The Outline Trilogy: Being and Nothingness

The Outline Trilogy: Being and Nothingness

Why you need to read: Rachel Cusk

What would happen if you were just swept along, in Greece, in Italy, in England, motoring along, listening to people talking about being this and being that, doing this and doing that, telling you what their life is like as you think about what your life is like and why it's not something else or like someone else's. Travel can be like that. Allows a person to become a character not entirely themselves, or as in The Outline Trilogy, a passive character, a woman, who listens to a lot of people tell her their kind of stories that are not entirely their own.... or hers.

So it is with these extraordinary books that make you want to get up and travel outside of your present life and hear what else is going on. The Outline Trilogy is one big long, arcing travel monologue that swoops and riffs from the banal to the great themes of life, constantly turning back in on itself, often on the same page. It's a slowly pulsing stream of monologues that focuses on things that happen to other people. A passive narrator listens and learns and keeps moving. 

Although Cusk clearly stays close to the line of her own life across the Trilogy, it's not really about her. It's about men and women, about relationships that are interesting, about people who sometimes talk too much, about life and things in between. In pitch perfect prose, Cusk engages us on planes, on beaches, on streets, in twisted arcs and in surprising and excellent ways. 

Like every good woman who leaves the room only to turn around and watch with indifference as the whole place collapses, Cusk listens and learns and leaves. Or we should say, her narrator does. You get the feeling that without a woman in the room, there is no shape to anything. Is it always the women who are responsible for the beauty and the men for the lesser things? Yes that's it. The trilogy is about exactly that. Love, responsibility, finding your place and knowing when to leave.