Strong criticism is not necessarily intolerance, says Alex Clark writing in the Weekend Telegraph.
Having had some time to let her feelings settle, she did not hold back. Quoting extensively from the worst of her reviews - with a smattering of positive notices in between - she described being on the receiving end of "a judgment of sanctimoniousness whose like I had never experienced".
At times, she explained, she wished she'd never written the book; the world "became a bleaker place"; the whole thing left her feeling "angry and defensive and violated".
Evidently, she recovered enough to return to the themes central to the book in subsequent works of fiction, including The Lucky Ones and Arlington Park; and also to permit the forthcoming reissue of A Life's Work itself. But it is clear that she has remembered in great detail the moment when not only her work but her life - its fabric, its events and its loved ones - came under intense scrutiny.
It was not a word that she used, but it was clear that she felt something like persecution and, catching the tone of many of the pieces she quoted, it was plain enough to see why.
The word she did use, however, was intolerance; an intolerance, she decided, that "arose from dependence on an ideal", in this case an ideal of motherhood. But the mention of intolerance seems to take literary criticism into another arena, one in which the critics' expression of their point of view, however trenchantly expressed, becomes confused with their view of the writer's right to write what she has written.
To take strenuous issue with a piece of work seems an entirely different matter from feeling that it shouldn't have come into being at all; and it seems unlikely that even Cusk's harshest critics were suggesting that.
Most lovers of books would count that as something of a victory, rather than something to dwell on, however horribly bumpy the ride might have seemed at the time.
I am probably not the greatest fan of Sebastian Horsley, author of the memoir Dandy in the Underworld, who recently arrived at US immigration with nothing to declare "but my genitals and my genius" and was promptly turned away at the gate on the grounds of moral turpitude (I believe they stopped short of "gross moral turpitude", somewhat disappointingly).
It's nothing personal, but self-proclaimed geniuses do tend to grate - as do those committed to portraying their lives as an unceasing merry-go-round of sex, drugs and all manner of fleshly pleasures undreamt of by the more quotidian among us.
None the less, a long-past conviction for possession of amphetamines and a fondness for top hats should hardly be enough to keep an author from his book tour, or where would the publishing industry be? Next they'll be banning alcoholic narcissists, and the whole damn shooting match will be over.
Perhaps, though, the powers that be were simply taking direct action to prevent yet more controversy over precisely how many grains of truth, these days, constitute a proper memoir.
Horsley has been admirably up front about the extent to which his musings boing between fact and fiction until the funniest or most scurrilous story emerges. One might also imagine that if he's taken half as many naughty substances as he suggests, he's in no position to recall the past with much clarity at all.
Horsley, meanwhile, can be seen contemplating his future in a charming film on YouTube. He might, he confides, "go to Carlisle and open a knitting shop". The good people of Cumberland had better start preparing the barricades now.