it was as though in Outline the author explored her ideas about structure and found her stride in Transit. I am looking forward to the third book!
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  • Paul Fulcher
    January 1, 1970
    "An astrologer emailed me to say she had important new for me concerning events in my immediate future. She could see things that I could not; my personal details had come into her possession and had allowed her to study the planets for their information. She wished me to know that a major transit was due to occur shortly in my sky. This information was causing her great excitement when she considered the changes it might represent. For a small fee she would share it with me and enable me to "An astrologer emailed me to say she had important new for me concerning events in my immediate future. She could see things that I could not; my personal details had come into her possession and had allowed her to study the planets for their information. She wished me to know that a major transit was due to occur shortly in my sky. This information was causing her great excitement when she considered the changes it might represent. For a small fee she would share it with me and enable me to turn it to my advantage."Transit forms the second in a planned trilogy of novels with Cusk's previous Outline, although can easily be read as a stand alone book, and as with Outline has been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.The narrator is the same Faye who narrated Outline, an author, creative writing teacher and divorced mother of two teenage boys. Although the casual reader could easily miss the link - Faye's name is mention just once in each book, and Outline was notable precisely for its lack of direct focus on Faye's own story , biographical details and physical description with which to link this story - a technique of erasing the narrator that Cusk has described in interviews as "annihilated perspective." In Transit, she has brought a run-down ex-council property, and there is side story about her dealings with her almost feral downstairs neighbours, which didn't really fit for me. But mainly Transit follows Outline in proceeding via conversations that our narrator has with various friends and acquaintances (here these include an ex-lover, fellow authors at a book festival, her Eastern European builders, her hair stylist, two friends both on their second marriage, one of her students etc.), conversations which focus on their situations not hers, with Faye acting as counsellor, psychologist, confessor and sometimes even accuser. Incidentally, if past performance is any guide, many of the stories may be drawn from Cusk's own conversations: her travel book Last Supper was actually withdrawn from publication due to a breach of privacy suit from two travellers who recognised themselves in her description.The conversations are, in a Sebaldian touch, wide-ranging and reported indirectly ("for you, he said to me"). To the extent there is a common theme in the situations of her interlocutors, it is change, the transit foretold by the spam astrologer email that opens the novel, and my review.In Outline, many of the stories told, or at least Faye's reporting of them, seemed to relate back to her own situation. And at times I felt Cusk rather over-signalled that in case we missed the point. There is an element of that here, but less so. Speaking to a rather wearisome student, who herself has some teaching experience, Faye thinks the following, which would equally apply to herself: "I recalled her remarks about the draining nature of students and thought how often people betrayed themselves by what they noticed in others"And others wonder exactly why Faye fulfils the role she does, asking questions, dissecting their situations, not always neutrally. As one dinner party guest tells her:"'I like it that you ask these questions,' she said. 'But I don't understand why you want to know.'"There is a wonderful passage in the opening chapter on how faux concern from emails and machines can be more reassuring than that from people, which usually comes with an agenda. Pondering on the lengthy but likely automatically generated email from the astrologer Faye concludes: "as a result her sympathy and concern were slightly sinister; yet for those same reasons they also seemed impartial. A friend of mine, depressed in the wake of his divorce, had recently admitted that he often felt moved to tears by the concern for his health and well-being expressed in the phraseology of adverts and food packaging, and by the automated voices on trains and buses, apparently anxious that he might miss his stop; he actually felt something akin to love, he said, for the female voice that guided him while he was driving his