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Lost for Words: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Edward St. Aubyn
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $26.00
Kindle Price: $11.04
You Save: $14.96 (58%)
Sold by: Macmillan

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Book Description

Edward St. Aubyn is “great at dissecting an entire social world” (Michael Chabon, Los Angeles Times)

Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels were some of the most celebrated works of fiction of the past decade. Ecstatic praise came from a wide range of admirers, from literary superstars such as Zadie Smith, Francine Prose, Jeffrey Eugenides, and Michael Chabon to pop-culture icons such as Anthony Bourdain and January Jones. Now St. Aubyn returns with a hilariously smart send-up of a certain major British literary award.
     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 Bunjee, 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 Bunjee, aghast to learn his book isn’t on the short list, seeks revenge.
     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.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Malcolm Craig becomes chair of the board awarding his country’s top literary honor, the Elysian Prize. In describing what ensues, noted British novelist St. Aubyn takes on the publishing industry and the horse-trading and ax-grinding among authors, critics, and hangers-on surrounding such awards, including the popular (and promiscuous) Katherine Burns, whose novel is overlooked in favor of a cookbook mistakenly sent for consideration by its publisher; interpreted by some as a new form of modern fiction, it makes the short list. Not wanting to read much himself, Craig is joined by judges Jo Cross (whose major criterion is “relevance”), Vanessa Shaw (“good writing”), Penny Feathers (former mistress of the elderly corporate sponsor), and actor Tobias Benedict. “Young writers were the future,” Craig muses, or “would be if they were still around and being published.” As a novel about the ephemeral nature of book awards, Lost for Words may itself be ephemeral, but along the way, St. Aubyn offers a hearty satire, full of laughs and groans, with snippets from the candidates, including the novel wot u starin at, an unsparing look at Glasgow low life, which bookies (the gambling kind) make the favorite. --Mark Levine


Praise for Lost for Words

"A laugh-out-loud sendup of literary prizes . . . Both the author and the reader have great fun." —Kirkus

Product Details

  • File Size: 595 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 20, 2014)
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GQ67W2Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,986 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
38 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cooking the books. May 10, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
Following his breathtakingly brilliant Patrick Melrose books, Edward St Aubyn turns his beady eye on the back-biting world of London's literati, specifically the annual Booker circus, here thinly disguised as the Elysian Prize.

From the ill-chosen Elysian judges and the chair who reads nary a word of the books through to sundry sex-mad authors, pompous editors and vindictive Indian nabobs, the cast of self-serving characters entertain and delight as we are treated to a merciless send-up of the literary fiction scene, embellished with virtuoso verbal ventriloquism in the form of extracts from the writers' appalling prose.

What's that? A soft target, you say?

Well yes. But St Aubyn's slender satire is so scathingly clever, so horribly convincing and so downright funny that I have to say I loved every minute of it. How cool would the Booker panel show themselves to be if they put Lost For Words on their shortlist!
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition
In my review of Peter Heller’s THE PAINTER , I discussed being troubled by someone saying that writing is not art. Edward St. Aubyn takes this further in his new book LOST FOR WORDS. In it, I believe he offers one of the best defining quotes for art’s purpose: “to arrest our attention in the midst of distraction.”

LOST FOR WORDS is a satirical look at a famous literary prize awarded to citizens of the Commonwealth. Don’t let the satire fool you; St. Aubyn’s commentary is biting on every note. Formerly shortlisted himself for the Man Booker Prize (and already winning the Wodehouse prize for this book), St. Aubyn’s oft-times comical writing provides an incredible insight into this prestiged entry. In this, you may see the humor of a cookbook being submitted to the prize committee by accident, until it becomes an actual contender for the shortlist. Love affairs with editors or committee members? A quick look on the Man Booker’s Wikipedia page may suggest that this isn’t all comedy or even fiction.

Before reading this book, you’ll want to take note of the helpful summary provided by the publisher, outlining the three main featured character novelists. My favorite: Sonny, in his imagination of seeing himself paraded through the press as the main contender. Five other characters have predominance as the committee members and chair.

