Lost for Words

Edward St. Aubyn. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $26 (272p) ISBN 978-0-374-28029-1
The latest from St. Aubyn (the Patrick Melrose novels) marks a departure from his previous work. This comedic novel chronicles a year in the life of the Elysium Prize, a fictional Booker-like British literary award. The Elysium is mired in scandal and incompetence from the get-go: the underwriting funds come from a dubious agribusiness conglomerate, the judging panel is marginally qualified, and the process of selecting a shortlist is more about alliances and favors than quality. St. Aubyn inserts some amusing parodies in the early part of the novel, including selections from wot u starin at, a crude Scottish drug novel, as well as All the World’s a Stage, a dense historical work about Shakespeare. These surveyings of the terrain of Irvine Welsh, Hilary Mantel, and others are among the novel’s highlights. In addition to following the judges, St. Aubyn devotes chapters to several would-be nominees. Katherine is a rising literary star whose publisher accidentally submits a cookbook instead of her latest manuscript; Sonny is an Indian prince who takes the slighting of his self-published opus, The Mulberry Elephant, as a grave personal affront. St. Aubyn is clearly having fun with this material, and the book is breezy and propulsive. Still, the satire isn’t particularly deep, and none of the many characters in this short novel are featured long enough to make a lasting impression. A modest entertainment from a writer whose output had hitherto been uniformly exceptional. (May)
Reviewed on: 02/17/2014
Release date: 05/20/2014
Show other formats
Open Ebook - 272 pages - 978-0-374-71148-1
Hardcover - 272 pages - 978-0-330-45422-3
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-1-250-06921-4
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