car, so much more devotedly than his wife ever had. There had been a great harvest, he said, of language and information from life, and it may have become the case that the faux-human was growing more substantial and more relational than the original, that there was more tenderness to be had from a machine that one's fellow man. After all, the mechanised interface was the distillation not of one human, but many. Many astrologers had had to live, in other words, for this one example to have been created. What was soothing, he believed, was the very fact that this oceanic chorus was affixed in no one person, that it seemed to come from everywhere and nowhere: he recognised that a lot of people found this idea maddening, but for him the erosion of individuality was also the erosion of the power to hurt."Another typical passage segues from her builder finding a novel on her shelves in his native language, through to a digression on the process of literary translation, to an extended story on his attempt to build his own house and the effect is had on the relationship with his father, also a builder: "The book was in Polish, I said, but I couldn't understand it.He looked immediately crestfallen. It was a translation of a book I had written: I said he could keep it if he wanted to. He raised his eyebrows and examined it back and front, turning it over in his hands. Then he nodded his head and tucked the book into the pocket of his overalls.'I thought maybe you could speak,' he said sadly.The translator was a woman of about my own age who lived in Warsaw. She had emailed me several times to ask questions about the text: I had watched her create her own version of what I had written. In the emails she had started to tell me about her own life - she lived alone with her young son - and sometimes, talking about certain passages in the book, I would feel her ncreation begin to supersede mine, not in the sense that she violated what I had written but that is was now living through her, not me. In the process of translation the ownership of it - for good or ill - had passed from me to her. Like a house, I said.Pavel was listening to what I said with his head cocked to one side and his eyes alert. In Poland I build my own house, he said presently."We do learn a little more about Faye herself in this novel: she often responds to her interlocutors with anecdotes and observations from her own experience, and indeed there are signs, perhaps for book 3, of her developing a new relationship, with a friend-of-a-friend she met randomly in the street one day and who has now sought her out. At the end of dinner with him: "He put out his hand and I felt his fingers circling my arm. The hand was solid, heavy, like a moulded marble hand from antiquity. I looked at it and at the dark woolen material of his coat sleeve and the mounded expanse of his shoulder. A flooding feeling pass violently through me, as if I was the passenger in a car that had finally swerved away from a sharp drop. Faye, he said."Perhaps significantly this being the one mention of her name that she reports in the novel, albeit in Outline the one similar mention was from call from a mortgage advisor. There is another hint that perhaps change is coming to Faye's own life at the novel ends. Her friends note her blushing when she mentions she is meeting the man the next day, and she reports:"I felt change moving beneath me, moving deep beneath the surface of things, like the plates of earth blindly moving in their black traces."My initial impressions on a first read of Transit was slight disappointment: by using the same technique as Outline it was inevitably less strikingly original as that novel (which admittedly set the bar very high). But Transit opened up on a second reading - and it's a tribute to any book that one immediately re-reads it when one finishes - and viewed as part of a series with Outline, , the sum is greater than the parts, with us starting to get some glimpses of Faye's own story, and I eagerly await the third instalment.Cusk's "annihilated perspective" approach marks a potentially exciting new departure in autobiographicalish fiction, and a very interesting counterpoint to the very different Knausgaardian approach.
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  • Paltia
    January 1, 1970
    Well now, here I am in my marathon review writing day to arrive at Transit. I reviewed Outline an hour or so ago, and mentioned in that review that I hoped Transit might reveal some element that would draw me nearer to the story. This didn’t happen. I closed this second book of the trilogy and felt unsettled. I’m in no great hurry to check out Kudos but as you can probably guess I will. I’ll continue in search of what continues to elude me in Cusk’s writing.
