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In the Cut

In the Cut

3.2 14
by Susanna Moore

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A stunning, erotic thriller by the bestselling author of Whiteness of Bones. Following the gruesome murder of a young woman in her neighborhood, a self-determined woman living in New York City--as if to test the limits of her own safety--propels herself into an impossibly risky sexual liaison. Soon she grows increasingly wary about the motives of every man with whom


A stunning, erotic thriller by the bestselling author of Whiteness of Bones. Following the gruesome murder of a young woman in her neighborhood, a self-determined woman living in New York City--as if to test the limits of her own safety--propels herself into an impossibly risky sexual liaison. Soon she grows increasingly wary about the motives of every man with whom she has contact--and about her own.

Editorial Reviews

Rich Nicholls

I don't believe in destiny," the narrator of Susanna Moore's unsettling new novel asserts. "I do not believe in coincidence...most behavior is neither accidental nor haphazard...I do not think that any of the things that have happened to me in the last two weeks are the result of chance." While searching for a bathroom in a neighborhood bar she has stumbled across a couple having sex, the man in shadow. The young woman is murdered that night, perhaps the victim of a serial killer.

Frannie is a linguist and a teacher, single, observing with ironic detachment the twilit world of her Greenwich Village neighborhood. She is, only half reluctantly, drawn into the homicide investigation, allowing herself to drift into an affair with one of the detectives, a charming but cryptic figure who "wished to remain elusive, even to himself." He sports a tattoo much like the one she had noticed on that shadowy figure in the bar. "I can be," her lover assures her, "whatever you want me to be." In all things but sex (their encounters, described in a startlingly frank and precise manner, are among the most graphic in recent fiction), he is wary of her, dismissive. "I reminded myself," the narrator notes in passing, that men "have to despise us in order to come near us, in order to overcome their terrible fear of us."

She is attacked on a dark street, possibly by the murderer. Other men -- a disaffected friend who seems to want to confess something, a student angered by her work on a dictionary of street slang ("People like you think the brothers are guinea pigs") -- seem increasingly odd, menacing. If Frannie, proud of her "incautious adaptability," of her skill at reaching precise answers ("You're always looking for something more," her lover tells her, "and sometimes you get it wrong") really doesn't believe in chance, what does her increasingly dangerous situation mean? Does she want an answer, or is she allowing herself to become the killer's next victim? Susanna Moore has written a ferociously powerful erotic thriller illuminating, in a language both terse and resonant, the manner in which passion, anger and madness can converge. -- Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Several stunning shocks await Moore's longtime readers in her fourth novel. First, there is the change of genre and locale. Her previous books (My Old Sweetheart; The Whiteness of Bones) have been lush, sensitive explorations of coming of age in a dysfunctional family in Hawaii, in an atmosphere permeated by island spirits and traditions. Here, Moore has honed her prose with knife-like precision to construct an edgy, intense, erotic thriller set in bohemian Manhattan. Her protagonist and narrator, Franny, is a divorced NYU professor deliberately closed off from emotional entanglements. She teaches a class for ghetto youth, meanwhile pursuing her obsession with language; she is writing a book recording the street vernacular and the black lingo of New York's seedier neighborhoods. Though on the surface her life seems circumscribed, she is a woman who takes risks, especially sexual risks. One night, she observes a man with a tattoo on his wrist in an act of sexual congress; though she does not see his face, she remembers the red-haired woman who had performed fellatio when she becomes a murder victim. Questioned as a possible witness by homicide detectives James Mallory and his partner Richard Rodriguez, she enjoys the frisson of danger when she takes Mallory as a lover, in spite of the fact that his wrist bears the same tattoo as that of the probable killer. The predatory, slightly corrupt Mallory is a coolly skillful lover, forcing Franny to push beyond sexual barriers into areas she has never explored. But in testing those erotic boundaries, she puts herself in mortal danger. Moore's control of her material is impressive: as she sweeps toward a knockout ending, she employs the gritty vernacular, red-herring clues and cold-blooded brutality of a bona-fide thriller without sacrificing the integrity of her narrative. The question is: will readers be disturbed-and perhaps repelled by-explicit descriptions of sexual acts, scatological language and gruesome violence?
Brad Hooper
A lot of new novels come bearing the publisher's plug "erotic thriller," but most pan out to be limp in both respects! Moore's smashing new novel is billed as such--and lives up to its promotion to the fullest. Taut and tense, sparingly constructed and beautifully written, this seductive story of seductiveness follows a deadly sequence of events in the life of a creative-writing teacher at New York University. One of her students is getting a little too close for comfort, but that's the least of her concerns. A murder has occurred within earshot and view of her Washington Square brownstone, and the investigating officer, when he comes knocking, presents a beguiling situation. Isn't he the man she saw in the basement of a neighborhood bar engaged in a sexual act with the very same young woman whose photo is shown to her as the murder victim? Isn't it fun, then, finding herself falling into an affair with the detective, all the while wondering if he's a bad cop, a murderer, in fact? When her best friend is murdered, the titillating game becomes far more than that. The twist at the end is the perfect cap on a book that will keep you up all hours finishing it.
From the Publisher
"A ferociously uninhibited erotic thriller!” —The New York Times Book Review“An erotic thriller capable of inducing nightmares and guaranteed to shock even hard boiled readers. . . . Susanna Moore is a master.” —The Miami Herald"Taps into the deep well of female obsession. . . . Builds an atmosphere of thick sexual tension, and arranges for its explosive release." —The New Yorker“A remarkable novel that is erotic, intelligent, and daring.” —Vanity Fair“Brilliant. . . . A story that goes deliberately too far . . . climaxing in one of the most authentically shocking endings in recent fiction.” —San Francisco Chronicle

