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10th Grade202432 Stories4th of July99 DaysA Change in AltitudeA Demon in My ViewA Dream of WolvesA Falling KnifeA Finely Tuned Apathy MachineA Heart of StoneA Life Lived RidiculouslyA Multitude of SinsA Parting GiftA Question of BloodA Quiet PlaceA Red Heart of MemoriesA River SutraA Short History of Tractors in UkrainianA Slight Trick of the MindA Stir of BonesA Thousand Miles from NowhereA Voyage Long and StrangeA Wedding in December About a BoyAbraham LincolnAcross the River and Into the TreesActs of GodActs of InfidelityAfrican PsychoAfter DarkAfter YouAfter You'd GoneAfterwardsAgenda for MurderAliens in the Prime of Their LivesAll Alone in the UniverseAll Families Are PsychoticAll in the MindAll the Way HomeAltered LandAlternatives to SexAmanda's WeddingAmelia RulesAmericaAmerica AmericaAmnesiaAmong the DepartedAn Object of BeautyAngelsAngry Youth Comix #2AnimosityAnne SextonAre You Experienced?Aristotle and Poetic JusticeAristotle DetectiveArlington ParkArtemis FowlAs Hot as It Was You Ought to Thank MeAsking For MurderAsymmetryAtonementAway Laughing on a Fast CamelBabylon and Other StoriesBad BoyBad SeedBag Of BonesBalancing ActsBarbara the Slut and Other PeopleBeach RoadBeat the ReaperBeautiful GirlsBed of RosesBefore I Go to SleepBefore the FrostBeg the QuestionBeginner's GreekBellyBeneath the SkinBenedictionBest New American VoicesBig BrotherBilly and GirlBiteBlack & WhiteBlack HelicoptersBlack Market TruthBlameBlanketsBleed for MeBlind SightBlonde FaithBlood, Salt, WaterBlueprints for Building Better GirlsBody SurfingBoneMan's DaughtersBoneyardBoneyardBoomsdayBorder CrossingBoth Ways Is the Only Way I Want ItBoysBracketBrain TrustBrava, ValentineBreaking Out of BedlamBreathing UnderwaterBrick LaneBridge of SighsBridget JonesBridget Jones's DiaryBrief Interviews with Hideous MenBring Them HomeBruisesBrŁselBullyBurn, Bitchy, BurnButterflyBy BloodBy The Sea ShoreCalled to KillCanadaCanvasCaricatureCase HistoriesCellCemetery DanceChange of HeartChangesChasing the DimeChild 44Cinema PanopticumCinnamon KissCirceCircle NineCity of the LostClay's WayClose toYouClose Your EyesCloud 9 AffairCoincidenceCold CaseCold HitCold in HandCollected StoriesCome Up and See Me SometimeComfort and JoyCompulsionConfessions of a ShopaholicConfessions of an Ex-GirlfriendConsider LoveCouch FictionCountryCrispinCross CountryCruddyCrumpleCutCypherDaddy's GirlsDakotaDamageDancing After HoursDanger in High PlacesDanger! Cross CurrentsDante's PoisonDante's WoodDarkest FearDating Without NovocaineDead BoysDead Canaries Don't SingDead EndDead EvenDeadly AdviceDeadly ButterflyDeadly GambleDeaf SentenceDear American AirlinesDear Zoe,Death of a Department ChairDeath of an AddictDeath with InterruptionsDeath Without TenureDeceitDecemberDeceptionDefending JacobDeliverance From EvilDemonologyDepraved HeartDictatorDisobedienceDisturbing GroundDivine JusticeDivisaderoDixie RoadDon't Wake UpDr. Jekyll & Mr. HydeDriftlessDuplicityEcstasyEmerald City BluesEmpire FallsEmpress of the WorldEnd over EndEven DeadlierEven Dogs in the WildEvenings at FiveEvery Note PlayedEvery Visible ThingEye ContactFacesFaking ItFalling ManFamily and Other CatastrophesFamily HistoryFascinationFat Angie Fear of the DarkFeeling Sorry for CeliaFellsideFeminist Philosophy And Science FictionFever 1793Field of BloodFinal JeopardyFlashpointFlat Lake in WinterFlorid StatesForgive the MoonFortunate SonFortune's RocksFour Blind MiceFour CornersFred the ClownFrom Girls to GrrlzFull DisclosureGallatin CanyonGaudi AfternoonGenerosityGeorgia Under WaterGhost at the WindowGiftedGiganticGirl in TranslationGirl Walking BackwardsGirls Closed InGirls Like UsGod HeadGod Is DeadGod Is Not OneGods and BeastsGoldengroveGone GirlGood and GoneGood GriefGrace, Tamar and Laszlo the BeautifulGuises of DesireHalf In Love With DeathHappiness Sold SeparatelyHappy FamilyHappy Mutant Baby PillsHappy Now?HarleyHarry Potter and the Sorcererís StoneHe Counts Their TearsHeartbeatHeftHell's IslandHey, Wait...High HeatHolidays On IceHope in a JarHot MilkHotel on the Corner of Bitter and SweetHotel WorldHotels of North AmericaHouse of JavaHow a Gunman Says GoodbyeHow People ChangeHow to Be GoodHow to Set a Fire and WhyHow to Stop TimeHug MeI Can See YouI Don't Know How She Does ItI'd Know You AnywhereI'm Traveling AloneIf I Fall, If I DieIf You StayImagine Me GoneImposter for HireIn ZanesvilleInfinite JestIngloriousInnocentInnocent WorldInnocentsInspired SleepInvisibleIronshoreIs This What Other Women Feel Too?It Takes OneIt's Love We Don't UnderstandIt's Not Me, It's YouJacob Have I LovedJimmy CorriganJohn Dies at the EndJournal d'une femme adultŤreJust LifeKeeping LucyKhalifahKick the Animal OutKicking the SkyKim: Empty InsideKisscutKissing DoorknobsKissing in AmericaKnife CreekKnockout MouseLambLast Chance SaloonLast NightLaura Numeroff's 10-Step Guide to Living with Your MonsterLawnboyLayoverLeft NeglectedLeisureLeo the Lightning