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  • Ellie
    January 1, 1970
    Transit (astronomy) ... In astronomy, the term transit (or astronomical transit) refers to celestial events: A transit occurs when at least one celestial body appears to move across the face of another celestial body, hiding a small part of it, as seen by an observer at some particular vantage point.Faye is an observer struggling with questions of choice vs fate, what is honesty? what is childhood, how does it shape us as well as her own parenting of her two sons who fight constantly with her Transit (astronomy) ... In astronomy, the term transit (or astronomical transit) refers to celestial events: A transit occurs when at least one celestial body appears to move across the face of another celestial body, hiding a small part of it, as seen by an observer at some particular vantage point.Faye is an observer struggling with questions of choice vs fate, what is honesty? what is childhood, how does it shape us as well as her own parenting of her two sons who fight constantly with her and seem to be changing into people she doesn't understand. Many serious issues are explored in the course of this relatively short book which is thought-provoking though not heavy.We hear very little from Faye herself. She is a magnet for other people and we learn about her through her (minimal) responses to her story. She is a writer and we see her gathering material as well as dealing with serious issues. As one woman says, "I like that you're asking me these questions but why do you care?" Why indeed? Possibly because in the course of listening to others, Faye discovers more about herself.Transit is the second book in a trilogy which began with Outline, another book I loved. In Outline, we saw Faye's outline of self through her interactions with others. In Transit, the outline begins to be filled in. In one of her first interactions, with an old boyfriend, Faye comments that when she had known him, he was like an outline of a person and that now the outline was becoming a full person. Just like Faye in the course of this book becomes less shadowy. Although I look forward to seeing her further development in the last book of the trilogy, Kudos, which I have just begun.The writing is spectacular and the content fascinating: a perfect marriage of form and subject. The questions raised and examined are ones that concern us all. How much do we create of our lives? Faye is the observer of a transit (in the beginning, she receives an offer from an astrologer predicting she's about to experience a transit in her life--she pays for the details even though she knows it's a scam but she also believes in the possibility of it being the truth, of being prophetic for her). It seems the transit she experiences is, at least in part, the people she meets crossing her field of vision and sharing their struggles in ways that illuminate her own.I can't speak highly enough of this book (and of the first, Outline). I think it is important to read the books in order to see the development of Faye and the issues Cusk brings to light. So far, it's one of the peak experiences of my reading year and I feel lucky to have read these works.
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  • Roman Clodia
    January 1, 1970
    I felt change beneath me, moving deep beneath the surface, like the plates of the earth blindly moving in their black traces. Volume 2 of Cusk's Outline trilogy and Faye is now back in London. Having moved from bare outline in the first book to something a little more filled in, this develops her story from the paralysis of separation to a state that can at least imagine the possibilities and potentials of change. Cusk's innovative technique remains the same: we learn about Faye and her life I felt change beneath me, moving deep beneath the surface, like the plates of the earth blindly moving in their black traces. Volume 2 of Cusk's Outline trilogy and Faye is now back in London. Having moved from bare outline in the first book to something a little more filled in, this develops her story from the paralysis of separation to a state that can at least imagine the possibilities and potentials of change. Cusk's innovative technique remains the same: we learn about Faye and her life via the stories of people around her, tales which circle around key ideas of freedom, of fate, and of transformations. The latter are handled imaginatively from the transitions from childhood to adulthood; to the transferal of possessions, especially houses; to the process of adaptation and change that takes place when a novel written in English is translated. Again we have an occluded narrator who emerges fitfully and partially, and we access her subjectivity via that of others.This is, I'd say, a novel that can't be read passively - we have to engage actively, to think creatively, to respond to the cues and clues that are scattered throughout the text to understand what it is about - and how refreshing to have to work for meaning rather than being battered over the head with 'significance'. Cusk has, to some extent, abnegated responsibility for readers' receptions of her books: their own fate floats free, make of them what we will. For me this is an extraordinary literary experiment, and one that *works*. Innovative technique combines with a ravishing readability, prose which is pellucid and precise, which must be the result of editing and rewriting but which bears no visible weight of revision. By the end Faye has made tentative gestures towards a future - I look forward immensely to where the final volume will take us.
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  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    Update upon 2nd reading, 4/25.2018: Reread in anticipation of completing the trilogy with an initial reading of Kudos. My original review more or less stands: For some reason, perhaps because I am either now used to Cusk's style, or because the stories in Transit seemed more self contained, I did enjoy it slightly more than the first volume. I also realize now that it can, for all intents and purposes, be seen as just a single work, as there doesn't appear to be any real stylistic nor real Update upon 2nd reading, 4/25.2018: Reread in anticipation of completing the trilogy with an initial reading of Kudos. My original review more or less stands: For some reason, perhaps because I am either now used to Cusk's style, or because the stories in Transit seemed more self contained, I did enjoy it slightly more than the first volume. I also realize now that it can, for all intents and purposes, be seen as just a single work, as there doesn't appear to be any real stylistic nor real thematic differences between any of the volumes.Original review, 11/25/2016: 4.5 I enjoyed this slightly more than Outline, the first volume in Cusk's proposed trilogy. I am still not quite so sure where all of this is leading, or what the ultimate point of all these stories are, but I do find them fascinating reading.
