The fashion for what constitutes a good novel changes all the time. At the moment, the approved ‘literary’ novel would seem to be a taut, plot-heavy affair, outward-looking, describing something that will be new to the reader – ‘news from elsewhere’, as a creative-writing teacher of my acquaintance describes it. ‘Show, don’t tell’ is another great maxim of the schools, and it is an excellent maxim for people who don’t write very well and might otherwise bore us. A great deal depends, however, upon who is doing the telling.
Rachel Cusk’s writing is so beautiful that I would happily read her account of a trip to the shops on a rainy morning – which is just as well, since this will probably be what she is writing about. Far from telling me anything new about the world,