Friday 30 July 2021

Rachel Cusk and Anne Carson

Rachel Cusk's writing, on first approach, up at the pond, made me clench my teeth and need another swim. I have read rapturous reviews of her writing but not been tempted. Too impersonal, too spare. Like a surgeon in a carpark running through her skills. 

One Cusk reading event took place up at Inisleena one hot afternoon when we'd canoed down from Carrigadrohid. Think of the lake in Maldon on a hot weekend, or Lake Balaton, perhaps, but louder, with fatter people and uglier clothes and more bereft children surrounded by more plastic. I sat in the shade and read Rachel Cusk while P went for the car back in Carrigadrohid. And Rachel Cusk held her head up above all this, but I was glad to be rescued, canoe back on the roof, and extricate from the scene.

The narrator, in her dust-sheeted room, listens to a student talk about the complete personal revolution she has recently undergone at an exhibition by an American painter called Marsden Hartley. She has already written 300,000 words of notes.

She sipped her tea with an air of equanimity, as though in the confident belief that I would not be able to resist asking her to continue and tell me precisely what had caused the personal revolution to occur.

I read Transit and then Outline, vols 2 and 1 of a trilogy, I could admire but not like, or even like myself for reading it, wearied if not repelled by this faultless and therefore faulty analysis of relationships, all of them, that she crossed in her life. 

At the height of the heatwave, the solution came to me. Read Anne Carson. Autobiography of Red. Alongside Rachel Cusk.

Herakles and Geryon had gone to the video store. ——— Full moon sends rapid clouds dashing past a cold sky. When they came back they were arguing.

It's not the photograph that disturbs you it's you don't understand what photography is.

Rachel Cusk's people explain anxiously, with a certain hauteur, as if life thus displayed is life solved, or absolved. Anne Carson throws her fragments of Geryon lightly, take it or leave it, a grandmother on a porch swing in the evening. 

Goodnight children, she called in her voice like old coals. May God favour you with dreams.

Rachel Cusk doesn't leave out any more than Anne Carson does. It's a question of accent and attitude. The distance of ancient greece is helpful. No wonder Rachel Cusk is in transit and in outline (kudos is the last volume in the trilogy). Anne Carson is telling the autobiography of an ancient greek who learned early about justice. 

Geryon was a monster everything about him was red

Put his snout out of the covers in the morning it was red

How stiff the red landscape where his cattle scraped against

Their hobbles in the red wind

Burrowed himself down in the red dawn jelly of Geryon's


No comments :

Post a Comment