Everybody is writing

by Kelvin Smith

From the billionaire on the very first page it seems that everyone in Rachel Cusk’s Outline wants to be a writer. There is a lot of reading books, writing books (or trying to), quoting book titles, collecting books, even shelving books, but there are only a couple of mentions of those who publish books.

Paniotis, it seems, had had no difficulty selling his failing nascent publishing house to a large corporation that now employed him as a “company editor”. It is difficult to understand why, when he is said to have lost faith in his company when he found that “writers he had worshipped as the artists of our time were in fact cold and unempathetic people devoted to self-promotion and above all else, to money”. Later, another publisher, Elena, “paid the bill with her credit card from the office – she was an editor at a publishing house and so strictly speaking, she said, we could consider our meeting to be work”.

Simply put, Outline is a fiction about fiction, and we are invited to question how stories are remembered, told, altered and forgotten. Surely publishers play a major role in making this happen, but here they are reduced to just paying the bills, refereeing encounters between writers, and establishing, as the billionaire has done, a literary magazine. But then perhaps this is one more fiction that Cusk wants us to ponder.

Rachel Cusk, Outline, 2014