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries
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Random House
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2 MB

Read an Excerpt

I don't usually go to a bar with one of my students. It is almost always a mistake.But Cornelius was having trouble with irony.The whole class was having trouble with irony. They do much better with realism. Realism, they think, is simply a matter of imitating Ernest Hemingway. Short flat sentences, an adjective before every noun. Ernest Hemingway himself, the idea of him that they have from the writing, makes them uncomfortable. They disapprove of him. They don't like him or the white hunter in "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." The bravado, the resentment in the writing excites them, but they cannot allow themselves to feel it. Hemingway, they've decided, Hemingway, the person, isn't cool.I considered giving them Naipaul to read, A Bend in the River or Guerrillas, but I decided that they would be so sensibly outraged by the beating, murdering and dismemberment of women that they might not be able to see the intelligence in the books. I wondered if they would like Graham Greene. Brighton Rock perhaps. But I had forgotten, I don't know how, the dream in which the murderer, straight razor in hand, says only two words: "Such tits."Stream of consciousness, which some of them thought at first was stream of conscienceness, doesn't seem to give them much trouble. They think it's like writing down your dreams except without punctuation. Some of them admitted that before completing the Virginia Woolf assignment they'd smoked a little dope and it had helped. They make these confessions to me in a shyly flirtatious way, as if they were trying to seduce me. Which, of course, they are. Not sexually, but almost sexually. It would be sexual if they knew any better. And someday they will. Know better.But irony terrifies them. To begin with, they don't understand it. It's not easy to explain irony. Either you get it or you don't. I am reduced to giving examples, like the baby who is saved from death in the emergency room only to be hit by a bus on the way home. That helps a little. Cornelius said that he preferred realism to irony because irony turned conceived wisdom on its head. Whether he meant to say conventional wisdom or received wisdom, I don't know. I was so distracted by an image of wisdom being turned on its head that I simply nodded and let him go on. Irony is like ranking someone or something, he said, but no one knows for sure you're doing it.That's close enough, I said.I am beginning to sound like one of the spinster ladies who used to take an interest in me in boarding school, except that they used to bemoan (a word they often used) the lack of manners, civility, and the incidence of haphazard breeding, rather than illiteracy. I hope that I don't turn into Miss Burgess in her good Donegal tweed suit, her snappish red terrier at heel, the dog's own tweed coat beginning to fray where it rubbed against his tartan leash. Summers in Maine with her companion Miss Gerrold in a cottage fragrant with mold. It doesn't seem that bad, now that I'm imagining it. Hydrangeas. Blueberries. Sketching on the rocks.I admitted to my students that I am writing a book about regionalisms and dialects, including the eccentricities of pronunciation. I want them to know that I am not against dialect, or even misusage. I like it. I like that kids now think that Nike is a word of one syllable. Why wouldn't they? Nike isn't a goddess. It's a shoe. The winged shoe of victory. Despite my interest in idiomatic language, however, I do not want them to use phonetic spelling. I do not want to see motherfucker spelled mothafucka. Not yet. Get it right first, I said, then you can do whatever you like. It's like jazz. First learn to play the instrument.Cornelius raised his hand last Tuesday and asked, I'm afraid, if I did not think my book on slang was a diss. A diss to whom? I asked. Stressing the whom.Cornelius waited for me at the end of class. The others lingered around him, gathering their things slowly. He said, people like you think the brothers are guinea pigs. The way we talk and shit.The others looked at me, no longer concealing their interest.I walked out of the room.He followed me.The