Top critical review
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on 17 December 2009
To start a book with the line "What is art?" is quite a way of sticking your flag in the ground. Saying: 'I don't care if this sounds sophomoric - listen up.' Which is admirable, and besides, the question is really asked by a protagonist, and not the author, not really.
The issue is that the book tries to answer that question by wringing interest out of the sorts of things you would rather not hear about. The book is very eloquent (well - in fact - it xan be quite verbose) but it sort of feels like one of those half-hour mum-phone-monologues about the terrible things that are going on at the neighbour's place, although perhaps on a day where she is channelling the spirit of Virginia Woolf.
Despite a number of very evocative passages and a strong thread of ambition throughout the whole novel, I did find it a bit of a chore. I would hope to see another book by Cusk sometime soon though; I'd like to see her turn away from mundanity and try her hand at some full-on exuberance; I think she'd be good at it.