In the Cut


Susanna Moore wrote In the Cut (Plume, N.Y., 1999).  The book received very positive reviews such as: “Brilliant.  A beautifully crafted story of obsession, sex, violation…Gut-twisting…goes deliberately too far, climaxing in one of the most authentically shocking endings in recent fiction” (San Francisco Chronicle).  “Erotica told from a female point of view…Entwined with all the sex scenes is a murder mystery” (Los Angeles Times).


The outstanding director Jane Campion made it into a movie by the same name.  Campion also co-wrote the screenplay with Moore and Nicole Kidman got involved as one of the Producers.  It stars Meg Ryan, Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Nick Damici and Sharrieff Pugh.


I have just read the book and am looking forward to seeing the movie---and wondering if this fine group of people are going to be able to translate the book into a movie.  The ending is horrific and…..well we shall see.  It sure isn’t going to have the upbeat Hollywood ending most people want when they go to the movies…unless they drastically change the story line.


This is a story about a 35-year-old divorced teacher/writer who lives in New York City.  Clearly she needs therapy!  She engages is inappropriate relationships that are on the edge of danger.  She pays dearly for her behavior.


She is in a bar with one of her students when she goes looking for a toilet and happens to see a man getting a blowjob.  She can’t see his face but she can see a tattoo on his wrist.  Later that night the woman giving the blowjob is brutally murdered.  A policeman comes and asks her what she saw because she was at the bar.  She notices that the police officer has the tattoo.  She doesn’t say anything to him about what she saw and ends up having a sexual relationship with the police officer.  Sooooo….part of her realizes he might be a serial murderer and she still goes to bed with him????  Not smart!  At the same time we are introduced to several other men in her life that also could be the murderer.  This lady doesn’t have what you would call stable relationships.  Then her best female friend is also brutally murdered. 


She is a writer.  The police officer she is having the relationship with is married.  Both of them have one key thing in common.  They both are very observant people.  They pay attention to details.  That is how she brings her stories to life that she writes.  That is how he figures out who the bad guys are and how to arrest them.  So the book has a number of themes and one of them is the value of paying attention to the details.  She is compiling a dictionary of slang words…words are the details that make up conversations and we need to pay more attention to them.  Make sure that you know what you are saying and what others are saying to you.


The main character, the female writer, states: “I don’t believe in destiny, although I am sometimes tempted by the freedom implied by inevitability…Unfortunately, it is not Death who is waiting to take my soul and Houston and Broadway, but the crosstown bus I do not see coming” (p. 55).  This is a thoughtful woman, a dark personality, a tough person.  She has many admirable qualities---but risk assessment is not one of them.


What are the lessons from this book?  Don’t trust cops because their jobs push them over the edge?  Don’t dance on the dangerous streets of life?  Don’t blame the victims?  Sexual relationships are dangerous?  We fail to communicate because the words keep changing?  Pay attention?


Yes, we definitely need to pay more attention to the details of life.  But we must clearly see and then understand what we have seen.  She sees clearly, she pays attention, but she never puts it all together and UNDERSTANDS.  And that costs her dearly.


The book is more about sex than it is about murder.  Is she saying then that our lives are a form of slow death, that we need to challenge life more aggressively?  She definitely wants us to communicate more effectively about everything…and especially about sex.  She wants men to know that women can enjoy sex as much as men do and that women will enjoy sex if men communicate effectively with their sexual partners so that they learn how to give the woman pleasure.


Why does she have tragedy at the end?  Because she lies.  When asked, she doesn’t tell the policeman what she saw at the bar.  That lie, more than anything else, leads to disaster for her.   So part of the message of the book is that we have to be honest, direct, almost brutally honest if we are going to survive.  Honest in the words we choose, honest in what we share with one another, honest in our lovemaking.  Honesty will save us and we have to have the courage to be honest.