“… my individuality had tormented me my whole life with its demand to be recognised.”
Second Place is a rewriting of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s memoir “Lorenzo in Taos”, which talks about the time D. H. Lawrence came to stay with her in Taos, New Mexico.
The story is about our protagonist M who invites L (notice the resemblance yet?) to her remote marshy property where she lives with her husband Tony, her daughter Justine and her partner Kurt.
L is an awfully terrible and disturbing man. A man I have come to abhor through and through. Cusk portrays him as the narcissistic artist who has a cold heart and is willingly vile. He achieved fame at a very young age but didn’t create anything substantial afterwards. He’s a nomad who was hopping around the globe in search of inspiration which makes me see him as nothing more than a man frustrated by his own failures.
Cusk’s writing is atmospheric and philosophical. It is thought provoking and intense. In fact if you’ve read Animal by Lisa Taddeo, you’ll find the narration style to be similar to that. But Cusk tip-toes on the very thin line of brilliance and pretentiousness.
Her brilliance lies in her ability to write about motherhood, parenthood, pleasure, art, existence, male privilege, female fate and freedom all in a single breath. I also appreciate how she allows the readers to make their own interpretations without being too superimposing.
But then her pretentiousness comes pouring out in sentences like, “I was more familiar with what I looked at than with where I actually was, and so I knew exactly what it would have been like to be over there, looking across at here. What I wasn’t so sure of was what here looked like.” Which I still cannot make sense of and this is just one particular instance.
Second Place gives you SO much to think about! I know I will be sitting on a lot of thoughts myself for days to come. If philosophy, art and nuance writings are some of the things that interest you I recommend this book to you.
Undoubtedly Cusk is a fabulous writer but I don’t think Second Place has enough of her brilliance to win her The Booker this year.
I read this book as a readalong I am hosting – #BuddyReadingTheBooker