Following her Outline trilogy, a series of novels that challenged the boundaries of genre, Rachel Cusk offers a collection of essays that explore her most poignant thematic preoccupations. The collection is split into three distinct sections: Coventry, A Tragic Pastime, and Classics and Bestsellers. Part one consists of personal essays that begin with deeply private moments--from her estrangement with her parents to her divorce--only to expand into larger meditations on femininity and motherhood. A Tragic Pastime, which melds personal essay with criticism, contains pieces that look more directly at questions of art and writing practice. Finally, Classics and Bestsellers uses criticism as a form to make larger social and artistic commentaries about canon, genre and the power of literature to impact the larger socio-political world.
Part memoir, part literary criticism, part personal essay, Coventry, like Cusk's previous works, presses upon the boundaries of genre to provide something wholly new and endlessly thoughtful. Essays like "Coventry," "Lions on Leashes" and "Aftermath" are particularly moving meditations on the ways in which the personal and the universal interact. As the collection continues, Cusk's razor-sharp insights and intellect rip open the fabric that might have contained these anecdotal pieces to release a larger model for how criticism, art, literature, feminism and domestic life may not only interact but depend and feed on one another. A ravenous and witty continuation of Cusk's talent, Coventry is the beginning of a new chapter both for Cusk and our literary landscape. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor