52 Quotes of Rachel Cusk About Novels

” Shame is something you’ll find a lot of – particularly Catholic – girls feel about their bodies, about their sexuality, about their diet, about anything you like. Shame is the way you keep them down. That’s the way to crush a girl. “
” The old world of England was picturesque and safe in a way that L.A. wasn’t, but it was so amazingly socially cruel. I had never experienced that in America – never in school, nowhere. “
” As it stands, motherhood is a sort of wilderness through which each woman hacks her way, part martyr, part pioneer; a turn of events from which some women derive feelings of heroism, while others experience a sense of exile from the world they knew. “
” The ‘good’ mother, with her fixed smile, her rigidity, her goody-goody outlook, her obsession with unnecessary hygiene, is in fact a fool. It is the ‘bad’ mother, unafraid of a joke and a glass of wine, richly self-expressive, scornful of suburban values, who is, in reality, good. “
” It’s a pretty brutal process, having a baby. “
” Help is dangerous because it exists outside the human economy: the only payment for help is gratitude. “
” I was aware, in those early days of motherhood, that my behaviour was strange to the people who knew me well. It was as though I had been brainwashed, taken over by a cult religion. And yet this cult, motherhood, was not a place where I could actually live. Like any cult, it demanded a complete surrender of identity to belong to it. “
” Society in the English countryside is still strangely, quaintly divided. If black comedy and a certain type of social commentary are what you want, I think English rural communities offer quite a lot of material. “
” I don’t go to church any more, but I think that Catholicism is rather like the brand they use on cattle: I feel so formed in that Catholic mould that I don’t think I could adopt any other form of spirituality. I still get feelings of consolation about churches. “
” The true self seeks release, not constraint. It doesn’t want to be corseted in a sonnet or made to learn a system of musical notations. It wants liberation, which is why very often it fastens on the novel, for the novel seems spacious, undefined, free. “
” There is always shame in the creation of an object for the public gaze. “
” I was born abroad, but my parents were both English. Still, those few years of separation, and then coming back to England as an outsider, did give me an ability to see the country in a slightly detached way. I suppose I was made aware of what Englishness actually is because I only became immersed in it later in life. “
” The distinctive feature of my family was intolerance of sensitivity and emotion – ‘Everything’s great, it all has to be great all the time and why do you have to spoil it?’ Whereas probably the most fundamental and important thing to me has been defending my right to tell the truth about how I feel. “
” Hope is like one of those orchids that grows around toxic waste: lovely in itself – and an assertion, if you like, of indefatigable good – but a sure sign that something nasty lies underneath. “
” You could time a suburban story by your watch: it lasts as long as it takes a small furry animal that’s lonely to find friends, or a small furry animal that’s lost to find its parents; it lasts as long as a quick avowal of love; it lasts precisely as long as the average parent is disposed on a Tuesday night to spend reading aloud to children. “
” I think men and women are the same. Even as parents, I think we’re the same. We’re just conditioned to think that we’re different. Having said that, it’s true that motherhood is a particularly vulnerable area. It’s an open wound, really. A woman is exposed to being turned into a different kind of person by the experience of motherhood. “
” Some people are better at maths than others: no one thinks you can be ‘taught’ to be a mathematical genius. And no one thinks of teaching, in that context, as a kind of forcing of the will. But there seems to be an idea of writing as an intuitive pastime which is being dishonestly subjected to counterintuitive methods. “
” Childhood, after all, is not an ending, but rather a state full of potent curiosity. “
” Like the child, the creative writing student is posited as a centre of vulnerable creativity, needful of attention and authority. “
” I’m waiting for the day when my children cease to find my domestic propriety reassuring and actually find it annoying. “
” If I know somebody is coming ’round, it is incredibly difficult for me to work because I’m waiting for this interruption – even the children’s comings and goings are interruptions. Cake-making is a good way of coming out of that space. “
” Leaving things behind and starting again is a way of coping with difficulties. I learnt very early in my life that I was able to leave a place and still remain myself. “
” Human beings have a need, generally, to destroy things. The Freudian principle of civilisation is correct. There’s always, always a difference between the family image and the reality. “
” I’m a novelist, not a social scientist or a commentator. “
