‘Kudos’ by Rachel Cusk – Where’s Faye?

 

‘Kudos’ by Rachel Cusk (2018) – 232 pages

My enthusiasm for the Outline Trilogy, or as I call it the Faye Trilogy, peaked with the second novel ‘Transit’. Even though most of the stories people told to Faye in ‘Transit’ were not concerning Faye at all, it felt like Faye and her situation were front and center in that novel. However, in ‘Kudos’, it seems like the stories that the people tell Faye aren’t related to her at all, and Faye is barely there. Faye is for the most part missing in action in ‘Kudos’.

Also I searched for one really nice sentence in ‘Kudos’ that I could use in my review and didn’t find even one, except maybe this one.

A degree of self-deception was an essential part of the talent for living.”

‘Kudos’ begins with our novelist Faye traveling on an airplane to another literary conference in an unspecified European city when the guy sitting next to her tells her the story of his life in a long monologue. As with the previous novels in the trilogy, ‘Kudos’ consists almost entirely of these long monologues from near strangers. These monologues tend to be more philosophical than conversations we have in real life, filtered through Faye’s perspective. They usually are about literature or family life, and especially about marriage and divorce.

Although each of these monologues is quite interesting in itself, there is little to give them any lasting significance. Since each of these characters come on the scene only to tell their story and then are promptly dropped, the only character that is sustained throughout the novel is Faye. And with Faye barely there, there is nothing for the reader to hold on to. The monologues begin to sound very similar to each other. Of course there is no plot in ‘Kudos’ beyond attending this literary festival or conference.

One of the writers at the festival resembles what we know of Karl Ove Knausgaard, but Cusk does not use this resemblance in much of any way to enliven the proceedings.

Two of the bellwethers I use to determine the popularity of a novel are the number of copies and the number of holds on a book at the Hennepin County Library. Hennepin County is the county that contains Minneapolis so it is a big library system. Popularity is usually not a positive characteristic for me, but sometimes it is instructive. I would like to compare ‘Kudos’ with my previous novel ‘Dear Mrs. Bird’ by A. J. Pearce. Both novels received almost universally positive reviews. ‘Dear Mrs. Bird’ was published on April 5, and there are currently 287 holds on 81 copies of the novel at the library. ‘Kudos’ was published on May 18, and there are currently 9 holds on 18 copies of the novel. ‘Dear Mrs. Bird’ is admittedly a crowd-pleaser, but I was struck by how little reader interest there is in ‘Kudos’ for such a well-reviewed novel.

Ordinarily I would take the side of the little-read but uniquely literary novel like ‘Kudos’, but I can’t help feeling that there is something or someone missing from the novel. Perhaps Faye?

 

Grade :   B

 

 

4 responses to this post.

  1. I completely agree with you. This idea for a trilogy did not sustain the need for a third book.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  2. Interesting. Are the other books at all diminished by the trilogy ending weakly?

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

    • HI Max,
      No, This trilogy has no plot to speak of, and the only continuing character is Faye. Each novel is pretty much stand alone. According to one review, Rachel Cusk is “honoring the plotlessness of life”.

      Like

      Reply

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