bars in my neighborhood fill me with dread. French tourists studying subway maps, and pink teenagers from Rockland County who look and talk like they're about to explode, perhaps with rage. I hope it is rage, since they have much to be angry about, even if they don't know it. The blank-faced thirteen-year-old girls with fake IDs and nose studs hoping to meet some sweet-talking Jamaicans; the black boys from the projects in those wide-legged shorts that hang below the knee, and Nautica windbreakers, the shorts making the elaborate running or hiking or telephone-lineman shoes that they wear look enormous and unwieldy, the boys jerking restlessly on the streets outside the bars with bottles of malt liquor in brown paper bags.Just the thought of Bleecker Street makes me a little anxious. Stores full of baseball caps and silver-plated ankhs. Nowhere is there a sense of peace.Cornelius and I sat at the bar in the Red Turtle. He took off his Walkman and ordered a rum and Coke. I said hello to Lothar, the bartender, and ordered a beer.Cornelius gestured at the Walkman. "Smif and Wesson," I thought he said."Smith and Wesson? You're listening to guns?""Not Smith. Smif. It's regional. What you like."He made me smile."And ironic," he said."I think it's you who's ironic."I had once asked him if he would trash-talk for me, a form of humorous verbal intimidation. There are regional styles. In Chicago, for example, it is called signifying and it must be in rhyme. It hadn't been a success, Cornelius talking trash, or woofing as he calls it. He'd been inhibited. You can't just woof whenever you feel like it, he said.He was having trouble with his term paper. That is why he wanted to see me. He didn't want to flunk another class, he said. He needed the credits.I had asked my students to take a true story, a fact, a line from a newspaper or magazine, and turn it into fiction. An attempt to make them write about something other than themselves. It was called, rather grandly, The Re-created Event. I had encouraged them to look for a story in papers like the National Enquirer.And Cornelius had. He wanted to know if he could turn his news clipping of the execution of John Wayne Gacy for the killing of thirty-three young men into an imagined conversation that he, Cornelius, had had with Gacy on the telephone. He wished to write about the sadness it had caused him to feel. Before his death, Gacy's voice could be heard on a 900-number by anyone interested enough to pay three dollars a minute to hear Gacy explain that he didn't kill those boys.Cornelius told me he had spent close to forty-five dollars listening to the message.I didn't know what to say."No," I said. "This is not supposed to be about you, Cornelius.""You said in class once that every word a writer writes, even the conjunctions, even the punctuation you said, is a reflection of him or her.""I don't think I said 'or her.'"He smiled."I'm going to the bathroom," I said. That was my second mistake.I walked to the back of the bar. There was the smell of fried garlic and spilled beer. I did not see any bathrooms, or signs for bathrooms. I went down a flight of stairs to the basement. My eyes are not very good, so I put on my glasses. There were still no signs to help me along.I opened a door into a room full of aluminum kegs of beer. I stopped at the next door. It was slightly ajar. I leaned against it, and the door opened slowly.It was a small room. There was a metal desk. A coffee mug was on the desk, and a small lamp and a digital clock. The number on the clock changed with a loud, reluctant click. The lamp was made from a neon beer sign. In one corner was a jukebox, a plastic garbage bag thrown over it. There was an old sofa.And there was a man sitting on the sofa.His head rested against the wall, his face in darkness. I could see the rest of him clearly, illuminated in the small circle of pink light from the lamp. His suit jacket was on the back of the sofa. His tie was loose, one of those muddy-looking ties you can buy on the sidewalk in front of variety stores, displayed alongside the orderly arrangements of headbands and blank cassettes. His hands lay on either side of him, indecorous, matter-of-fact, the pale palms turned upward in a gesture of supplication. There was a tattoo on the inside of his left wrist.His legs were apart. Long. Slack. He