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Outline: A Novel Hardcover – 4 Sep 2014

2.9 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; Main edition (4 Sept. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571233627
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571233625
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.4 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 56,797 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

Outline succeeds powerfully. Among other things, it gets a great variety of human beings down on to the page with both immediacy and depth; an elemental pleasure that makes the book as gripping to read as a thriller ... a stellar accomplishment. (James Lasdun Guardian)

If life were fair, Rachel Cusk would win every prize going for Outline - one of the most daringly original and entertaining pieces of fiction I've ever read. (Julie Myerson Observer)

A clever thought experiment that's far too readable ever to feel like one. (Sunday Times)

[Outline is] a piece of work of great beauty and ambition. Narratives are smoothed, as if by translation and retranslation, into their simplest, barest elements: parents, children, divorces, cakes, dresses, dogs. These elements then build, layer on layer, to form the most complex and exquisitely detailed patterns, swirling and whirling, wheels within wheels. (Jenny Turner London Review of Books)

That the composition of the novel itself so clearly and crisply renders the idea behind it brought to my mind the completion of Lily Briscoe's painting at the close of Woolf's To The Lighthouse ... And indeed, more than any tendrils of description or character it was a sense of shape and structure that lingered in my mind long after I'd turned the final page, rendering Cusk's novel something of a visual work of art. (Lucy Scholes Independent)

It defies ordinary categorisation. It is about authorial invisibility, it involves writing without showing your face. The narrator is a writer who goes to teach creative writing in Greece and becomes enmeshed in other peoples' narratives which Cusk stitches, with fastidious brilliance, into a single fabric. (Kate Kellaway Guardian)

[Outline] is mesmerizing; it makes a sharp break from the conventional style of Cusk's previous work ... Outline feels different, its world porous and continuous with ours, though not for the reasons we might expect. (Elaine Blair The New Yorker)

[A] lethally intelligent novel ... reading Outline mimics the sensation of being underwater, of being separated from other people by a substance denser than air. But there is nothing blurry or muted about Cusk's literary vision or her prose: Spend much time with this novel and you'll become convinced that she is one of the smartest writers alive. (Heidi Julavits The New York Times Book Review)

Outline is a poised and cerebral novel that has little in the way of straightforward plot yet is transfixing in its unruffled awareness of the ways we love and leave each other, and of what it means to listen to other people ... While little happens in Outline, everything seems to happen. You find yourself pulling the novel closer to your face, as if it were a thriller and the hero were dangling over a snake pit. (Dwight Garner The New York Times)

Cusk's uncompromising, often brutal intelligence is at full power. So is her technique ... I can't think of a book that so powerfully resists summary or review ... Inevitably, the only way to get close to the fascinating and elusive core of Outline is to read it. (Sophie Elmhirst Financial Times)

A book whose almost dream-like quality has razor-sharp edges. (Sofka Zinovieff Spectator)

[A] quietly radical new novel ... The result, which recalls Karl Ove Knausgaard in its effort to melt away the comforting artifice of fiction, is a kind of photonegative portrait of a women who resists concessions in life and art. (Megan O’Grady Vogue)

[Outline] teems with provoking, fascinating ideas expressed in fine, apothegmatic prose. (The Wall Street Journal)

Never less than compelling ... material that might have been ponderous in other hands is, here, magnetic, thanks to the mystery at the heart of Cusk's book, her exquisite lightness of touch and her glinting wit. (Stephanie Cross Daily Mail)

Rachel Cusk breaks all the rules of creative writing ... [Outline] captivates. (Arifa Akbar Independent)

Cool but compelling, narrow in focus perhaps, but deep in thought. (Lesley McDowell Scotsman)

Described as a 'novel in ten conversations' ... it turns out to be a clever, fresh device that dispenses with the need for much of a plot and presents instead more of a lush human collage ... a rich, thoughtful read. (Carol Midgley Times)

Sharply observed ... everyone the narrator meets has a vivid presence. (Suzi Feay Literary Review)

The writing is brilliant ... Cusk is always cerebral but I've never noticed her drollery before ... absorbing, thought-provoking. (Claire Harman London Evening Standard)

Cusk confounds expectations ... Outline is full of such wonderful surprises: subtle shifts in power and unexpectedly witty interludes. (Elena Seymenliyska Telegraph)

Outline is a quiet, profound book about the problems of living with a sense of purpose." (Johanna Thomas-Corr Metro)

A tapestry of different voices, its shape emerging as if by happy accident ... [Outline] is a clever thought experiment that's far too readable ever to feel like one. (Lidija Haas Independent on Sunday)

On a flight to Greece where she is going to be teaching a creative writing class, the narrator begins talking to her neighbour. More accurately, initiating a pattern that will be repeated throughout the encounters and 'conversations' that make up this hypnotic, funny and unsettling novel, he talks at her. Gradually her own identity emerges in response to - is given shape by - what is said to her. As one of her students puts it, the story constitutes a series of events she finds herself involved in, but on which she seems to have 'absolutely no influence at all.' The irony, of course, is that all of these tales - the author's tale - hold our attention because of Cusk's unerring command of pace and tone. (Geoff Dyer)

