As with any personal essay or memoir written by Rachel Cusk, this is wonderfully thought-provoking and insightful. “Making House: Notes on domesticity” in The New York Times.
We moved house often, and each time it appeared that it was the perfecting of our environment that was causing us to leave it, as though living there had been a process of construction that was now complete. In much the same way as an artist’s deepest moments of intimacy with a canvas half-consciously generate the need or desire to rid himself of it, my mother perhaps felt a gathering frenzy as she bequeathed her domestic vision to us, for the sight of us starting to make ourselves comfortable there was surely the proof that the picture was finished. The summons of the unknown generally overrides sentiment; possibly, it feeds off it. To continue creating, a person perhaps has to maintain an essential discomfort in the world. The kitchen, where my mother spent most of her time, was often the smallest and dowdiest room in the houses we lived in; and I, too, have found myself working over the years in cramped bedrooms or at the kitchen table, even when a degree of prosperity would have permitted me to claim the much-vaunted room of my own.
In Italy once, I was given a private tour of a beautiful castle, led by the owner through room after impeccably furnished room, only to glimpse at the end through a half-open door a tiny, cavelike space crammed with all the evidence — a gas stove, a television, a tatty sofa — of daily life: This was clearly where the family spent their time. I have often looked at photographs of writers in their elegant book-lined studies and marveled at what seems to me a mirage of sorts, the near-perfect alignment of seeming with being, the convincing illusion of mental processes on public display, as though writing a book were not the work of someone capable of all the shame and deviousness and coldheartedness in the world.