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Kudos: A Novel (Outline Trilogy) by Rachel…

Kudos: A Novel (Outline Trilogy) (edition 2018)

by Rachel Cusk (Author)

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1891095,676 (3.77)21
"A woman writer visits a Europe in flux, where questions of personal and political identity are rising to the surface and the trauma of change is opening up new possibilities of loss and renewal. Within the rituals of literary culture, Faye finds the human story in disarray amid differing attitudes toward the public performance of the creative persona. She begins to identify among the people she meets a tension between truth and representation, a fissure that accrues great dramatic force as Kudos reaches a profound and beautiful climax"--… (more)
Title:Kudos: A Novel (Outline Trilogy)
Authors:Rachel Cusk (Author)
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2018), Edition: 1st Edition, 240 pages
Collections:Your library

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Kudos by Rachel Cusk



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This is the final novel in Cusk's Outline Trilogy, and while most professional reviewers consider it the best, I beg to differ. Don't get me wrong, I really liked Kudos, but I didn't find it as fresh and original as Outline, and it lacked the elements of surprise and humor of Transit. All three novels focus on Faye, a writer. In the first, she is struggling, going to Greece to teach a creative writing course; in the second, she has had some professional success and, post-divorce, has bought a home in a dodgy area of London that needs extensive renovation. In Kudos, she has been asked to be one of the speakers at a self-important writers' conference (meaning, the sponsors and organizers are impressed with themselves and the money they have to bring in some "big names," but it's not really all that prestigious).

The structure (or gimmick, if you will) of all three novels is that the narrative is pretty much a string of stories that other people tell Faye. Both Outline and >Kudos begin on an airplane, and we hear one side of the protagonist's conversations with seat mates. Here, most of the conversations are stories told by other authors, guides, and the journalists who are supposed to be conducting interviews. Some linking themes are the relationships between men and women, the difficulties of parenting, the changes in both literature and the publishing business, and, as side note, Brexit. The stories are simultaneously intriguing and mundane, the tellers carefully crafted. Even minus any sense of a plot, Kudos held my attention. One thing I missed here was a connection to the process of writing. For me, Outline seemed to represent the way a writer gathers material as he/she prepares to begin, and Transit exhibited the process of writing and revising subsequent drafts. I'm not sure that Kudos fits into this structure, unless it is a commentary on the rather thankless end result of a successful novel: a series of press stops, conference appearances, interviews, and meetings, none of which are particularly satisfying.

I'm still rather puzzled by the last strange episode in the novel, but I think what Cusk is trying to say is that no matter how successful or strong or independent a woman is, in the eyes of men, she is still, first, and foremost nothing but a woman, meaning that she will always be "less than . . . " Men in all three books--even men like the young, clueless interviewer who insists that he intuits from reading her books that Faye must move to his dull, sunburned city--do keep offering unwanted advice and opinions, as if theirs are of superior value.

I will agree with one Amazon reviewer who also enjoyed the trilogy but felt that this final installment was a bit underwhelming. Still, with her originality and wonderful writing, Cusk won me over for four solid stars. ( )
2 vote Cariola | Dec 29, 2018 |
I loved Outline, haven't read Transit yet, but this was available from my library so read it out of order. I'm not sure it matters, given Cusk's plot-less technique, but I certainly recognized her unique style. If I had to say what she's trying to achieve, I'd hypothesize that she believes her protagonist can best be described by the many ways in which other people open up to her, and by what they reveal (quite a lot, as it happens!).

She's a wonderful, meticulous writer, although this philosophy, if it is such, can be a little hard on the reader at times. When I reviewed Outline I quoted this line from Cusk: ". . . while he talked she began to see herself as a shape, an outline, with all the detail filled in around it while the shape itself remained blank. Yet this shape, even while its content remained unknown, gave her for the first time since the incident a sense of who she now was."

In Kudos, however, the protagonist has almost completely disappeared, leaving us at the mercy of those meticulously described characters. Only at the very end do we see her, swimming naked, in a disturbing scene with a fat, urinating man - a scene that didn't seem to fit the rest of the book. ( )
1 vote bobbieharv | Sep 9, 2018 |
I picked this up because this was one of the Tournament of Books Summer 2018 books. It is the 3rd in a series, I have no read (nor even heard of) the other two. So there's that. Apparently the judges thought it could stand on its own, so I went ahead.

This book took forever to get from the library queue, despite the fact that there weren't that many holds (compared to other books, Circe for example). And it's only 232 pages! Now I know why it took so long. This books is sloooow. It took me over a week to slog through.

