Transit

by Rachel Cusk

Hardcover, 2017

Status

Available

Genres

Collection

Publication

New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017.

Description

"The stunning second novel of a trilogy that began with Outline, one of The New York Times Book Review's ten best books of 2015 In the wake of family collapse, a writer and her two young sons move to London. The process of upheaval is the catalyst for a number of transitions--personal, moral, artistic, practical--as she endeavors to construct a new reality for herself and her children. In the city she is made to confront aspects of living she has, until now, avoided, and to consider questions of vulnerability and power, death and renewal, in what becomes her struggle to reattach herself to, and believe in, life. Filtered through the impersonal gaze of its keenly intelligent protagonist, Transit sees Rachel Cusk delve deeper into the themes first raised in her critically acclaimed Outline, and offers up a penetrating and moving reflection on childhood and fate, the value of suffering, the moral problems of personal responsibility, and the mystery of change. In this precise, short, and yet epic cycle of novels, Cusk manages to describe the most elemental experiences, the liminal qualities of life, through a narrative near-silence that draws language toward it. She captures with unsettling restraint and honesty the longing to both inhabit and flee one's life and the wrenching ambivalence animating our desire to feel real. "--"Sequel to Rachel Cusk's Outline"--… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member RandyMetcalfe
From the opening unsolicited promise of cosmic, or at least astrological, significance, the central character of Rachel Cusk’s novel observes life in transit. Whether it be a case of changing homes, or substantially renovating a dwelling, or the transition of state from single to married to single to married, or just the acquisition of a beautiful dog — almost everything, it seems, proffers opportunities for meaningfulness. In the face of so much meaning, how indeed could one fail “to regain faith in the grandeur of the human”? Yet the grandeur of the human comes in such banal, mundane, clothing, it might easily pass unnoticed. As in her previous novel, Outline, Cusk’s narrator, Faye, notices.

The writing here is measured and calm. Even a melodramatic scene toward the end is observed as one might treat a Greek chorus, its significance no greater or less than any other event on offer. But does this speak to some ultimate purpose, a fate to which we must reconcile ourselves? Or does the equivocation put the lie to the presumption of meaningfulness? Faye doesn’t take sides, slipping away at the end like a house guest after a trying party. And so we are left with what? A passing storm? The transit of a planet across a constellation? A novel? In each case we are left to make of them what we will.

These are heady metaphysical waters. But Cusk handles such matters gently. You might easily go along on the current and only realize your transposition of locale after the fact. Just what reading a novel ought to enable. Nicely done!

Definitely recommended.
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LibraryThing member triscuit
Great description of writers at a festval
LibraryThing member RidgewayGirl
I liked Rachel Cusk's novel, Outline, quite a bit, even more once I saw what she was doing with it. So it wasn't a big surprise that I enjoyed every page of its sequel, Transit, although she's not doing quite the same thing here. With Outline, the protagonist was passive, becoming a receptacle for the stories of others. In Transit, she has returned to the UK from Greece and purchased a flat in London that came with terrible neighbors and a desperate need of renovation.

For a long time, I said, I believed that it was only through absolute passivity that you could learn to see what was really there. But my decision to create a disturbance by renovating my house had awoken a different reality, as though I had disturbed a beast, sleeping in its lair. I had started to become, in effect, angry.

The protagonist is still listening to people as they bare parts of themselves to her, but she's also present in her life in a way she wasn't in Outline. That said, this is still not a plot-driven novel. She attends a literary festival, gets work done on her house and has coffee or dinner with people. Yet, the glimpses into the minds of others is fascinating, as well as her own reactions to what they tell her. And Cusk's writing is very fine; it's as clear and unobtrusive as water.
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LibraryThing member tandah
Probably admired rather than enjoyed this book.
LibraryThing member charl08
Continuing the narrative of the writer first met in Outline, here Faye returns to London after a divorce. Again, the encounters with other characters shape the narrative, from the chair at a book festival to the builders trying to make her flat liveable. There's not really a plot as such, more pictures from a life.I liked it a lot.… (more)
LibraryThing member Kristelh
Read this book because it is on the Giller short list. Why I am not sure. The Giller is a Canadian Award and this author is living in England and the story takes place in London. I also did not realize that this is book 2, the first was Outline. It is a story of a woman, divorced, mother of two who is in transition. There are some beautiful quote worthy lines in this book. The title of the book pretty much sums up the themes found in the book.
Rating: 3.62
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LibraryThing member pgchuis
The blurb for this book makes it sound like a far more linear and coherent narrative than it really is. It reads mostly like a series of conversations between Faye, the narrator, and various friends, her hairdresser, her builder, fellow authors at a literary festival etc. Faye contributes little to these conversations; the other party to them unburdens him or her self to an extraordinary degree and in a very philosophical fashion. Many of the conversations centre on the nature of reality or freedom or honesty and are hard to follow. On the other hand there is a lot of humour here and the story is strangely compelling.… (more)
LibraryThing member kayanelson
When I first started reading this book I didn't think I would like it. There was some extremely flowery prose and I couldn't even understand what it meant. This book was not plot driven and I would like to have known how certain things turned out--eg. her flat renovation. I felt like there was some negative undercurrent with her children that I would liked to have known more about. I'm not even sure this book was character driven. Slightly but all these ancillary characters were the ones that revealed more about Faye (if that's even her name--it's so seldom used). But the book was different and I could see myself reading it again to see what I missed.… (more)
LibraryThing member nivramkoorb
This is a book that I heard about but would not have normally read. On a recent long vacation I found this book in our rental and decided to read it. It is an interesting process that the author uses which is basically having a narrator who is the main character(she is a mildly successful writer) and her interface with people that she knows or meets. The writing is good and the topics are interesting. I enjoyed it but not enough to read the other books in Cusk's trilogy of which this is the 2nd book… (more)
LibraryThing member Cariola
Well, I thought I had posted a review of this wonderful book, but I must not have saved it, so I'll do the best that I can from memory. Transit is the second book in Cusk's Outline trilogy. This book is better than the first, so I can hardly wait to get to the third and final installment, Kudos. The main character is a successful female writer. Outline traced her travels to Greece to teach a creative writing course. Cusk used the novel to demonstrate, in a way, the writer's process of outlining her story. The protagonist's role is primarily to listen to the stories of others--the passenger sitting next to her on an airplane, the students in her class--and record them. In other words, the writer's primary task is listening and observing, gathering potentially usable information, then shuffling all the material into the loosely organized shape of a developing novel. Transit focuses more on the writer herself at a point of transition in her own life. She has returned to England, her marriage has fallen apart, she's getting a bit bored with the book talk circuit, and she's ready to reassess and rebuild--much as an author would do while working on a draft. Her rebuilding takes a literal form as she moves out of the central city and into a seedy fixer-upper in a rather unsavory part of town. There are two problems: the contractors who call to give estimates for the essential repairs are dubious as to whether the house can really be fixed up, and the elderly couple who live downstairs are are every neighbor's worst nightmare. She finally settles on a pair of Polish builders who assure her that they can handle both problems. In the meantime, she deals with her two young sons and their not-all-that-involved father, the writer's conference from hell, and friends who just don't understand why she decided to leave the city. While we still see her sitting back and observing the whirl of events around her. we also see the writer herself as a developing character, one taking on the task of rebuilding her life and revising her approach to it and to others.