BugLeslie's JournalLet Me Be Frank With YouLet's Call It a DoomsdayLie to MeLies My Girlfriend Told MeLife After LifeLife ClassLife Is a Strange PlaceLife of PiLike the Red PandaLike You'd Understand, AnywayLikely to DieLillian in LoveLisa, Bright and DarkLisey's StoryListen to the SilenceLithium for MedeaLittle Black LiesLittle ChildrenLittle LitLittle ScarletLiíl SantaLonerLord of the FliesLosing JuliaLostLost GirlLost in the ForestLost Memory of SkinLove and Shame and LoveLove in 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Rachel Cusk has a profound ability to create a synergy of sensations. In the same way a head may turn when mistaking the ring on the TV as one's own telephone, so Rachel Cusk's magical prose has one listening to the (non-existent) rain and sniffing the air for the lingering smell of the school lunch down the corridors: 'the rich odour of reheated food suffused the building and hung in a meat-smelling shape around the doors' (p.158). In capturing these elements, evoking non-specific times and places, Arlington Park is set in some wayward eternity yet is seemingly now (there is one reference to a mobile phone) though its characterization of what we may call the 'housewives-predicament' makes Arlington Park linger non-delicately somewhere between the 1950's and '70s or perhaps even earlier.
In two parts, Arlington Park is not a novel so much as a set of short stories culminating in a dinner party where we are joined by some (but not all) of those characters previously met. Not that it matters. For Arlington Park is really about one person manifested in several different ways, re-created by wearing a different top or placed in a different kitchen. Even the same person may appear differently to others: Juliet is 'shaven-headed like a nun' (p.163) according to the school children but with a nice 'bobbed hair' by a fellow housewife (p.232) Though nuances in personality suggest differing emotions: fear of change or death, humiliation and anger, it is the overriding theme of self-righteous bitterness that underpins Arlington Park. Though it aims to offer a phenomenology of the suburbs -- Arlington Park is the eponymous suburb in question -- this is not a book about people or lives but about the life of woman in the singular -- a particular type of woman: middle class, college educated, married in her thirties, with young children. Sometimes she is pregnant, or pushing her toddler in his buggy in the park but always she is bitter, as if -- as woman -- she has not freely chosen this life, this husband, this home.
And therein lies the problem.
Who are the women in Arlington Park? Who is she who's harshness bites through the pages like a rabid dog? She may hold a good, decent job – school teacher, TV producer; and even be educated to PhD level. But the world of work does not exist; there is only identity as wife and mother and home maker; there is, then, only some past pre-feminist nail biting dependent woman who has abandoned her career, her life in London (the big city) for the non-thrill of children and hubbie -- who, when we meet him is white, middle class and bemoans 'the end of the English' (p.226) Who is he? He is the stereotyped man who fails to pull his weight: 'She ... would describe his children to him, as though he had never met them before ... of which he might eventually be persuaded to make a considered purchase.' (p.176)
It is somewhat disingenuous for Jenny with her 'PhD, her air of bitterness' to therefore complain 'she was an outsider' (p. 38) when the only difference between her and Solly or Amanda or Christine is a communication gap where each woman fails to recognize her peer as similarly morphed in a world of desperate non-identity. In Arlington Park the world turns around coffee mornings, interior decorating, the frustration of children. There is no political thought, no philosophy or history or poverty, let alone a war on terror. And here lies the novel's main weakness. As phenomenology, there is unarguably beauty in the detail of the mundane but in redeeming her women as suburban muse Cusk never allows her characters to admit they have freely chosen this world. In the woman's failure to be a true person, one imagines that at any moment Jenny or Amanda would happily step outside the book to preach to the single woman of the wonders of motherhood, to tell her she is missing out, or selfish or perhaps merely sad. Yet it is Cusk's characters who come across as the saddest of all. 'What would they do with their bodies that felt so stiff and clumsy, now that the future had rehoused itself in children clad in red yellow and blue?' (p.150)
Arlington Park should be required reading for anyone contemplating a move to the suburbs or indeed, planning a pregnancy. The city and the single life have never looked so appealing.
© 2007 Eccy de Jonge
Eccy de Jonge is the author of Spinoza and Deep Ecology, Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004.