Rachel Cusk Envies Waugh’s Writing Life

Novelist Rachel Cusk is featured in a recent issue of the Canadian magazine, Maclean’s. She was born in Canada but moved to England as a child with her British parents. She has recently been nominated for two Canadian literary awards for her latest novel Outline. In the article she is quoted as yearning for the sort of writing life exemplified by Evelyn Waugh:

…I’ve often yearned for the calm and orderly life suggested by a photograph I have of Evelyn Waugh in his study, sitting amongst his books at a great leather desk beside a roaring fire with his pen poised. Part of the piquancy of that image is its maleness, its freedom from domestic harassment, and so my yearning for it is absolutely ambivalent: not only is the writing life it suggests unavailable to me, my whole writing identity gets its purpose and radicalism from that unavailability. I think it is perhaps for that reason that I become forgetful and chaotic whenever the opportunity arises to “be” a writer. I couldn’t write what I write if that was what I was.

Although the photo to which she refers is not reprinted in the article, it is probably the one on the U.K. dust jacket of The Picturesque Prison: Evelyn Waugh and his Writing by Jeffrey Heath, another Canadian. A photo of that dust jacket can be viewed here. Cusk’s early novels (Saving Agnes and The Country Life) are often compared to Waugh’s for their ironic humor.

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