This novel is most definitely not plot-driven. There really is no plot. But is it character-driven? Faye, the main character/narrator, is the person we know the least about. She is a writer, divorced and remarried, who has traveled to Italy for a literary conference. This book outlines her experiences there, but the bulk of the book is her listening to/narrating from memory the lives of people she meets. Staff, fellow authors, interviewers, her reps. That's it. Nothing really happens (she goes to dinner, meets a writer, hears about his life, goes to an interview, hears about the interviewers life, etc etc etc for the entire novel).

I hate books like this. I would much rather read a plot-driven novel about any of the characters she meets than read about her describing them.

I will not be reading the first two of this series. ( )
  Dreesie | Sep 6, 2018 |
Autofiction is a genre that inhabits a place between fiction and memoir. In KUDOS (OUTLINE and TRANSIT being the other two novels in this trilogy that I must confess to not having read), Cusk intelligently explores a broad array of interesting ideas. Having read the two previous novels would prepare one better for the experience of reading KUDOS because the traditional elements of the novel are not apparent. Yet KUDOS is a surprisingly compelling read. There is little plot, setting, dialogue, progression, or character development. Instead Faye, the protagonist who resembles Cusk, listens attentively to a random array of people who eagerly talk about themselves. Curiously, Cusk seems to believe that fiction’s approach to storytelling is moribund and in need of streamlining, yet the people Faye encounters in this novel seem especially fond of telling their stories.

So what is on Cusk’s mind? First and foremost it is gender inequality. Clearly her views on this topic are cynical. In the final analysis, it is a man’s world where women are merely tolerated. The novel begins and ends with two misogynistic anecdotes that seem to symbolize her views. It opens with a self-absorbed fellow airline passenger who can’t seem to keep his legs out of the aisle showing little regard for the hard-working flight attendants. This guy clearly loves his dog more than his family. The novel ends with a more threatening image. Faye is swimming at an isolated beach at night when “a huge burly man with a great curling black beard and a rounded stomach and legs like hams” grasps “his thick penis and…urinate(s) into the water.” Other topics range far and wide, including the nature of freedom; identity in marriage and family; the many ways we delude ourselves with personal narratives; the failings of the literary lifestyle; the importance of suffering in the creation of art; the unstable state of European affairs; and especially how we fail to listen to each other.

The meager plot involves Faye traveling the book circuit in unnamed European cities. Most of the people she meets are associated with the literary life. These people are Cusk’s unwitting victims and she is merciless. They are characterized by self-congratulation, smugness, loquaciousness, and eccentricity. One journalist, who is assigned to interview Faye, spends all of his time talking about himself but in the end concludes that he has got everything he needs to write the article. In another anecdote, a bestselling novelist plays down the importance of ideas and admits that “the whole point of it was to make money.” Cusk precedes each encounter with a colorful, often unflattering, physical description followed by a quick launch into their secret stories. After a few pages of this, the characters disappear from the novel never to be heard from again.

Cusk’s presentation is controlled and clever, occasionally showing Faye interjecting expressionless humor and judgments that her characters never seem to get. Despite being filled with intriguing ideas and images, the novel often bogs down. Multiple unresolved conversations can be unsatisfying; the voices sound alike and seem to be a thinly disguised Cusk; the monologues seem superficial lacking interiority; and the anecdotal nature of the book makes many of the stories unmemorable. ( )
  ozzer | Sep 5, 2018 |
There's not much plot to the final novel in Rachel Cusk's trilogy. A middle-aged woman author attends a few writers's conferences in Europe and has conversations with people. But the plot is beside the point, here the protagonist is almost absent, instead, she's a witness, someone who listens as others reveal themselves to her. And each person's monologue addresses in some way how children are affected by the relationship between parents. The format allows Cusk to come at this from different angles, from people discussing different things.

This isn't a novel that makes writing about it easy, even as it looks at writers and publishing. I found the entire trilogy to be brilliant and to be doing something different within the confines of what we call fiction. While each book can be read separate from the others, what Cusk is doing here is best experienced by reading the entire trilogy. And having read Kudos, I'm ready to turn around and begin the process from the first book, to see what more is there. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | Aug 13, 2018 |
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She got up and went away
Should she not have? Not have what?
Got up and gone away.

Yes, I think she should have
Because it was getting darker.

Getting what? Darker. Well,
There was still some
Day left when she went away, well.
Enough to see the way.
And it was the last time she would have
been able . . .
Able? . . . to get up and go away.
It was the last time the very last time for
After that she could not
Have got up and gone away any more.

'She Got Up and Went Away', Stevie Smith
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The man next to me on the plane was so tall he couldn't fit in his seat.
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