Rachel Cusk Interview with Caille Millner (And Thoughts on Twitter)

What struck me most of this discussion between Rachel Cusk and Caille Millner about Transit is Cusk’s assertion that the ‘only way of knowing someone is watching them’. Regardless of the form Cusk uses for her writing, this way of looking at the world lies at the heart of why I find her books so compelling. It is this sense of always being an observer, a voyeur, the painter looking into their own painting. It is essentially an outsider’s view, jarring and fascinating to find a writer that shares something of one’s way of perceiving the world.

Whereas once I might have shared this link via my @timesflow account on Twitter, that channel has drained of interest as it has come more to resemble Facebook. There has been much talk of the bubble effect on Twitter. That bubble effect when made up of a small, truly global group of people who share a literary sensibility is what has kept me on Twitter for the last six or so years. Bubbles can be good for you.

Recently, for quite understandable reasons, literary discussion has been largely buried beneath people’s anguish and rage about the political situation in America and to a lesser extent the U.K. It became clear last June how the bubble effect is compelling when literary but dangerous when political. I have other channels in which to consume and discuss political information. The endless op-eds and repetition available via Twitter were useless during the period before and after last June’s referendum, and equally pointless in this charged and painful time. I’ve tried limiting those I follow to readers still finding a way to discuss literature (apologies if I’ve upset anyone by unfollowing, it isn’t you, it’s me!), but the noise to information ratio is distracting, painful and not useful in any way. I’ve decided for the time being not to delete my account, but am not present on Twitter except in DMs.

Apologies if these comments seem pompous but I don’t want any of those friends I value on Twitter to think I’ve lost interest in literary discussion. I still follow posts on my favourite blogs via RSS. To avoid using Twitter in purely broadcast-mode, I shan’t be tweeting links to my posts here (after this one) for a while, so please follow by email or RSS if you have any interest in my thoughts on what I’m reading. If you’d like to get in touch please use email, blog comments or Twitter DMs. Thank you.

16 thoughts on “Rachel Cusk Interview with Caille Millner (And Thoughts on Twitter)

  1. Understand. Would like still to read your posts please. Don’t know what RSS is. Won’t be able to DM you as unfollowed. Please email me notifications. Thanks. We share many interests & I have read several authors because of your recommendations – Cusk will be another – & revisited many authors whom I had not read for a long time

    • Should also say that I’m pleased, Jill, to have been able to breath a little life into writers you’ve read before and also to enable you to make the acquaintance of some new ones.

      • Not so much breathe life into them as give me opportunity to think about them and read them again – eg Brigid Brophy, whom we discussed, Gogol, Kafka, Musil – I had a partner with whom I would read & discuss authors like those – he hadn’t studied literature but also read slowly & with delight Sterne Cervantes Rabelais Bulgakov – but he died & a ‘book group’ would be no substitute . So I have appreciated your pointers

        • Sorry to hear that, Jill, and I can’t imagine a book group being a substitute for a sustained, careful conversation about literature. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to give you that opportunity and hope to continue to do so. Thanks for commenting.

  2. I can’t say I blame you for your decision: I too feel I’m wringing my hands most ineffectively on Twitter and just adding to the anguish without solving anything. I’m therefore limiting my time on it, purely for my own sanity, and trying to continue with literary pursuits rather than just political ones. (Last night I dreamt about Trump, which made me realise I need to STOP following the news.)
    I really enjoyed Cusk’s Outline and look forward to embarking on Transit now. There is something about Cusk’s way of describing people which makes you realise the unknowingness – unknowability- if there is such a word – of people. It is all tentative, it is all open to interpretation, and this fluidity of the self is disconcerting but true to life.

  3. Thanks for sharing the discussion about Transit, which I am just about to start today. I like what you said about observing people as a way of getting to know them. I am a very visual person, inherited this from my maternal grandfather who I was very close to. We would “people watch” together and compare notes on our observations. It generated so many great discussion between us. Thanks for reminding me of that nice memory.

    And as for Twitter or any other social media I have had to avoid most of it for the sake of my sanity. It’s just too depressing.

  4. Twitter is a rough place these days, and I can’t say I blame you for logging off more and more — I get anxiety every morning when I check the feed. But I will miss your sharp observations and good humor on that service.
    Thank you for posting the link to the interview! And of course I’ll keep reading all of your posts here.

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