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1 Burnside Literature- A to Z

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Arlington Park

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Arlington Park Cover

ISBN13: 9780312426729
ISBN10: 0312426720
Condition: Standard
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Excerpt

Arlington Park

All night the rain fell on Arlington Park.
The clouds came from the west: clouds like dark cathedrals, clouds like machines, clouds like black blossoms flowering in the arid starlit sky. They came over the English countryside, sunk in its muddled sleep. They came over the low, populous hills where scatterings of lights throbbed in the darkness. At midnight they reached the city, valiantly glittering in its shallow provincial basin. Unseen, they grew like a second city overhead, thickening, expanding, throwing up their savage monuments, their towers, their monstrous, unpeopled palaces of cloud.
In Arlington Park, people were sleeping. Here and there the houses showed an orange square of light. Cars crept along the deserted roads. A cat leapt from a wall, pouring itself down into the shadows. Silently the clouds filled the sky. The wind picked up. It faintly stirred the branches of the trees, and in the dark, empty park the swings moved back and forth a little. A handful of dried leaves shuffled on the pavement. Down in the city there were still people on the streets, but in Arlington Park they were in their beds, already surrendered to tomorrow. There was no one to see the rain coming, except a couple hurrying down the silent streets on their way back from an evening out.
"I don't like the look of that," said the man, peering up. "That's rain."
The woman gave an exasperated little laugh.
"You're the expert on everything tonight, aren't you?" she said.
They let themselves into their house. The orange light showed for an instant in their doorway and was extinguished again.
On Arlington Rise, where the streetlamps made a tunnel of hard light and the road began its descent down into the city, the wind lifted stray pieces of litter and whirled them around. Further down, the black sky sagged over the darkened shop-fronts. An irascible gust made the signs rattle against the windows. From here the city could be seen, spread out below in the half-splendour of night. A brown haze stood above it. In its heaped centre, cranes and office blocks and the tiny floodlit spires of the cathedral stood out in the dark against the haze. Red and yellow lights moved in little repeating patterns as though they were the lights of an intricate mechanism. All around it, where the suburbs extended to the north and the east, brilliant fields of light undulated over the blackened landscape.
In the centre of the city the pubs and restaurants were closed, but people were queuing outside the nightclubs. When the rain started to fall, a few of the girls shrieked and held their handbags over their heads. The boys laughed uneasily. They hunched their shoulders and put their hands in their pockets. The drops fell from the fathomless darkness and came glittering into the orange light. They fell on the awning of the Luna nightclub and twisted in the beams of the streetlamps. They fell into the melancholy, stained fountain in the square, where men in T-shirts sat with cans of lager and hooded boys made graceful circles in the dark on their skateboards.There were people milling in doorways, shrieking girls in stilettos, boys with sculpted hair, middle-aged men furtively carrying things in plastic bags. A woman in a tight raincoat tick-tacked hurriedly along the pavement, talking into her mobile phone. One of the men by the fountain took off his T-shirt and rubbed his startled chest in the rain while the others cheered. The traffic moved slowly through the spray. A group of men in a passing car blared their horn at the queuing girls and shouted out the windows as they went by.
The rain fell on the tortuous medieval streets and the grimy Victorian streets and on the big bombed streets where shopping centres had been built. It fell on the hospital and the old theatre and the new multiplex cinema. It fell on multistorey car parks and office blocks. It fell on fast-food restaurants and pubs with Union Jacks in the windows. It fell on newly built blocks of flats whose windows were still in their plastic wrappers and whose foundations stood in mud, and it fell on their hoardings. Along the river, commercial buildings--insurance buildings and banks--stood one after another, geometric-shaped, and the rain fell in their empty, geometric-shaped plazas. On the black river, under the bridge, swans sheltered from the dark drops amidst the floating rubbish. All along the rain-blackened High Street people were waiting at bus stops: people from desolate parts of the city, from Weston or Hartford, where the rain fell on boarded-up shops and houses and the concrete walkways of insomniac estates. They crowded into the bus shelters, a man with a giant sheaf of dreadlocks, a man with an enormous suitcase, an old lady neatly parcelled into a tweed coat, a couple in tracksuits who kissed and kissed beneath the plastic roof where the rain beat down, so that when the bus came in a great dark arc of water the old lady had to tap the boy on the shoulder and tell them to get on.
The bus went through the rain up Firley Way, which passed from the centre all the way through the suburbs to the retail park, where rain fell on featureless warehouses and superstores and tumbled down in sheets over their empty car parks. It fell on the roofs of darkened garage forecourts. It fell on car showrooms and builders' merchants. It battered the plastic verandas where supermarket trolleys clung together in long, chattering rows. It fell on the business park, and on the shrubs adorning its desolate roundabout. It fell on the black, submissive fields from which the new places were unrepentantly carved. Over Merrywood shopping mall the rain fell hard on the giant neo-classical roof, so that water streamed down its indifferent façade.
 

