A Finalist for the Folio Prize, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, and the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction.
One of The New York Times' Top Ten Books of the Year. Named a A New York Times Book Review Notable Book and a Best Book of the Year by The New Yorker, Vogue, NPR, The Guardian, The Independent, Glamour, and The Globe and Mail
A luminous, powerful novel that establishes Rachel Cusk as one of the finest writers in the English language
A man and a woman are seated next to each other on a plane. They get to talking—about their destination, their careers, their families. Grievances are aired, family tragedies discussed, marriages and divorces analyzed. An intimacy is established as two strangers contrast their own fictions about their lives.
Rachel Cusk's Outline is a novel in ten conversations. Spare and stark, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing during one oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her students in storytelling exercises. She meets other visiting writers for dinner and discourse. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her neighbor from the plane. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves: their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.
Outline takes a hard look at the things that are hardest to speak about. It brilliantly captures conversations, investigates people's motivations for storytelling, and questions their ability to ever do so honestly or unselfishly. In doing so it bares the deepest impulses behind the craft of fiction writing. This is Rachel Cusk's finest work yet, and one of the most startling, brilliant, original novels of recent years.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
If you’re someone who cranes your neck to hear the conversation going on at the next table, Outline will delight you. Written in spare, beautiful prose, British author Rachel Cusk’s novel shimmers like a mirage. It invites you to be the fly on the wall as Faye, a blocked writer, travels to Athens to teach a summertime creative writing course. Each chapter charts the contemplative, drifting heroine’s interactions with characters she meets along the way—a swarthy businessman deflated by his failed marriages, a jittery Greek author celebrated for her autobiographical novel about a bored wife and mother, and a room full of anxious and imaginative aspiring writers. We loved every moment of this elegant fiction.
On an airplane to Athens, Greece, where she plans to teach a summer school course, English writer Faye strikes up a conversation with the passenger sitting next to her, a verbose elderly gentleman. The two chat for the entire flight, and days later, Faye allows the man to take her swimming aboard his boat, where she learns about his multiple marriages and troubled children. Thus begins this brilliant novel from Cusk (The Bradshaw Variations),who shuns fictional convention and frills in favor of a solid structure around a series of dialogues between Faye and those she encounters on her travels. While dining with old friends on two separate occasions, she hears tales of literary stalkers and near-death experiences. And within her classroom, students recount their own histories: from family pets to daily routines. Though Faye often functions as the sounding board, the reader nevertheless comes to know her divorc e, mother through her interjections and inquiries. These 10 remarkable conversations, told with immense control, focus a sharp eye on how we discuss family and our lives. As Faye bounces from one happenstance to the next, the words of one of her students echo on the page: " story might merely be a series of events we believe ourselves to be involved in, but on which we have absolutely no influence at all."
A well written bore
A phrase I often found myself uttering while reading this book was "Cut to the chase." The novel is effectively a series of disjointed and meaningless vignettes viewed through three lenses, those being the characters, the narrators, and finally our own. While that descriptor, a series of disjointed and meaningless vignettes, could very aptly be used to describe life it doesn't make the book any less of a slog. Don't get me wrong: the actual writing is quite good and while I disagreed with the views and opinions of both the narrator and the characters often their distinct voices and way of recounting things did at the very least give their statements some meat. They were defensible and well articulated thoughts. All that said I wouldn't really be able to recommend "Outline", it dawdles about and doesn't start or end anywhere particular.
Like catching up with a friend
Cusk’s Outline and the ensuing books in the set, Transit and Kudos, were beautiful books to consume, whether slowly over a series of commutes or all-at-once in an entire afternoon. The prose and winding conversations felt at times revelatory and at others intensely familiar. The protagonist feels like a friend, and I was sad to have finished the series.
A Triumph of Dullness
A talented writer has wasted her skills on subjects as dull as writers workshops, banal conversations on airplanes, and the tedious lives of modern Greeks and British.