Today I am reviewing Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn.
About the book (from the publisher): The judges on the panel of the Elysian Prize for Literature must get through hundreds of submissions to find the best book of the year. Meanwhile, a host of writers are desperate for Elysian attention: the brilliant writer and serial heartbreaker Katherine Burns; the lovelorn debut novelist Sam Black; and the rich, spoiled panjandrum Sonny, who is convinced his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm. When Katherine’s publisher accidentally submits a cookery book in place of her novel, when one of the judges finds himself in the middle of a scandal, and when Sonny, aghast to learn his book isn’t on the short list, seeks his revenge, the freewheeling plot of Lost for Words reels into antic motion.
Lost for Words is a witty, fabulously entertaining satire that cuts to the quick of some of the deepest questions about the place of art in our celebrity-obsessed culture, and asks how we can ever hope to recognize real talent when everyone has an agenda.
My review: Edward St. Aubyn is known for his Patrick Melrose novels, which have been hugely popular. I’ve not read them, but based on my experience with Lost in Words, I purchased them just the other day. I love a good satirical novel, and I don’t see them that often nowadays, so discovering St. Aubyn has been a true delight.
He clearly knows and understands the world of literature and elite prizes and the lengths to which an author or publisher will sometimes go in order to get a novel on the short list. The campaigning, the toadying, the manipulation; it rings all too true nowadays. When celebrity is the be-all and end-all, then getting one’s novel recognized – with all the hoopla and press and interviews and ‘best of’ lists – well, that has to be a kind of nirvana. St. Aubyn is a skilled satirist, observing the follies of our ‘celebrity-obsessed’ culture and skewering them with deftly written characters and a plot that is simply hilarious.
The authors have their own agendas, the judges’ qualifications are highly questionable, and St. Aubyn includes excerpts from the novels (brilliantly showcasing an appalling lack of talent) including one called wot u starin at. That title alone made me chuckle.
I laughed out loud many, many times while reading Lost for Words and I don’t do that often. If you love satire and literature and sometimes shake your head at the celebrity-at-all-costs world we live in today, you’ll love this novel.
About the author: Edward St. Aubyn was born in London in 1960. He is the author of a series of highly acclaimed novels about the Melrose family, including At Last and Mother’s Milk, which was short-listed for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, as well as the novels A Clue to the Exit and On the Edge.
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I got this book from a local library.