Outline (Outline Trilogy #1) (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Outline is a meditation on observation. Faye is a teacher spending the summer conducting a writing seminar in Athens. What follows is not a page-turning plot, but rather a series of exchanges -- with the man seated beside her on the plane, with a colleague, with her students and friends. The result is philosophical and beautiful.

I love Cusk's writing style so much it needs to be quoted. During her first conversation with her neighbor on the plane, he observes, "A sentence is born into this world neither good nor bad, and to establish its character is a question of the subtlest possible adjustments, a process of intuition to which exaggeration and force are fatal. Those lines concerned the art of writing, but looking around himself in early middle age my neighbor began to see they applied just as much to the art of living. Everywhere he looked he saw people as it were ruined by the extremity of their own experiences."

Outline is spare and contemplative, engaging the reader with a clean cadence that reminded me of Panorama City by Antoine Wilson. -- Mia W.

— From February 2015


One of the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of 2015

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.

Short-listed for the 2014 Goldsmiths Prize, finalist for the 2014 Folio Prize
Named one of the best fiction books of 2014 by The New Yorker, The Guardian, The Independent and Glamour A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week and Flavorwire Staff Pick

About the Author

Rachel Cusk is the author of three memoirs--A Life's Work, The Last Supper, and Aftermath--and several novels: Saving Agnes, winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award; The Temporary; The Country Life, which won a Somerset Maugham Award; The Lucky Ones; In the Fold; Arlington Park; and The Bradshaw Variations. She was chosen as one of Granta's 2003 Best of Young British Novelists. She lives in London.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374228347
ISBN-10: 0374228345
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: January 13th, 2015
Pages: 256
Language: English
Series: Outline Trilogy