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Second Place: A Novel af Rachel Cusk
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Second Place: A Novel (original 2021; udgave 2022)

af Rachel Cusk (Forfatter)

MedlemmerAnmeldelserPopularitetGennemsnitlig vurderingSamtaler / Omtaler
5343346,498 (3.89)1 / 52
Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy.
A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigmaand disrupts the calm of her secluded household.
Second Place, Rachel Cusk's electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art's capacity to upliftand to destroy.
A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

.… (mere)
Medlem:icolford
Titel:Second Place: A Novel
Forfattere:Rachel Cusk (Forfatter)
Info:Harper Perennial (2022), 192 pages
Samlinger:Dit bibliotek
Vurdering:****
Nøgleord:Ingen

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Second Place af Rachel Cusk (2021)

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Viser 1-5 af 33 (næste | vis alle)
Rachel Cusk’s darkly enigmatic novel Second Place describes the fraught relationship between a middle-aged woman writer (“M”) and a narcissistic, infantile male painter roughly her age or younger (“L”). The story begins years before the main action in Paris, where a youthful M encounters what she calls a “bloated, yellow-eyed devil” on a train and thereafter feels her life’s been contaminated by evil. The next day while wandering the streets of the city she happens upon a gallery where the works of a young artist who’s riding a wave of popularity are being exhibited. L’s work speaks to her in a way that acts as a salve for her experience on the train, and though her life at the time subsequently goes off the rails, she does not forget how L’s paintings helped her through. Decades later M is married to Tony, a nurturing, enterprising man very different from her hyper-critical first husband. Tony and M are living an idyll in a marshy coastal district. On their property are two dwellings: the proper house where she and Tony live and a guesthouse a short distance away through the trees that she calls the “second place.” M, not having forgotten how L helped her through a difficult period in her life, has written and invited him to stay with them in the second place. But L cannot immediately take up the offer, and the initial communication is followed by a bit of back and forth that leaves M uncertain if L will ever act on the invitation. In the meantime, M’s adult daughter Justine has arrived with boyfriend Kurt, and M puts them in the second place. But then L writes to say he is coming after all, and Justine and Kurt are forced to relocate to the main house. This sort of egocentric discourtesy is typical of L’s behaviour. Moreover, when he does finally show up, he’s brought with him, unannounced, a young woman, Brett—who, as it turns out, is much more civil and accommodating than her companion. The remainder of Second Place depicts a battle of wills. M simply wants to express gratitude by giving L a place to work in peace. But L seems resentful of M for reaching out to him and suspicious of her motives, as if he thinks her invitation implies that she expects them to forge an intimate connection. He responds to her generosity with hostility, keeping his distance from her, denigrating M in conversation, accusing her of being controlling and destructive. M narrates a brittle, incisive, psychologically devastating story of a problematic relationship in which the two parties never align. Paradoxically, the harder M strives to give L what she thinks he wants, the more defiant and disruptive he becomes. Cusk’s brief novel is in equal measures gripping and disturbing as it relates a taut cautionary tale illustrative of the saying be careful what you wish for. ( )
  icolford | May 29, 2024 |
This is an interesting case. Firstly, the novel looks to depend in its structure on an obscure 1920s memoir, a knowledge of which would shed light on several things, like why this entire text is continually addressed to a person named Jeffers. However the author seems to not want us to make too much of the connection. To which I say, “ha!”. Literary criticism, amateur or otherwise, will not be dictated to by authors, will it.

The novel’s protagonist is a neurotic, and much of the book is her addressing her neurosis to this aforementioned Jeffers, its unknown silent recipient. She has invited the artist referred to as L to a retreat on her and her husband’s land, hoping that through some uncertain mechanism he will free her mind and give her the rebirth into freedom that she longs for. She has invested L with a near mystical potentiality over her and her emotional state swings wildly in his presence, from despair to hysteria and back again. Evidently this is modeled on that obscure memoirist’s experience of inviting D.H. Lawrence to her own retreat; Lawrence did not like the memoirist and neither does L like our protagonist. L, and presumably Lawrence, are rather unpleasant themselves.