 

On Arlington Rise the rain was running downhill in the gutters. Below, a kind of vapour hung over the city, muffling the red and yellow lights. The sounds of car horns and a siren rose up the hill from the glittering, steaming heap of the city.
A little further up, around a bend in the road, the vista disappeared. The darkness deepened. The buildings grew more graceful and the pavements more orderly. As the road ascended to Arlington Park the big, brash shops down below were succeeded by florists and antique shops: the off-licences became wine merchants, the fast-food chains became bistros. To either side tree-lined roads began to appear. In the rain these roads had the resilient atmosphere of ancient places. Their large houses stood impassively in the dark, set back amidst their dripping trees. Between them, a last, panoramic glimpse of the city could be seen below: of its eternal red and yellow lights, its pulsing mechanism, its streets always crawling with indiscriminate life. It was a startling view, though not a reassuring one. It was too mercilessly dramatic: with its unrelentingactivity it lacked the sense of intermission, the proper stops and pauses of time. The story of life required its stops and its pauses, its days and nights. It didn't make sense otherwise. But to look at that view you'd think that a human life was meaningless. You'd think that a day meant nothing at all.
The rain fell on Arlington Park, fell on its empty avenues and its well-pruned hedges, on its schools and its churches, on its trees and its gardens. It fell on its Victorian terraces with their darkened windows, on its rows of bay-fronted houses, on its Georgian properties behind their gates, on its maze of tidy streets where the little two-storey houses were painted pretty colours. It fell joyously over the dark, deserted sward of the park, over its neat paths and bushes. It beat down, washing the pavements, sluicing along the drains, drumming on the bonnets of the parked cars. All night it fell, until with a new intensity, just before dawn, it emptied a roaring cascade of water over the houses so that the rain was flung against the darkened windows.
In their sleep they heard it, people lying in their beds: the thunderous noise of the water. It penetrated their dreams, a sound like the sound of uproarious applause. It was as if a great audience were applauding. Louder and louder it grew, this strange, unsettling sound. It filled the night: it rattled the windows and made people turn beneath their covers and children cry in their sleep. It made them feel somehow observed, as if a dark audience had assembled outside and were looking in through the windows, clapping their hands.
Copyright © 2006 by Rachel Cusk

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

lady in florida, April 15, 2009 (view all comments by lady in florida)
If you are a woman and even the slightest bit suicidal -- don't read this. If you are a woman (or man) and are just looking for a good read -- don't read this. If you enjoy reading about really sad and mad women being really sad and mad -- read this.

A more whining, downcast, inward-looking, boring, stereotypical bunch of women I have yet to meet in a book. Certainly, surely, (please God..) they do not exist in real life in such a concentrated lump. If they do, find them and cheer them up -- or slap them.

If there had been at least ONE normal, happy, reasonably contented person...it would have been a bit more realistic. But no -- they were ALL maladjusted malcontents. And sooooo excruciatingly boring. How I lasted to the end of the book is a mystery to me as I threw it down in disgust several times. That I picked it up again must say something masochistic about me or something good about the author. I prefer the latter...she could write a good book, I see...if she would for corn's sake - lighten up.
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Cynthia Newberry Martin, January 25, 2009 (view all comments by Cynthia Newberry Martin)
Arlington Park is well written and digs deep into truth. It's about women-real and flawed. It's about marriage. It's about not only the lives we plan to live and choose to live, but the lives we end up living. In an article written in 2005, Cusk said, "I remain fascinated by where you go as a woman once you are a mother, and if you ever come back." Arlington Park was one of the best books I read in 2008, and a new addition to my all-time favorite books. It was so good, in fact, that I read it again in December--twice in one year.

The first sentence: "All night the rain fell on Arlington Park." The falling of rain appears like a refrain throughout the book. The rain falls on everyone in Arlington Park. It falls on all of us.

The novel is divided into ten unmarked sections: 1-the rain fell; 2-Juliet; 3-Amanda; 4-Christine, Maisie and Stephanie at the mall; 5-Solly; 6-in the park/the rain had stopped; 7-Juliet; 8-Maisie; 9-Christine; and 10-party at Christine's with Juliet, Maisie, and Maggie.

The first time I read it, I was so taken with Juliet that I didn't want to leave her to switch to Amanda. This time, it did not feel like a brusque change, but felt right. Because it's not just about one of us; it's about all of us.