Cusk seems to be having a lot more fun with Transit than she did with the first novel. There's more humor here (the book festival episode is at times hilarious), and her characters are more defined. The writer herself does a good deal of self-assessment. Terrific writing here as well! I can't wait to read the next installment. I've been stuck in some not-so-great books, so I may just have to spring for the full price rather than waiting for a sale or for a library copy.
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LibraryThing member icolford
In Transit, Rachel Cusk continues the adventures of Faye, the unflappable and preternaturally observant narrator of her previous novel, Outline. Faye is a fiction writer with a significant professional profile: she is invited to literary festivals, asked to run workshops and participate in panel discussions. The tone and structure of Transit is identical to Outline. In a series of loosely connected vignettes, Faye finds herself in the company of various individuals in ever varying circumstances, and in each case assumes the role of audience as they narrate the story of some highly personal, unforgettable or otherwise noteworthy life event. Faye’s circumstances have changed. In Transit, she is newly separated from her husband and living in London, having purchased a run-down council flat for herself and her two sons. The disruption to Faye’s own life caused by the move into and subsequent renovation of the flat is the novel’s chief framing element. One could make a case that Transit is not a novel but in fact a collection of linked stories. Indeed, it often seems to the reader that, despite the commonalities that many of the episodes share, each exists in its own isolated sphere of time and space. In one Faye meets an old boyfriend and learns that he is in a new relationship that, paradoxically, was affirmed and strengthened by an atrocious act of neglect on his part. In another she meets a writer at a literary festival who gleefully tells stories of his stepfather’s cruelty to anyone willing to listen. And in another she drives out of the city to have dinner with her cousin and his wife, some friends of theirs, and their children, and the evening deteriorates into tantrums and squabbling. In each of these chapters, as in others in the book, we witness people at pains to explain or justify themselves, to tell an intimate tale of how events they have gone through have shaped the person they have become. Where Outline seemed to imply that the “self” we construct for public consumption is completed in our transactions with other people, Transit focuses instead on the notion that life is an ongoing process of adjusting, altering and tailoring ourselves to suit changing needs and circumstances, suggesting that we are constantly in transit: from one place to another, or in transition from one state of being to another. Both novels share the cool tone and visual precision of Cusk’s razor-sharp, deliciously readable prose. Transit, a triumph of form blended with content, additionally showcases the author’s remarkable ability to duplicate a narrative strategy from a previous novel and create yet another fresh and compelling work of fiction, one that not only stands on its own but equals and perhaps even surpasses the success of its predecessor.… (more)
LibraryThing member bobbieharv
So difficult to review or even tag this magnificent beautiful book. I compared Outline to Olive Kitteridge, mostly for the literary device of revealing the protagonist by portraits of those she encounters. But that doesn't even due justice to the brilliance of this book. Calming, evocative, thoughtful writing. I am going to re-read Aftermath now just because I love her writing so much.… (more)
LibraryThing member nancyjean19
Maybe it's not surprising that a novel made up of personal stories told by strangers to the narrator would be such a page turner. I know I always enjoy hearing dramatic stories from friends, even if I've never met the person in question, and probably never will. Compared with Outline, we do see more of the narrator and her surroundings in this story. She certainly is in transit – between homes, between lives. I also liked that during the party at the end, someone finally notices that she asks such detailed thoughtful questions of strangers – and she admits that she's listening to try and learn something about life in general. I'm looking forward to reading the final installment.… (more)

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