wore black lace-up shoes and thin black socks, the kind of socks worn by a man who is vain about dress. His shoes needed a shine and that made me wonder about the vanity. There was an alluring symmetry to him, as if he were meditating, or balancing, or cajoling himself into what he knew would be uneasy sleep.On the floor was a woman. Her hair was spread across his lap. She was kneeling, her hands on his thighs. She moved her head back and forth with a dipping motion as she took his cock into her mouth, then drew it out, then took him in again. I thought to myself, oh, I don't do it that way, with a hitch of the chin like a dog nuzzling his master's hand. The sound of her mouth was loud. She gave a little sigh and shifted her weight, quickening her movement. He lifted his head slowly and saw me standing in the doorway, my hands crossed on my chest as if I were about to be sacrificed.He did not turn away. And he did not stop her. She made another little moan, just to let him know that she was getting tired, and he put his hands on top of her bobbing head, bunching up the red hair, gripping her, letting her know, letting me know, that he was about to come and he didn't want her to fuck it up by suddenly deciding to lick his balls.I wanted to see his face. He could see mine.He lifted her hair so that I could at least see his cock moving in and out of her mouth, her hand around him, sliding him up and down in time with her mouth. I could see that.There was a stiffening in his thighs and she worked faster for a short quick time, and then there was a barely audible intake of breath as if he weren't going to give away any more than he had to, not even his breath, especially not his breath, and he held her head to him tightly. She began to slow down as he came, and I thought, this girl knows what she's doing.I backed out of the room like a thief and he still did not turn away, his hands in her hair, holding her there so she could not see me, so it was just the two of us.I did not go to the bathroom. I ran up the stairs, looking over my shoulder, suddenly afraid that someone had seen me standing in the doorway of the basement room.Cornelius was not at the bar. He had ordered fried mozzarella sticks to take out. Said he had work to do. Something about a murder. Lothar winked at me. Haven't seen you in a while, he said.When I paid the bill, I noticed that my hands were shaking.It was a few days before I began to wonder why I kept forgetting to take my gray skirt to the tailor. I realized that I did not want to walk past the Red Turtle. I was keeping to my side of the park, what I think of as the Henry James side, even though those of us who live on the Square admit quietly amongst ourselves that he never lived on the Square. For a very short time, he lived around the corner on Washington Place, on the site of which there are now several quite handsome New York University dormitories.I walked to the building on University Place where I teach twenty college freshmen what is optimistically called Creative Writing. (To my surprise, Cornelius was not in class. He seemed to be staying close to home, too.)I walked to the market for half-and-half and cranberry juice. I walked to the post office on Thirteenth Street and Sixth Avenue where a radio is tuned to a rhythm-and-blues station and the line of silent, anxious customers snakes forward in step. I had to mail a book that I had borrowed, an oeuvre erotique, to my former husband, who is strict about things like borrowed books, as well as eroticism. He had written to remind me that I'd had the book for two weeks. The postal clerk, swaying in time to Sonny Boy Williamson, looked at the package and asked loudly, Santos Thorstin? the Santos Thorstin? Making me wonder if perhaps he had a better idea of who Santos Thorstin was than I had. My Santos Thorstin is a fashion photographer who lives in Paris, but I had not realized that his reputation extended as far as the Thirteenth Street post office. Perhaps it was that series of photographs of murdered Bengali child prostitutes that had been turned into art postcards. I think often of something he once said to me: I'm sick of beauty. The clerk asked if it was true that I knew Santos Thorstin, and if I did, would I bring him in the next time he was in town?So I kept to my side of the Square.

