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Lost for Words: A Novel by [St. Aubyn, Edward]
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Lost for Words: A Novel Kindle Edition

3.9 out of 5 stars 139 customer reviews

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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


Everything St. Aubyn writes is worth reading for the cleansing rancor of his intelligence and the fierce elegance of his prose… (Anne Enright, New York Times Book Review)

Product Details

  • File Size: 703 KB
  • Print Length: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (May 20, 2014)
  • Publication Date: May 20, 2014
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00GQ67W2Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #224,962 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Witty, very British satire of the Booker Prize (here called the Elysium) given annually for the best novel by a commonwealth author. Edward St. Aubyn, who was on the short list in 2006, has written a delightful sendup that centers around the accidental insertion of a cookbook into the mix (don't ask!), and how it affects the other hopefuls and the five prize committee members. Throughout, the author parodies some of the prose of the contestants, takes a swing at Scottish Nationalists, and dismantles French intellecutuals. And he is far from gentle while doing it.

Despite its totally British milieu and style (the U.S. publisher makes no attempt to Americanize it), Americans will (or so I hope) find it nasty fun. Although I suspect that British literati know who the characters Mr. St. Aubyn pillories here are caricatures of. Surely I do not.

No matter.

Notes and asides: The Booker prizes for 2012 and 2013 were awarded to Hillary Mantel's "Bring up the Bodies," and Eleanor Catton's "The Luminaries." Neither got there by accident; neither are cookbooks. Both are eminently worthy. So don't give up on the prize just yet.
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