Rachel Cusk is an author, whose work Outline (2014) is an extraordinary piece of writing.
To read Cusk in the times of coronavirus when we are locked into our homes and facing us in a new kind of state of being, feeling isolated and dystopia, adds surely an extra spice for the reading experience. One realizes that the character is in the plane, close to other passenger, and later on strolls around the streets of Athens. The fresh sea breeze can really be felt touching one’s face. But more to that, even though there is no danger to be felt in the air, what is a striking feature in her style, is the dream-like atmosphere in the story. It is as though you jump into a film where the camera floats in the air and follows the events and conversations from a short distance, and allows you to be more like an invisible observant.
Also, our book club also gathered together with the help of cameras and internet – a remote access enabled the readers to exchange their opinions about the book. (How uplifting to have experienced this under these peculiar circumstances!)
Outline is, as said, a book that consists of ten conversations, of ten chapters. The encounters that our protagonist, a divorced woman from Britain, meets in her short stay in Athens are documented with the narration that leaves her out from the picture. In a closer look, she is the driving force for the events but the omnipotent voice of narration does not reveal too a many details of her. E.g. her name (Faye) is only mentioned once towards the end of the story.
Endless confessions and the doubts of people opening up from their personal lives to a stranger were the first comments to be heard on our book club meeting. We discussed about Faye’s role as an indicator for this all – she herself seems to be going through some tough phase in her life. Maybe she was easily approached to, maybe she just possessed good qualities for a listening ear?
This or that, we all seemed mostly to have enjoyed this literal world Cusk has opened up before us. Themes such as marriage/divorce, shock, homelessness/loneliness, motherhood/fatherhood, identity/language, proximity/distance and ability to draw limits were brought up in our discussion.
Outline is a a first book in trilogy, a story compilation that was followed by Transit and Kudos. There is a surely a good continuation to be followed for those who fell in love with the her style of writing in Outline, which is delicate, yet very sharp in its’ description.
(Outline= a line or set of lines indicating the shape of an object in a sketch or diagram.)