If not for the fact that she’s a 50 year old British novelist who narrates female intellectualism with precision and intelligence and the mother of teenage daughters, I might be Rachel Cusk.
Ok, not so much, but the first two essays of this odds and ends collection of nonfiction writing (which go from personal/political essays about the world and her orientation to it, to deeply personal essays about motherhood and the dissolution of her marriage to perfectly good but ultimately weak in comparison book and author reviews) are so in sync with two ideas I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about.
So the opening essays about slow drivers in the road and the ways in which small choices or non-choices can impact the world miles away in much much large ways. It’s not unlike Tolstoy’s final section of War and Peace, but writ small in country life. The second essay is about rudeness and how when you call out someone’s else rudeness, you are told you’re being rude. It’s something that I’ve come across in public spaces numerous times in my life of someone taking up large spaces with their body (I don’t mean large bodies, but using their bodies to maximize the space they take up) or taking up a whole room with a loud conversation. Things like this. She extrapolates this idea to politics in some interesting ways.
Another essay, where the title comes from “Coventry” is about being given the silent treatment as a kind of punishment, and how they relies heavily on someone seeing that treatment as actual punishment, or not?
Finally, the essays on motherhood and marriage are amazing and cutting and painful and honest and real. She’s so willing to be honest with her own limits and flaws, it’s something else.