Occasionally you read an author and want to rush out and read their entire backlist. I read Rachel Cusk’s new novel Kudos on the weekend after a customer in the shop recommended it to me and have immediately tracked down the rest of the ‘series’, Outline and Transit to devour. Kudos follows a novelist travelling to a writer’s event and it captures long conversations she has with people on the way and that’s the plot. It hardly sounds gripping and yet I was fascinated. The stories they told, the insights into life given, had me tagging page after page to come back to think about it all again. Cusk wields her pen like a scalpel on herself, motherhood, marriage, humanity in general,to give an example from her earlier book Outline “these 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, money.” This is an accusation that has been made about Cusk herself in relation to some of her non-fiction that forensically mined the breakdown of her marriage. Rusk’s prose is cool and her protagonist more ready to listen rather than talk, but she, like Cusk, is a gimlet-eyed observer who misses nothing.
Rachel Cusk is Canadian born, lives in England, and is a real writer’s writer with this trilogy garnishing praise from just about everyone. The New Yorker described Cusk as renovating the novel with these series with fiction melding beautifully with oral history and other critics have drawn parallels with Karl Ove Knasguard. I would suggest that fans of My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout and Kazuo Ishiguro, particularly his most difficult book The Unconsoled, would love this book. I think it is almost perfect and can’t wait to keep reading more.