” I sometimes feel that the world is a very uncivilised place where it is meant to be at its most civilised. Where it’s meant to be intellectual or artistic or compassionate, it isn’t, and that makes me very angry. “
” It’s a taboo that comes back over and over, to suggest that women can feel divided – that you can love your child and want to do everything for it, and at the same time want to put it away from you and reclaim something of yourself. “
” Feminism remains something that needs to be explained to people. “
” I’m particularly drawn to actors in their own little drama. I find it’s that area I’m very alive to. And I don’t encounter it that often. You have to be far from civilization, you have to be far from New York or London to find people who do that. “
” I have absolutely no concept of work, except for university. But I like to talk to people a lot about their jobs. “
” I don’t think I knew that you could be a novelist. I think a lot of my students are in the same condition. I thought it was unreachable, that it was sort of dead people. It took me a long time – I think I was well into novel writing before I really thought, ‘Actually, this is a valid pastime.’ “
” The reaction to ‘Aftermath’ has been far worse than to ‘A Life’s Work,’ yet I find I’m perhaps a little less touched by it. In both cases, I’ve coped artistically by believing the criticisms weren’t right. They upset me, but they didn’t challenge my understanding of how to write, nor of how morality functions in literature. “
” I have no sense of a model or predecessor when I write a memoir: For me, the form exists as a method of processing material that retains too many connections to life to be approached strictly and aesthetically. A memoir is a risk, a one-off, a bastard child. “
” What I increasingly felt, in marriage and in motherhood, was that to live as a woman and to live as a feminist were two different and possibly irreconcilable things. “
” I have some pretty forceful ideas about the world – obviously I do. But I suppose I can only really speak about them from within the protection of a literary form. “
” A feminist man is a bit like a vegetarian: it’s the humanitarian principle he’s defending, I suppose. “
” The woman who thinks she can choose femininity, can toy with it like the social drinker toys with wine – well, she’s asking for it, asking to be undone, devoured, asking to spend her life perpetrating a new fraud, manufacturing a new fake identity, only this time it’s her equality that’s fake. “
” I remain fascinated by where you go as a woman once you are a mother, and if you ever come back. “
” I am a good and interested mother – which has surprised me. “
” The anorexic is out to prove how little she needs, how little she can survive on; she is out, in a sense, to discredit her nurturers, while at the same time making a public crisis out of her need for nurture. Such vulnerability and such power: it brings the whole female machinery to a halt. “
” An eating disorder epidemic suggests that love and disgust are being jointly marketed, as it were; that wherever the proposition might first have come from, the unacceptability of the female body has been disseminated culturally. “
” For years I had lived in my body half-consciously, ignoring it mostly, dismissing its agendas wherever I could, and forever pressing it into the service of mental conceptions that resulted, almost as a by-product, sometimes in its pleasuring and sometimes in its abuse. “
” The anorexic body is held in the grip of will alone; its meaning is far from stable. What it says – ‘Notice me, feed me, mother me’ – is not what it means, for such attentions constitute an agonising test of that will, and also threaten to return the body to the dreaded ‘normality’ it has been such ecstasy to escape. “
” The creativity of childhood was often surrendered amid feelings of unworthiness. So the idea that others are demanding to be given it back – to be ‘taught’ – is disturbing. “
” Writing, more than any other art, is indexed to the worthiness of the self because it is identified in people’s minds with emotion. “
” Honest criticism, I suppose, has its place. But honest writing is infinitely more valuable. “
” Every time I write a book, I’ve probably taken five years off my life. “
” To be optimistic about something that is absolutely unknown to you is unfounded. “
” There are certain types of slightly hysterical human characters who, rather than creating, walk around with a sense of their own potential – it’s as if they themselves were art objects. They feel as if their lives are written narratives, or pieces of music. “
” It is living, not thinking, as a feminist that has become the challenge. “
” Writing is a discipline: it’s almost all about holding back. “
” In memoir, you have to be particularly careful not to alienate the reader by making the material seem too lived-in. It mustn’t have too much of the smell of yourself, otherwise the reader will be unable to make it her own. “
” There is always shame in the creation of an expressive work, whether it’s a book or a clay pot. Every artist worries about how they will be seen by others through their work. When you create, you aspire to do justice to yourself, to remake yourself, and there is always the fear that you will expose the very thing that you hoped to transform. “