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  • Joachim Stoop
    January 1, 1970
    As good as the first part in this trilogy, Outline.Goes against anything you will hear in a basic writing course.Cusk is a fresh voice in Book Land.I love her ways! Btw. Not for everybody
  • Holly
    January 1, 1970
    I enjoyed this even more than Outline and could have read another 200 pages. There are subtle things happening here, and the character (Fern? Fran? I've forgotten her name because it is not emphasized) who was a cipher in Outline, who seemed an audience to others, is more present in this novel - but just barely. She speaks more, but even when she barely speaks a word these felt more like conversations than soliloquies. She's more able to hold her own or to offer opinions, but sometimes opts not I enjoyed this even more than Outline and could have read another 200 pages. There are subtle things happening here, and the character (Fern? Fran? I've forgotten her name because it is not emphasized) who was a cipher in Outline, who seemed an audience to others, is more present in this novel - but just barely. She speaks more, but even when she barely speaks a word these felt more like conversations than soliloquies. She's more able to hold her own or to offer opinions, but sometimes opts not to. But the way the novel is written means it comments on itself, in that we learn about "F." as she (F//the author) observes others. For example, as she runs into an ex-lover on the street: He seemed somehow to be filled in. In those days he was a sketch, an outline; I had wanted him to be more than he was, without being able to see where the extra would come from. But time had given him density, like an artist filling in the sketched-out form. The conversations are like Russian dolls - embedded, speakers recounting other speakers, up to three times removed.I still found myself wondering how F gets people to open up so much, gets offered these wonderfully complete human responses. She offers some clues: she asks certain kinds of open questions, and then allows the interlocutor the time to answer. And she listens: "I had found out more, I said, by listening than I had ever thought possible." A beautifully illustrative scene takes place in a writing class in which a student is being badgered by another student to explain why something is worth writing about: What was it about this dog that was so interesting? You can't just tell me it's beautiful. You have to show that it is. ("My understudy urged him to describe the dog so that she might be able to see its beauty for herself.") ... In response the student stammers, looks uncertain: "Well," the man said doubtfully, "she's quite big. But she's not heavy, he added. He paused and shook his head. I can't describe it, he said. She's just beautiful. ..." Then F intervenes: I asked him what breed the dog was? [...] I asked him where he had got this dog? Those two simple open-ended questions elicit a long response that is vastly more interesting and TRUER than anything inspired by the commands to SHOW that the dog is beautiful. There is an especially good scene at a book festival where three memoir writers sit on stage talking about their work. One of the three is our quasi-Cusk character and another is a Knausgaard-like author. (I can't put my finger on the third. Anyone have an idea?) Guess which this is: His book had sold all over the world, [..] despite the fact that after the initial shock of appreciation people did little but complain about it, about the fact that nothing, as they saw it, ever happened in his writing, or at least nothing they recognised as fit to be written about. The scene plays on more than one level and slyly displays and comments on the current thinking on memoir writing today. It was fun to read.I enjoyed the recurring themes of adults who look and act like children; children who look and act like adults; windows, light, reflections, and seeing through windows to the inside scene (à la Glass Menagerie). There are also especially well-rendered descriptions of people.Amanda had a youthful appearance on which the patina of age was clumsily applied, as if, rather than growing older, she had merely been carelessly handled, like a crumpled photograph of a child.Some have observed that the characters/speakers always sound the same, all talk the same way, and that most people do not really speak this way/with this depth and thoughtfulness. Perhaps, but maybe it does not matter. Because in addition to hearing a variety of characters speak their lives we are very much within the listening Fern character - Outline and Transit are the unfolding story of this woman.