Here's a little flavor of what you have to look forward to:
-Juliet about a recording of a song by Ravel: "The sound of it brought tears to Juliet's eyes. It was the voice, that woman's voice, so solitary and powerful, so-transcendent. It made Juliet think she could transcend it all, this little house with its stained carpets, its shopping, its flawed people, transcend the grey, rain-sodden distances of Arlington Park; transcend, even her own body, where bitterness lay like lead in the veins. She could open somewhere like a flower...open out all the petals packed inside her."
-Solly about her inability to communicate with a Japanese student renting out their extra room: "...she became aware of how much of her lay shrouded in this inarticulable darkness."
-Solly: "Suddenly she saw her life as a breeding ground, a community under a rock...There was a lack of light, a lack of higher purpose to it all. How could she have forgotten to find out what else there was? How could she have stayed there, under her rock, down in the mulch, and forgotten to take a look outside and see what was going on? All at once she didn't know what she'd been thinking of."
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312426729
Author:
Cusk, Rachel
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Publication Date:
20071231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
256
Dimensions:
7.88 x 5.93 x 0.805 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Arlington Park Used Trade Paper
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$4.95 In Stock
Product details 256 pages Picador USA - English 9780312426729 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "In this devastating ensemble novel, Whitbread Award-winner Cusk (Saving Agnes) exposes the roiling inner lives and not-so-quiet desperation of young mothers in the well-to-do London suburb Arlington Park. The book's single day begins with an epic rainstorm that wakes part-time private-school English teacher Juliet Randall, who spent the previous evening at a wealthier neighbor's home and was told, in front of husband Benedict, 'You want to be careful.... You can start to sound strident at your age.' As Amanda Clapp strains to maintain her house's empty perfection, a multi-kid play date gets out of control. Maisie Carrington feels 'imprisoned for life' by her frosty, upper-crust childhood, and can barely contain her violent feelings toward her own daughters. Christine Lanham, a newcomer to the class distinction her marriage has brought her, abhors the hypocrisy that surrounds her, but knows she will never leave her family. The story line coils around each woman's home until it gathers the group for a drunken dinner party, where husbands express pleasure with their privilege while fretting that something feels amiss, and children, exhausted by their mothers' alternating neglect and desperate love, sleep like the dead — leaving the women holding hot coals of their silent insights. Their plight is an old story, but Cusk makes it incisively vivid." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "[A] sort of Desperate Housewives for the thinking reader....Relief from this bleak view comes from the very vigor of Cusk's characters. Each has made a home in this homogenous place, but for a markedly different reason; each is plagued by her own distinct worries; each finds consolation in her own way. They are, in other words, strikingly real people. And then there is Cusk's writing — so diamond sharp and so lushly metaphorical that even had this substantial book no substance, one would read it happily." (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "[T]he kind of book that makes you burn things on the stove and berate your husband. Cusk is good at identifying what she fears and reviles."
"Review" by , "Such is the author's skill that few readers will be able to escape a sense of squirming empathy for these women's frequent bouts of self-pity....The sour aftertaste their stories leave, however, is a new development in Cusk's work — and not a welcome one. Accomplished, honest and uncompromising, but not a whole lot of fun."
"Review" by , "[The characters are] not always good company — this reviewer threw the book down halfway through, swearing to get out of town — but in her luminous if disturbing study Cusk has done important work in giving them voice. Highly recommended."
"Review" by , "When Cusk is at her best — and she often is in this book — she writes scenes that are both funny and furious....The strength of Arlington Park is that while depicting the sadness of these very human and likable mothers, Cusk doesn't patronize or pity them."
"Review" by , "Arlington Park is a remarkable, though quiet, work. Cusk illuminates ordinary lives, presumably the kind of lives that most of us lead."
"Review" by , "What makes the book brilliant is Cusk's fearlessness about her subject matter....Cusk treats the women's day as a high literary subject that deserves great writing and acute observation. She addresses the problem of time with energy and wit."
"Review" by , "Cusk's glory is her style, cold and hard and devastatingly specific, empathetic but not sympathetic....She seems to be saying that Arlington Park may be comfortable, maddening, deracinating, alienating nothingness, but it is the only choice."
"Review" by , "With so many women slogging through the same malevolent marsh, a reader's receptivity is dulled. Yet just when you're ready to moan Enough, Cusk pulls you back with a perfect description..."
"Synopsis" by ,

Set over the course of one rainy day in a London suburb, Arlington Park is a viciously funny portrait of a group of young mothers, each bound to their families, each straining for some kind of independence. As the hours pass, Rachel Cusk's graceful, incisive prose passes through the experience of each mother, following them all from the early-morning scrambling, through car trips and visits to the mall, and finally to a dinner party in the evening, when the husbands return and all the conflicts come to the surface. Penetrating and empathetic, Arlington Park is "a domestic adventure about the perils of modern privilege that is as smartly satirical as it is warmly wise" (Elle).

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