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Lost for Words

3.28 of 5 stars 3.28  ·  rating details  ·  1,122 ratings  ·  234 reviews
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-cult
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Hardcover, 262 pages
Published May 20th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Jessica
When Edward St. Aubyn's dead and his legacy gets hammered out, Lost for Words will be considered one of his minor works.

Don't get me wrong, this book was fun enough. I read it in a day, and when I put it down, looked forward to picking it up again. But ultimately I found it slight, disappointing, and not nearly as good as its writer.

Which is, you know, fine. We're all entitled to a good time, and St. Aubyn has the right to hit the little bloop single instead of crushing everything out of the par
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Cheryl
The 2011 Booker awards season is the gift that keeps on giving.

The chair that year was Stella Rimington, an ex-spymaster for MI5 whose purported link to literature is her retirement hobby of penning apparently adequately competent spy thrillers. She wasn’t off to a good start with the literary critics (who she likened to the KGB) when she announced that this year the focus would be on “readability”. One of her judges supported her by saying that for him, the novels “had to zip along”. Oh. My. Go
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oriana
Apr 30, 2014 oriana marked it as to-read
Shelves: to-read-soon
Here's a guy I've never read and whom I actually have zero partially formed snobbish opinions about.

And here's what Flavorwire says about this one:

Edward St. Aubyn, Saint of Bitingly Funny, Dark as Fuck, and Gritty English Realism, we know how herculean a task it is to try and get readers talking about anything other than your perfect Patrick Melrose books. Thankfully, with Lost for Words, you move on from deplorable English aristocracy to an even madder group of people: writers.

Dang. Give me
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Diane S.
A satirical and ironic telling of the back door dealings present during and leading up to the presenting of a prestigious award. Although for the sake of the novel it is named differently, it is said that this parody of sorts is about the Booker Award.
The maneuvering, the picking of the judges, each who have a book they want to make it into the short list. One judge doesn't even bother to read the top twenty. The authors themselves, pushing their books to make the long list. Really rather intere
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Sam Quixote
Edward St Aubyn’s Lost for Words is a weak satire on literary prizes, in particular the Booker Prize and the 2011 judging panel. Headed by former MI5 head turned novelist Stella Rimington, the 2011 panel chose to focus on accessible books for the public to enjoy - because, y’know, reading can be enjoyable - rather than pretentiously written books, which usually take home the prize.

This angered the literati, not least because they have no clue how to write a compelling story, and the prize becam
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Antonomasia
The characters in St. Aubyn's Patrick Melrose cycle are at once caricatures and possessed of extraordinary emotional depth. In Lost For Words - a satire of a literary prize closely resembling the Booker - they lean far more towards the caricature, although some members of the large cast are granted real personality. And a dash of angst.

Essentially, this is a specimen of the English Comic Novel, with its fair share of farcical situations, silly names, allusions to news old and, er, new, and a few
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Ellie
Lost for Words by Edward St. Aubyn is a clever, well-written novel about a committee chosen to award a prestigious literary prize. The book narrates the absurd politics behind the scenes and skewers many other professions (but especially literary ones) in the process. There is also a love story, of sorts. Katherine is a girl who can't commit and specializes in breaking hearts. The question is, Will she find love by the end of this story?

My problem, and I do mean my personal problem is that I end
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Rebecca Foster
(3.5) A buoyant, if slight, literary farce. The send-up of the 2011 Booker Prize race* may be a bit obvious, and some of the characters are rather thin, but I found the literary pastiches (especially of paint-by-numbers thrillers, Hilary Mantel-esque historical fiction, Irvine Welsh and Slavoj Žižek – Didier was my favorite character) absolutely hilarious. And who wouldn’t love that ending, as the whole competition descends into absurdity and (view spoiler) takes the n ...more
Stephanie Sun
This book didn't teach me how to write a great satire, which had been the hope that shot it to the top of my reading queue a few days ago.

It did, on the other hand, remind me why I love not just books but the people who make them.

