What We’re Reading: Jones, Cusk
Each week we bring you a sample of the books we’re reading, the films and TV shows we’re watching, and the music we’re listening to.
Julia Jackson is reading An American Marriage by Tayari Jones
This isn’t the sort of book I’d normally pick up for myself, but I’m really enjoying An American Marriage. In case you didn’t know, Tayari Jones is this year’s winner of the Women’s Prize for Fiction. Lucky for us, she’s also coming to the Melbourne Writers Festival. In An American Marriage, the internal and external tensions working upon Celestial and Roy, and Andre, particularly in the wake of Roy’s arrest and imprisonment, are at the heart of the book. Jones deftly highlights the complexity of relationships, showing there to be lots of grey!
Declan Murphy is listening to Nashville Obsolete by Dave Rawlings Machine
Fans of Gillian Welch / David Rawlings have had to endure a long wait for vinyl releases, but good lord has it been worth it! The effort that has been put into ensuring the quality of these releases can be heard in every glorious groove. I have rarely, if ever, heard better pressings than these. They are, in short, stunning. And so much more goodness to come…
Joanna Di Mattia is reading Rachel Cusk
I’ve just feverishly consumed Rachel Cusk’s memoirs, A Life’s Work and Aftermath. Cusk’s trilogy – Outline, Transit, and Kudos – dismantled my ideas about what a novel can be; they are among the most challenging, rewarding, and powerful books I’ve read in recent years.
Recently reissued with a new introduction by the author, A Life’s Work created controversy when first published in 2001 because of its dark dissection of new motherhood, presented with a less-than-rosy glow. Cusk’s love for her baby is never in doubt, but she has the courage to interrogate her fluctuating feelings. She holds nothing back – the drama and complexity of the experience; the singularity and the banality of it; the loss of sleep; the loss of self.
Aftermath, first published in 2012, was a compelling companion read. It’s another gory examination of the self in search of meaning as Cusk explores the stark reality of starting over when her ten-year marriage ends. Both memoirs deconstruct the narratives that women are often held hostage to, scratching out new spaces and stories for us to take residence in. I love Cusk’s cool, precise writing. I love the bold way she thinks about herself in the world. Her writing sets my mind on fire every time I come to it. I can’t ask for anything more from a book.