I read Outline by Rachel Cusk because I am seeing her, alongside Benjamin Wood, at the Edinburgh Book Festival (tonight!). I adored Benjamin Wood‘s first book, The Bellweather Revival, but I’m not so sure I can put Cusk in the same category.
I’m going to say Cusk is a writer’s writer. I don’t really know what that means, but I can tell you that she is not a reader’s writer. Cusk is critically acclaimed: her name is regularly batted around prizes like the Whitbread, Orange and by the likes of Granta. Apparently she has literary chops.
But, with Outline, I just couldn’t. I couldn’t get into it, I couldn’t figure out the title and I couldn’t finish it.
Ostensibly, Outline is about a writer who goes to Athens to teach at a writer’s workshop. Sounds like it is in my wheelhouse. In reality, the setting does not matter. The book is essentially about our protagonist reporting what others have said to her. Almost verbatim. For me this does not make an interesting read.
Who would like this book? I know I’ve read other highly acclaimed novels like this in the past, but I can’t seem to remember the titles or authors of any of them. That kind of tells you something, doesn’t it? My gut reaction is to steer anyone but the most literary of readers away from Outline, but that’s not too generous. I do recommend it to those who don’t need plot or character to drive a book forward. According to critics, Cusk has something to offer, but it would seem that I’m too daft to get it.