Before the flight I was invited for lunch at a London club with a billionaire I’d been promised had liberal credentials.
From this, the first sentence of Rachel Cusk’s Outline, I was hooked. It is an engrossing, mesmerising and transcendent read. Trippy, in the best way. Outline made me want to go to Greece to drink inky coffee in hot, dark cafés, being talked to by self-absorbed but interesting artistic types with strong views and good stories.
The plot is a thin, straight line: the narrator – an author and divorced mother of two – goes to Athens to teach a creative-writing course for a week. Each person she meets (a Greek businessman, an Irish writer, an old friend, a publisher, a poet) and each of her ten students tells a story about their life. Continue reading
In this book the characters from Charles Schulz’s Peanuts grow up, get married, have babies, strive, fail, strive again, fail again, take sleeping pills and whisper-fight in the dark….OK, it’s not the Peanuts gang, but there is something in the tone and in the characters of Dept. of Speculation that reminded me strongly of the Peanuts strip at its wisest, most epigrammatic, most Zen.
The novel is a very short read but it lingers long. I read it twice in a row because it felt so good the first time and because, like all small near-perfect things, it’s easy to miss hidden glories at first gulp.
Dept. of Speculation is told from the perspective of a woman whose name we are never told. It covers her early adult to middle-aged years during which she travels, meets and marries ‘the husband’, has a baby, nearly goes demented from lack of sleep and frustrated ambition (she is a writer) and deals in both mad and sane ways with a crisis in her marriage. Not a ground-breaking plot, then, but, my, is it beautiful and funny. Continue reading
Eva is a mother of twins and the wife of an astronomer called Brian Beaver (and yup, that makes her Eva Beaver).
The twins, Brian Junior and Brianne, leave for university and Eva goes to bed. For a year.
Eva isn’t sure why she’s gone to bed. She tells the doctor she’s been tired for seventeen years ‑ since the birth of the twins. Medical people can’t find anything wrong with her, physically or mentally.
Eva takes the going-to-bed concept to its very limit, she won’t even get up to go the toilet. After failing to persuade anyone to agree to dispose of her bodily waste in freezer bags, she settles on a process of unfurling the crisp white bed sheets to form a white pathway to her ensuite toilet, winding the sheets up and tucking them back into the bed when she’s finished. Continue reading