"One always seemed to see them running: they ran everywhere, to work and back again, to the supermarket, in groups around the park – talking together as easily as if they were standing still – and if they had to stop for a traffic light they would keep running on the spot in their enormous white shoes until it changed and they could progress again. The rest of the time they wore flat shoes with rubber soles, supremely practical and supremely ugly. Their shoes were the only inelegant thing about them,’ she said, ‘yet I felt they were the key to the whole mystery of their nature, for they were the shoes of a woman without vanity. ‘I myself,’ she continued, extending her silvered foot out from beneath the table, ‘developed a weakness for delicate shoes when we returned to Greece. Perhaps it was because I had begun to see the virtues of standing still. And for the character in my novel, shoes like these represent something forbidden. They are the sort of thing she would never wear. Moreover, when she does see women wearing such shoes, it makes her feel sad. She has believed, until now, that this was because she found such women pitiful, but in fact when she thinks about it honestly it is because she feels excluded or disbarred from the concept of womanhood the shoes represent. She feels, almost, as if she isn’t a woman at all. But if she isn’t a woman, what is she? She is experiencing a crisis of femininity that is also a creative crisis, yet she has always sought to separate the two things in the belief that they were mutually exclusive, that the one disqualified the other. She looks out of the window of her apartment at the women running in the park, always running, and she asks herself whether they are running towards something or away from it. If she looks long enough she sees that they are simply running around in circles.’"

-Rachel Cusk, Outline


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