Along with the too-breezy farce and missed opportunities for acid takedown of literary pomposity and pomp that disappointed many professional reviewers, Lost for Words offers up some of the most sincere and thought-provoking inquiry into the question—Why Literature?—th
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Gail
The title of Edward St. Aubyn's new book "Lost for Words" is aptly chosen for this extremely funny, ironic parody of the Man Booker prize for literature. They are not, however, words that could ever apply to its author. St. Aubyn is best known for the Melrose novels, two of which, "Mother's Milk" and "At Last", were shortlisted for the Booker. St. Aubyn's dry wit and perfect sentences like, "Her openness to infidelity filled him with an optimism that her choice of indemnity discouraged", make me ...more
Rhiannon Johnson
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. One character (who believes he should be a candidate, despite publishing his novel privately in India) is the six hundred and fifty-third maharaja of Badanpur. The messy personal lives of the judges, candidates, and secondary characters all intertwine and the snobby, caustic remarks alone are worth reading this book. A very imp ...more
Kseniya Melnik
I gobbled this up in a day. As a writer, from time to time I find myself craving one of three types of writing-related books: a book of author interviews or profiles (latest discovery was John Reed's "How to Read a Novelist); a writing companion book that is comforting but honest, and full of wise advice on craft and the writing life (latest favorite was "Still Writing" by Dani Shapiro), or a novel about writers and/or the literary world. The latter--the funnier, the better.
LOST FOR WORDS certai
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Steve Turtell
Imagine that one of the greatest living English novelists decided to write an entertainment, a "beach novel"--something fast, and light, and witty and far removed from the terrifying, brilliant and disturbing novels that brought him great fame--and the result would be Lost for Words. This is a refreshing change of pace--but fortunately not of style--for St. Aubyn. He writes the same astonishing prose, and moves effortlessly from profound psychological observation to hilarious social comedy and b ...more
Gerrybergstein
Sheer delight. A virtuoso send up of the literary world- specifically the awarding of the Man Booker prize. St. Aubyn was a finalist several years ago and did not win. Some have called this book sour grapes, but if this is true these grapes are exquisitely tart and flavorful. They produce an absolutely hilarious read for anyone who is obsessed, as I am, with the simultaneous absurdity and necessity of our ambition to experience meaning and beauty.
Evan
This was a fun book! Edward St. Aubyn really has a way of writing that is quick-witted, clever, and there is always a very vague sense of sarcasm underlying everything. He loves to write about the weaknesses of human character and the characters in his book are so slightly despicable you kind of end up feeling like a better person yourself after reading his books. I wouldn't recommend this book if you haven't read anything by him (instead read his Melrose series), but if you are a fan you won't ...more
Ffiamma
cambiando radicalmente genere rispetto ai melrose, st aubyn si misura con il romanzo satirico e si fa beffe del mondo dei premi letterari. nel mirino dell'autore finisce il prestigioso man book award- cui l'elysian prize è il calco fedele- e la giuria incaricata di selezionare i testi e assegnare il riconoscimento è impietosamente descritta in un libro pungente che mette alla berlina e non salva davvero nessuno dei personaggi (né gli autori, né i giurati, né le persone che ruotano intorno a loro ...more
Ryan Dejonghe
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. Form
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Holly
Hilarious. The mock samples of the "Elysian Prize" short listed books and the judges' writings were so accurate, so funny, so recognizable (not of a particular author, necessarily, but anyone who reads a lot of contemporary fiction will recognize the types), and so deliciously mean. St. Aubyn's targets were easy, and it was probably quickly written (ghrelin, the "hunger hormone" is misspelled), but I loved it. And this, too:
...she found herself wondering why any book should win this fucking pri
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Thomas Armstrong
This was light reading, and I'm not used to light reading, so I guess I'd have to say that I was a little disappointed that it was so light! I like dark comedy, so I wish it had been darker. The parodies of the nominee's texts I think could have been cleverer. St. Aubyn did a pretty good job of parodying post-modern discourse with the Didier dialogue and acceptance speech, and it would have been good to see more of this in the excerpts of novels short-listed for the ''coveted'' Elysian Prize. My ...more
Jay
This was a light, fun read and exactly what I needed, having been involved for years in a bookclub based on novels which have won literary prizes. It does a swift job of ridiculing the agenda-based machinations of a ludicrous selection committee for a thinly disguised Booker Prize. The examples of the writing presented in these fabricated novels being nominated are truly funny, but probably more so for anyone who's spent a long time reading scores of novels, both good and not so good. St. Aubyn' ...more
Kate
I was very interested to find out how it would end, which I think is high praise for a satire, but overall it felt a little thin. Less emotional meat on the bones than Waugh or some of the other stuff it will remind you of.

