Lost for Words - Edward St Aubyn
I don't really know what this blog is going to turn into. I've thought about making a "book blog," and the minute I started it, I loathed the process.
I've read some others and they're very careful--mostly book reporty. On the other hand, I have a terrible memory. I was flipping through some Tumblr of an avid reader/writer. He mentioned that when he wrote about what he read, it made a lasting impression. That clicked with me. I think putting some thoughts down into writing require the mind to engage with a "text" rather than skim it, which is what I do all the time. Twitter is notorious for that. I've read a lot in the past year, and only scattered images come to mind. I want a deeper relationship with the books, television, movies, and music I spend my time with. I want to have more of a conversation with them. Perhaps others will want to participate. Does that make sense? I'm not out to get a bunch of readers. It's not like that. I think I want to work a bit more transparently (a la Austin Kleon's Show Your Work).
So here we go. I'm not promising great prose.
Lost For Words by Edward St Aubyn hooked me from the premise:
"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 Sonny, convinced that his magnum opus, The Mulberry Elephant, will take the literary world by storm. Things go terribly wrong when Katherine’s publisher accidentally submits a cookery book in place of her novel; one of the judges finds himself in the middle of a scandal; and Sonny, aghast to learn his book isn’t on the short list, seeks revenge."
I recently bought an eBook version and devoured it in a few days. This book is funny and short. It's episodic. It kind of reads like a pilot to a TV show (perhaps something like Slings & Arrows with less heart). You've got a judging panel that is anything but qualified to deem the Elysian Prize to any book. You get to read excerpts from entries. They're all pretty bad (and I mean that in the best way):
wot u starin at - a gritty book of sex and violence, think of an terrible version of Trainspotting or something
A Year in the Wild - an "Into the Wild" knockoff where man and nature entwine. The epitome of purple prose.
All the World's a Stage - Shakespeare hanging out in taverns with Marlowe and Jonson
The Greasy Pole - "the story of a working-class lad from the Highlands, ends up becoming Prime Minister of Britain"
The novel drives (choppily) toward the awards dinner, where the committee cannot agree on a winner. There's some "essaying" about what deserves awards, what is literary, what is relevant, etc. I chuckled often. It's a fun read. I think, had I read a physical book, I would have made notes and underlined my favorite passages. I'd probably have more to say. It's obvious St Aubyn thinks literary prizes are crap. The wit is great. It's a light read with some sting, but nothing too acerbic. Before this, I'd been reading A Sword of Storms, so this was a great palate-cleanser.
(I am terrible at this. I don't know how critics and recap-writers do this.)
What's been more, enjoyable, however, is learning more about the author Edward St Aubyn. Recently, The New Yorker published a fantastic profile. St Aubyn is most noted for his Patrick Melrose novels, which I cannot wait to read. I expect that series will climb toward the top of my To Be Read pile.
And maybe, by then, I'll be able to get the hang of writing about my reading.
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