Outline by Rachel Cusk (EPUB)
A woman writer goes to Athens in the height of summer to teach a writing course. Though her own circumstances remain indistinct, she becomes the audience to a chain of narratives, as the people she meets tell her one after another the stories of their lives.
Beginning with the neighbouring passenger on the flight out and his tales of fast boats and failed marriages, the storytellers talk of their loves and ambitions and pains, their anxieties, their perceptions and daily lives. In the stifling heat and noise of the city the sequence of voice begins to weave a complex human tapestry. The more they talk the more elliptical their listener becomes, as she shapes and directs their accounts until certain themes begin to emerge: the experience of loss, the nature of family life, the difficulty of intimacy and the mystery of creativity itself.
Outline 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.
Nothing much really happens in Outline. A writer, Faye, goes to Athens to teach an English-language writing workshop. She befriends the man sitting next to her on the plane, who tells her of his failed marriages. The stories Faye hears – from this man, from her co-teacher, from her students and friends – make up the narrative, and in between we learn a little of her own life. So it’s not terribly eventful, and there certainly isn’t a plot, but the characters’ conversations are fascinating, having that pleasant quality of feeling real in the way they jump from subject to subject and head off in irrational directions, yet being better than reality – more articulate, with fewer interruptions, more coherent and measured and simply more interesting. I somehow always knew I’d like this book, and I liked it in exactly the way I expected to.