Outline, in outline, tells the story of a British novelist newly arrived in Athens, who has been enlisted to teach a weeklong writing seminar. Upon this provocatively slight premise, Cusk has constructed a restrained, incisive narrative of high stylistic polish and stealthy emotional power. Formally inventive, astringently intellectual, and linguistically assured, Outline poses the question of where stories come from; it shows, with glittering clarity, why they matter. (Rebecca Mead)

I opened this book, and read a page, and then a few more pages, and I finished Outline before a day and a half had passed, and I am the slowest reader I know, and I have never felt guilty about not finishing a book. Outline is amazing. It changes the lighting on the charismatic, mad, maddening monologues so beloved in literature; here we are, on the previously invisible other side of it, seeing something brilliant and irremediably true. (Rivka Galchen)

Rachel Cusk's Outline is full of baking light and quiet melancholy and bodies brushing past one another in the heat; it's a subtle and utterly engrossing exploration of the ways we make ourselves known to one another - in stories and anecdotes, through seductions and disputes - and yet remain opaque; how we sketch ourselves as outlines and find these outlines interrogated. Its conversations echo each other deftly, their acute insights gracefully pulling apart the seams of its carefully composed characters to show glimpses of much messier selves within: a series of searing psychic X-rays bleached by coastal light. (Leslie Jamison)

Book Description

Outline by Rachel Cusk is a novel about writing and talking, about self-effacement and self-expression, about the desire to create and the human art of self-portraiture in which that desire finds its universal form.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I read this book in the Paris Review serial. Reading it over the course of a year made it an interesting experience and in order to read such a book, the characters need to be powerful personalities who grip the memory. That was not the case in this book. The protagonist is very flat, although I take it that is the point. The Greek man she meets on the aeroplane is unrealistically odd, which at first led me to believe that she had imagined him. The boat trip was completely bizarre. The students in the writing class are so irritating that I would not have been able to have been in their number. We don't get anything about the experience of teaching them except for their tedious conversation. They all sound very pretentious. The other characters are strange but less troubling so.

I felt this book was like watching things happening from within a fishbowl. When I reached the final section a couple of days ago, I was ultimately dissatisfied. I don't feel like the book really ended, although that could be because I read it as a serial. It's all just left hanging.
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By Damaskcat HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 19 Sept. 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I found this book a little strange to say the least and it seemed more like a vehicle for the author to showcase her writing skills than any sort of story. I felt there was perhaps a bigger more complex and potentially more complicated story trying to get out.

A woman writer, who narrates the story such as it is, travels to Athens to teach on a writing course and the various people she encounters tell their stories - which may or may not be true. Much of it is told by means of reported speech though at times this switches to dialogue for a short period and then back again. I was most disturbed by the man she met on the flight out - referred to only as 'My Neighbour' throughout. On the strength of a few hours on a plane she agrees to meet him later for a trip on his boat.

My Neighbour appears several more times in the book and each time I found him slightly more sinister and the narrator's behaviour naïve in the extreme. Would you really go on a boat trip with a stranger?

I thought the writing was good but I despaired of the story line because really there isn't one. It's a series of conversations held together by the fact that each conversation features the narrator. Others may enjoy the book but I found it a little tedious and I couldn't work up any enthusiasm for the characters at all. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley for review purposes.
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Format: Hardcover
I totally agree with the reviewers who gave this two stars. For me to enjoy reading a novel I like to engage with the characters, but in "Outline" we didn't learn enough about any of the characters to engage with them . . in fact I felt positively detached. The only person we heard a fair bit about was the "neighbour" from the protagonist's flight from London to Athens: he talked a great deal about his own life, but he wasn't someone one could warm to. From the author's description of him, he was unattractive and somewhat awkward. The protagonist was in Athens to give a course on writing, and the adults who attended the writing course spoke about their experiences in turn, but there were no deep insights and nothing for the reader to learn. I feel ambivalent about giving such a negative review, and wonder if I have missed something, but I'm sorry, this was such a strange story and not worth bothering with.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hadn't read Rachel Cusk before this novel and I will certainly be reading more! This is very different, very cleanly and meticulously written. We discover the characters of the half dozen main characters only from the record of their conversations where they reveal themselves and the narrator reveals herself also through her mental reactions to their accounts. In all it is a comment on relationships, marriage,divorce and self deception subtly told in a unique fashion.The setting is appropriately in Athens, still a city of philosophers who always seem ready to provide opinions on life. These are recorded by the teacher of a creative writing course,her students also providing the only evidence of their characters through their dialogue. The novel is written with humour and clarity.
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Format: Kindle Edition
I was reading this on my flight to Goa when I noticed the middle aged women in the adjacent seat reading a treatise on Derrida and the existential impossibility of knowing anything with certainty. I offered my neighbour a brief smile and she responded by telling me how as a child she kept a pet that died. She wondered whether the pleasure of keeping the small animal, a hamster I recall, could ever outweigh the sense of loss when it was trapped in the vacuum cleaner by a careless domestic help. Ever since she said she had found it difficult to love since love was bound by despair. I said that such existential ennui must be hard to live with and she told me how she once delivered a writing workshop in Athens where the participants represented a range of writing paradigms and told her their tedious and fragmented life stories which she recounted in such self absorbed detail to herself that she found herself irresistibly drawn to disappear into her own colon. At this point I felt compelled to change seats so that was the end - unresolved, pointless and fragmentary.
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