As the reader, you’ll be treated to some segments of these fictitious book entries. I love this part. They sound spot-on in their appeal. Take for example, a book from the point of view of William Shakespeare that’s a “richly textured portrait of Jacobean London” and is an “ambitious and original novel”. Sound like some description you’ve read before?
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
With ‘Lost for Words’ the author of ‘Patrick Melrose’ novels Edward St. Aubyn returns with style, bringing an ironic story about a famous literary prize award for which sometimes seems as if it is based on an actual event, not only on innovative and uncompromising author who is not afraid to convey his judgment what become of today's world of literature.

Though it’s written as satire, reader should not be fooled by that fact – as someone who was back in 2006 Man Booker Prize shortlisted for his work ‘Mother's Milk’ it seems that with his work St. Aubyn provides a humorous though not far from truth insight what is might happening behind-the-scenes of jury selection process.

In his novel Edward St. Aubyn brings the absurd that by mistake a cookbook becomes nominated for the prestigious award, and instead of disqualification by jury because work does not meet the requirements, it even becomes the favorite to win the award.

The book will especially appeal to fans of English humor, therefore do not expect while reading to lie on the floor laughing as is often the case with American humorous pieces, because in this case it is "serious" humor that makes smile staying on your lips even after the humorous part is behind.

Therefore, although I cannot say that I was equally impressed by this novel as with some of author’s earlier works, I can recommend ‘Lost for Words’ because it offers a good look into what today's literary scene turned to, and in particular what kind of circus the literary awards became which unfortunately are no longer a measure of quality, but of some other values which don’t have much in common with literature.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Have you ever picked up a book chosen for a prestigious literary prize and been at a complete loss on its merits? I have to say that this rarely happens to me, but when it does, it gives a queasy feeling. I remember one in recent history written with clever astrological references and declining numbers of words through the chapters. I still cannot understand that one winning.

Back to this book. A committee has been chosen to choose the Elysian Prize for a fiction book. The committe is stocked with political choices, well known literary judges, a very nice actor, and a random but earnest young woman. The satire begins almost immediately as these people peruse the pool of 200 novels and choose the long list by social pressure, an eye for "true writing", new devices, or favored friends. Most of the two hundred books languish unread, while others get a rousing first, last and random middle look.

This book is sly and addictive. Almost without exception, the samples from the short list are truly awful and represent the more stomach turning aspects of "new trends". The judges are mirrored through their writings, as are the authors. The whole thing conspires to bring a sad laugh from any lover of books in general. Depressing as the enterprise should be, it gave me an enjoyable few hours of cynical reading.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
A very witty take on the business of literary prizes.
Published 6 days ago by Carol Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
St Aubyn is a clever, witty, observant wordsmith and story teller. Am embarrassed that I've never read any St Aubyn before. Immediately ordered another one.
Published 20 days ago by M DiFalco
4.0 out of 5 stars The Joke can be on Us
Funny, look at how literary prizes are awarded. Written as fiction, but helps explains how the Nobel Prize and Booker Award come up with some of their winners,
Published 20 days ago by Thuringer
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 22 days ago by D. Robin Toews
3.0 out of 5 stars Snarky Insider's Look at Literary Prize Competition
The intellectual delegation for awarding the Elysian Prize is funny and oh so shady! The candidates are bed-hopping. The submissions are mistakenly admitted and excluded. Read more
Published 25 days ago by Rhiannon
3.0 out of 5 stars Not sure there is enough here to sustain a yankee's ...
Not sure there is enough here to sustain a yankee's interest in intellectual send ups of London literary scene. Moments but not enough to really keep me rushing back to read more.
Published 1 month ago by Matt Stone
5.0 out of 5 stars Spot on skewering of pretentious literary types
St. Auburn also takes on people behind these competitions as he deftly sets his sights on the shallowness of modern life. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Arthur W. Turfa
4.0 out of 5 stars Sly and Clever, Skewers the Pompous
A slyly satirical look at what 'behind the scenes' results in puzzling events: the bizarre make up of THE British literary prize, aptly skewered by St Aubyn's swift observations. Read more
Published 1 month ago by feather pen
4.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Edward St. Aubyn
Having discovered Edward St. Aubyn through the brilliant Patrick Melrose novels, i will read anything else he writes, for ever and ever. If i see "By Edward St. Read more
Published 2 months ago by New York reviewer
5.0 out of 5 stars recommended.
Thoroughly enjoyable read ... romped through it in 24hrs - a non-stop read with all the humor of PG Wodehouse... recommended.
Published 2 months ago by Jonathan B. Wimpenny
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