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  • Jennifer
    January 1, 1970
    while continuing in the style and ideas cusk created with Outline, a book that i appreciated but didn't love, i found transit offered more emotional depth. we still don't get a whole lot of focus on faye herself, but her interactions and conversations with those she encounters give us more glimpses into faye's life, as well as a some great insights to human nature and relationships. we are so messy and complicated.
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  • Vaso
    January 1, 1970
    Transitis the second book in the Outline trilogy by Rachel CuskFaye our writer, after getting divorce, she moves to London with her 2 sons. Since I was familiar with her writing style, I enjoyed this book quite as much as the first one, even though it didn't have the same dynamic. Transitis the second book in the Outline trilogy by Rachel CuskFaye our writer, after getting divorce, she moves to London with her 2 sons.  Since I was familiar with her writing style, I enjoyed this book quite as much as the first one, even though it didn't have the same dynamic.
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  • Jonathan Pool
    January 1, 1970
    I read Outline last week, my first Rachel Cusk, as a precursor to Transit, and as my introduction to the Goldsmiths Prize, a literary competition "designed to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form".I am not convinced by either Rachel Cusk’s writing in general, nor that Transit, could claim to meet the Goldsmiths criteria for inclusion.Cusk’s books are a series of short, self contained, stories that hang together because of the presence of the same I read Outline last week, my first Rachel Cusk, as a precursor to Transit, and as my introduction to the Goldsmiths Prize, a literary competition "designed to reward fiction that breaks the mould or extends the possibilities of the novel form".I am not convinced by either Rachel Cusk’s writing in general, nor that Transit, could claim to meet the Goldsmiths criteria for inclusion.Cusk’s books are a series of short, self contained, stories that hang together because of the presence of the same narrator, through whose eyes and conversations we meet the other participants in the book.For my money this just about makes for a coherent, single, novel in a way that David Szalays "All That Man Is" (Booker shortlisted 2016) does not.It also makes Transit an easy book to read. You can leave the book for a few days and not lose track of characters or story-line.But is Transit really anything more than well written "chick lit"?I think not.Cusk's poor reputation on the message boards of Mums net are well documented. I don't understand why Cusk is so reviled - it's just that she writes with a predominantly negative outlook where there are few happy endings.I like autobiographical fiction. I recognise and have experienced many of the life situations Cusk embeds into her books.What fails to convince me, increasingly, the more I read of Transit and Cusk in general, are those crafted reflections which stand alone as a summary of an emotion, or as a sign off for a passage of life (and Cusk does like to pepper her work with aphorisms). Some observations are acute and clever, but there are also many that miss the mark.A few random examples of Cusk wisdom that I found deeply meaningless:“The Tube station stood at a junctions where five roads converged like the spokes of a wheel. The traffic sat at the lights, each lane waiting for its turn. Sometimes it seemed that the junction was a place of confluence; at other times, when the traffic thundered constantly over the intersection in a chaotic river of buses and bicycles and cars, it felt like a mere passageway, a place of transit” (p. 161) “This is about freedom, he said.Freedom, I said, is a home you leave once and can never go back to" (p210) “Fate, he said, is only truth in its natural state. When you leave things to fate it can take a long time but its processes are accurate and inexorable” (p256)There are highlights too. Transit begins strongly with horoscope humour and the kind of dialogue with an estate agent that resonates with many (home) truths.The house sections involving the builders and imagery of a house under reconstruction as a skeleton with the builders managing an operating table is very well written. There's an amazing section describes the beauty and discipline of Saluki dogs.So it's not a bad book, it's just I get the feeling Cusk wants to be regarded as a literary life counsellor for the middle classes. I think it’s time for her to move on.Will this win the Goldsmiths in two weeks time? Not a chance up against Hot Milk.
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