Cusk’s prose is complex, often beautiful, often difficult. Here’s an excellent passage from when our protagonist first encounters L through his paintings and incorporates him into her melancholic universe:
The painting, by the way, was a self-portrait, one of L’s arresting portraits where he shows himself at about the distance you might keep between yourself and a stranger. He looks almost surprised to see himself: he gives that stranger a glance that is as objective and compassionless as any glance in the street. He is wearing an ordinary kind of plaid shirt and his hair is brushed back and parted, and despite the coldness of the act of perception – which is a cosmic coldness and loneliness, Jeffers – the rendering of those details, of the buttoned-up shirt and the brushed hair and the plain features unanimated by recognition, is the most human and loving thing in the world. Looking at it, the emotion I felt was pity, pity for myself and for all of us: the kind of wordless pity a mother might feel for her mortal child, who nonetheless she brushes and dresses so tenderly.


Another feature of the novel is the narrator’s strained relationship with her young adult daughter. As a parent myself I couldn’t identify with some of her attitudes towards her daughter, which edged into existential alienation at times, but this passage I mark well:
When Justine was younger there had been a feeling of malleability, of active process, in our relations, but now that she was a young woman it was as though time had abruptly run out and we were frozen in the positions we had happened to assume in the moment of its stopping, like the game where everyone has to creep up behind the leader and then freeze the second he turns around. There she stood, the externalisation of my life force, immune to further alterations; and there was I, unable to explain to her how exactly she had turned out the way she had.


Other times the prose refuses to cohere into meaning, no matter how many times I reread it. Here is L looking out at the horizon and speaking to the narrator:
‘I suddenly saw it, right out there,’ he said, pointing toward the distant blue shape of the receded tide, ‘the illusion of that death-structure. I wish I had understood before how to dissolve. Not just how to dissolve the line – other things too. I did the opposite, because I thought I had to resist being worn down. The more I tried to make a structure, the more it felt like everything around me had gone bad. It felt like I was making the world, and making it wrong, when all I was doing was making my own death. But you don’t have to die. The dissolving looks like death but in fact it’s the other way around. I didn’t see it to start with.’
When L said these things, Jeffers, I felt a thrill of vindication – I knew he would understand it!


Well the narrator may understand that, but I don’t! Are we meant to? Or is the confusion and incoherence something of what Cusk is aiming for? Is the reader supposed to take this as merely further illustration of the characters’ sad estrangement from the solid core of reality, from a healthy functioning in the physical world, a functioning embodied in contrast by the narrator’s husband Tony, a quiet soul content to be working on the land? I’m not certain.

In any event it’s a novel that lends itself to much thought and discussion of what it’s about and what it’s doing. If there is no clear morality here, no clear take on what it means to be human, it is at least intellectually interesting. And sometimes quite confusing. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
brilliant ( )
  bhowell | Feb 24, 2024 |
Now I need to read Mabel Dodge Luhan's "Lorenzo in Taos."
  RachelGMB | Dec 27, 2023 |
5

A woman, M, invites an acclaimed painter, L, to stay in her guesthouse ("Second Place") with the hopes that she will be his muse. Upon L's arrival, M quickly realizes that her expectations are not matching up with her reality, and she soon begins to feel as though she is coming in second place - a theme that runs throughout the rest of the novel (I found her writing specifically on becoming a parent equally heartbreaking and insightful).

I'm saying it here: no one writes quite like Rachel Cusk. There is such nuance in her writing that even the smallest sentences are so profound. If she wanted to write about the process of pasteurizing milk, I'd read it in a heartbeat. ( )
  cbwalsh | Sep 13, 2023 |
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Fantasy. Fiction. Literature. Historical Fiction. HTML:

A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy.
A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigmaand disrupts the calm of her secluded household.
Second Place, Rachel Cusk's electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art's capacity to upliftand to destroy.
A Macmillan Audio production from Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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