We get entertaining excerpts of many of the unworthy novels in play for this fictional fiction prize, but I would like to lodge a formal complaint that we never get a taste of the cookbook that slips into the contest.

Also: pages 100 to 101, I love. They kind of showcase why
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Aaron Talbot
quite entertaining and a speedy witty read...satire, for me, gets old very quickly because it usually involves the same joke told in different contexts many times...this book does mostly manage to avoid that trap.

what I found most impressive is that in less than 300 pages, st aubyn developed well over 10-14 characters whose motivations and urges I understood and wanted to read more about.

definitely a specialized type of satire (I mean, are there really that many people who want to read about boo
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Linda Robinson
Sep 05, 2014 Linda Robinson marked it as will-not-finish
A recurring discussion with friends is the tendency in films, writing to look out the corner of an eye at a cultural meme that we could do without anyway. Including a wink*wink in a scene that clearly says "yeah, we know this is sexist, but doesn't the fact that we know we know get us a pass? And isn't that hil-ar-i-ous!" No it's not. St. Aubyn is skewering the Man Booker Prize, which is already cheeky and feels too personal. The Prize deserves a poke from anyone with a reading brain, but puttin ...more
Gerhard
I was quite surprised at the brevity of this. Much more a novella than a fully-fledged novel, this is one of those rare instances where I wished a book could have been longer. But that is simply because what there is, is so exquisite.

I first encountered Edward St. Aubyn when Booker-winner Alan Hollinghurst, one of my all-time favourite writers, mentioned him in a Picador interview as ‘a writer to watch out for’. Admittedly, St. Aubyn is a bit of an acquired taste: I have only read two of the Pat
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Susanne
I recently asked the public library in my town to order a copy of this book after reading a positive review somewhere. I wasn't familiar with the author, but as someone who has been an academic and worked in publishing I thought I would enjoy what sounded like a satirical, fun summer read. I received the book yesterday, finished it within a few hours, and I am sorry to say that it is one of the worst books I have read in recent years. I would not recommend this book to any of my friends. The boo ...more
Dianne Lange
Brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny in parts. The Booker Prize to-do will never be the same. The reason I didn't give it 4 stars is that, for me, so much snarky cleverness becomes a bit tiresome. The already short novel could have been even shorter.
Dianne
This is a thinly disguised skewering of the Man Booker Prize and all the shenanigans, neuroses, scheming and political maneuverings that occurs behind the scenes. There are lots of articles on the internet, if you choose to search for them, about the author's possible motives in writing this book (St. Aubyn was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2006 and bypassed in 2011) and who the characters in the book are really supposed to be - it makes for interesting reading. Actually, more interes ...more
Lindajc
A snappy little book with some clever bits of "bad" writing, but ultimately not my best use of time.
But.... I'm not quite so eager to read this year's Booker nominees now, so I guess it's had some impact.
Pgregory
Comic novel of literary pretensions, theories, awards and styles. Pretty much my cup of tea.
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Edward St Aubyn was born in London in 1960. He was educated at Westminster school and Keble college, Oxford University. He is the author of six novels, the most recent of which, ‘Mother’s Milk’, was shortlisted for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, won the 2007 Prix Femina Etranger and won the 2007 South Bank Show award on literature.

His first novel, ‘Never Mind’ (1992) won the Betty Trask award. This no
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More about Edward St. Aubyn...
The Patrick Melrose Novels Never Mind (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #1) Mother's Milk At Last Bad News (The Patrick Melrose Novels, #2)

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“Thanks for putting that in terms I can easily grasp,’ said Malcolm, without showing the patronizing bitch the slightest sign of irony.” 1 likes
“If you were madly in love, you’d want me to win,’ said Katherine.

‘I’m not sure that’s true,’ said Sam. ‘I think love is about equality: both of us equally happy with either result. One-sided self-sacrifice is only enabling someone else’s egoism. Altruists always end up riddled with resentment, or if they make that last superhuman effort, with spiritual pride.’

‘Oh,’ said Katherine, ‘you mean you’re not going to enable my egoism.’

‘Okay, okay,’ said Sam ‘you’re right – love is doing everything you want all the time.”
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