Thursday, July 5, 2018

Weekly Rec: Outline by Rachel Cusk

Outline isn't a new book - it came out in 2014 - but the third book in the trilogy, Kudos, was released a few months ago and the fascinating reviews made me want to read Cusk in general and this trilogy in particular. Outline is a novel but it's told in an unconventional way: the narrative takes the form of ten conversations that the main character has with acquaintances and strangers over the course of traveling to Athens and teaching a week-long writing class. There's not plot in any standard sense, and the main character herself is a cipher - we barely know her name - revealing herself only in her responses to other people's stories.

It's the kind of concept that could turn out very well or very badly in execution, and in this case I was delighted to find that it turned out very well. Despite the lack of narrative thrust, Cusk's lovely, precise writing kept me turning the pages; she paints extremely clear pictures of small details and seemingly random vignettes. And all the stories told to the main character are, of course, thematically related: taken together they comprise a fascinating examination of writing and marriage and family relationships and identity.

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