New York Magazine

Choose Your Own Rachel Cusk

The memoirist who took on the cult of motherhood? The bête-noire feminist who refuses to laugh? The experimental novelist who’s dazzled critics and turned autofiction on its head?

RACHEL CUSK IS TALL. She does not take milk. She does not play card games, possibly because she associates them with her childhood, about which she feels ambivalent. She taught writing for nearly a decade and then quit. She believes fate is a female system of self-deception. She does not understand computers. She likes chess because it involves two people and thus resembles sex or war. She has never written a book without a dog in it; in real life, she is allergic to dogs. She hasn’t spoken to her parents in two years. She believes satire promotes political powerlessness; “Once you laugh,” she says, “it’s over.” She sees writing as a job. She is attracted to situations where it’s hard to agree on a common version of events. She does not care what happens to her in the future. She’s always earned the money in her household. She does not make small talk, but she does, for long stretches, talk. She wears all blackish. She is six days from turning 50. She desires a muffin.

Cusk is the author of three memoirs and nine novels, most recently Transit, which came out in January to rapturous reviews. It is the second in a planned trilogy that has, along with her memoirs, made her a cultish figure. She writes about motherhood and marriage and houses. In the hands of a different writer, these might be neutral topics. Neutral love in neutral boxes. Cusk is not neutral. She is divisive. Readers love her or readers really do not love her. She, Cusk, the human being, is often hated.

She lives in London with her two teenage children and her second husband. (She was born in Canada and has lived in the United Kingdom since the 1970s.) In early February, when she was visiting New York, I invited her to my work studio. Last year, Cusk published an essay called “Making House: Notes on Domesticity”; she

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