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Outline Audiobook, by Rachel Cusk Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Rachel Cusk Narrator: Kate Reading Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2015 ISBN: 9781483080468
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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.

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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Like the Higgs boson, which appears only when bombarded by electrons, Rachel Cusk’s nearly nameless narrator flickers into visibility only through her encounters with a series of amazingly eloquent and fascinating interlocutors. Writing at the highest level and with the greatest technical restraint, Cusk manages to describe the painful realities of women’s lives by a process of erasure that is itself responsible for that suffering. This is a novel where form and content meld so perfectly as to collapse into each other. I am so much the better for having read it. As if someone finally told me the truth by telling me everything, and nothing.”

    Jeffrey Eugenides, Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author

  • “Hypnotic, funny, and unsettling…All of these tales—the author’s tale—hold our attention because of Cusk’s unerring command of pace and tone.”

    Geoff Dyer, National Book Critics Circle Award–winning author

  • Outline succeeds powerfully. Among other things, it gets a great variety of human beings down onto 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, Times Literary Supplement Award–winning author of Landscape with Chainsaw

  • “Lethally Intelligent…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.”

    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. This is largely because the small conversations and monologues in Outline are, at their best, as condensed and vivid as theater.”

    New York Times

  • “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.”

    Daily Mail (London)

  • Outline is a quiet, profound book about the problems of living with a sense of purpose.”

    Metro (London)

  • “The writing is brilliant…Cusk is always cerebral, but I’ve never noticed her drollery before…absorbing, thought provoking.”

    Evening Standard (London)

  • “Cusk confounds expectations…Outline is full of such wonderful surprises: subtle shifts in power and unexpectedly witty interludes.”

    Telegraph (London)

  • “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.”

    Financial Times (London)

  • “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.”

    Times (London)

  • “This has to be one of the oddest, most breathtakingly original, and unsettling novels I’ve read in a long time…Every single word is earned, precisely tuned, enthralling. Outline is a triumph of attitude and daring, a master class in tone.”

    Observer (London)

  • Outline…defies ordinary categorization. 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. It is a reminder that every life is, to some extent, a random weave of stories.”

    Guardian (London)

  • “[A] uniquely graceful and innovative piece of artistic self-possession, which achieves the rare feat of seamlessly amalgamating form and substance.”

    Independent (London)

  • “A book whose almost dream-like quality has razor-sharp edges.”

    Spectator (London)

  • “Brilliant…These ten remarkable conversations, told with immense control, focus a sharp eye on how we discuss family and our lives. As Faye bounces from one happenstance to the next, the words of one of her students echo on the page: ‘[A] story might merely be a series of events we believe ourselves to be involved in but on which we have absolutely no influence at all.’”

    Publishers Weekly (starred review)

  • “This book about love, loss, memory, and the lies we tell ourselves and others exudes a contemplative, melancholy atmosphere tempered by British author Cusk’s wonderfully astute observations of people and the visual impressions created by her exquisitely structured sentences.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “An expertly crafted portrait that asks readers to look deeply into the text for discovery. Those who accept that challenge will be rewarded for the effort.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Cusk returns to fiction and top form in a novel about the stories we tell ourselves and others…rich in human variety and unsentimental empathy.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “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, author of My Life in Middlemarch

  • 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, author of American Innovations

  • “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, author of The Empathy Exams

  • A New York Times Editor’s Choice
  • A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week, January 2015
  • A Scotiabank Giller Prize Longlist Book
  • A Carnegie Medal for Literature Longlist Selection
  • A 2015 New York Times Top 10 Book
  • A 2015 New York Times Book Review Notable Book
  • A New York Times Pick of Columnist Favorites
  • A NPR’s Great Reads Selection of 2015
  • The New Yorker’s Best Books of 2015 Selection
  • A Flavorwire Pick for Best Fiction of 2015
  • A Pop Sugar Best Books Selection of 2015
  • A Portland Mercury Pick for Required Reading of 2015

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About the Author

Rachel Cusk is the author of several memoirs and a number of novels, including 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.

About the Narrator

Kate Reading has recorded hundreds of audiobooks across many genres, over a thirty year plus career. Audie Awards: The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter (mystery), Breasts (non-fiction), Bellwether (fiction), and Words of Radiance (fantasy), co-narrated with her husband, Michael Kramer. Among other awards, she has been recognized with: the ALA Booklist best of 2019 for Bowlaway (fiction), AudioFile Magazine Voice of the Century, Earphones Awards, Narrator of the Year, Best Voice in Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Publisher’s Weekly’s Listen-Up Award. She records at her home studio, Madison Productions, Inc., in Maryland.