What People are Saying About This

Joyce Carol Oates
Powerful, shameless...like The Story of O.

Meet the Author

Susanna Moore is the author of the novels The Big Girls, One Last Look, In the Cut, Sleeping Beauties, The Whiteness of Bones, My Old Sweetheart, and a book of nonfiction, I Myself Have Seen It. She lives in New York City.

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In the Cut 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
Donnaalto More than 1 year ago
This has become one of my go to books that I will pick up and read anytime. Susanna Moore's style quickly hooks the reader and leads you deeper into the story. This is not a comfortable book to read, but it engages and intrigues, and isn't that what the best literature does?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Do not listen to any of the negative or prudish reviews about this book, please. I picked it up years ago in a London airport and have been whole-heartedly raving about it to everyone since. The movie doesn't really do it justice, but I believe that's only because the book is so surreal and intangible. I wont gush--go get it. Now!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
... but the ending made it irrelevant. And depressing.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This psychological, gritty, raw, yet beautifully written story is one of the best I've ever read. There are honest characters; there is suspense; there is realism and beauty and language play. Susanna Moore has created something truly unique here. I've reread the book a few times and will read it again.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I saw the movie for this book before I decided to read it. I picked up the book from the library honestly and solely because I thought to myself 'The book *has* to be better than the movie, it just has to be.' The only thing better about it is the ending, which is different from the movie. There is no character developement, and there really isn't any background information or introduction to any of the characters, either. Also...the characters aren't even likeable. The detective makes my stomach turn and I had a hard time feeling sympathy for the main character. The book is slow, the climax lasting about 5 or so pages. It seems too rushed, everything important being smashed into the last 40 pages of the book. I gave it two stars only because something (and I dont know what), kept me reading it. I read it in two days, in two periods of time. I liked the last page of the book, the last two sentences, and thats about it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Not for the puritans among us, or for others who haven't yet grown up. This is a beautifully written, honest, evocative and disturbing psychological thriller. The language is spare yet powerful. The images are gritty, and the writer draws the reader so well into the psyche of the narrator that the last half dozen pages are almost unbearable to read. The ending--an utter knockout--is the kind that readers hunger for: surprising yet, upon reflection, the only one conceivable. It will remain in the reader's own psyche long after he or she has finished the book. This is the kind of novel--stark yet honest in its explicit depiction of sex and violence--that one wishes more writers would have the courage to tackle, and publishers, the integrity and wisdom to publish. A great page-turner! Note: The just released Jane Campion film changes the ending. To 'experience' the ending as the writer envisioned it, you must read the book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
IN THE CUT is a tale of obsession and depravity and the mood is somber throughout a fast-paced story. The book is well-written but it left me feeling mildly depressed.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This truly must be the WORST book I have ever read. I barely, and I mean barely made my way through it. Fortunately there was so little substance and such big print that I managed it in 2 days. The main character left me wondering what I could possibly find likeable about her and the plot seemed like something that any 14 year old could easily come up with. There was no real character development. And when I finally got to the 'climax' at the end of the book, I put the book down, and found myself wondering what I should fix for lunch to get rid of the bad taste the book left. If you enjoy thinking- don't bother with this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I loved this book! It was poetic, especially the lyrical, violent ending, sexy in a disturbing fashion, and thought provoking as the main character stumbles with determination through her educated but senseless actions. I keep looking for more books like this, by her! Please, write more in this style!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago

At times this book would be draggie and confusing. Susanna Moore is very detailed in her writing during the high points. One thing that borthered me was that when you got into what she was saying about a certain scenes she would jump to something else confusing me. To add I wasn't a big fan of the ending but may be that is because I am a hopeless romantic or I just needed solid proof that something had happend be it negative or positive.