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Lost For Words Hardcover – 1 May 2014

3.8 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Main market ed. edition (1 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330454226
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330454223
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 3 x 20.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 348,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Review

Edward St Aubyn is among the handful of the current giants of English fiction. He has always had an eye for the sort of satire that does not exclude compassion and understanding; now that eye is trained on the absurd world of awarding literary prizes. The results are hilarious! (Edmund White)

This is a seriously entertaining and inventive novel by which I mean it is not serious at all but exceptionally entertaining and inventive. And seriously good. Edward St Aubyn is already considered the master of social satire . . . With Lost for Words, he cements this reputation and, if anything, surpasses himself . . . The writing is brilliantly playful . . . A lesser author might have steered clear of such a large cast of characters but St Aubyn manages them effortlessly . . . Brilliantly plotted . . . In the end, St Aubyn hits a note of truth and optimism. To do this without becoming saccharine and didactic is an amazing achievement . . . Please read this book if you're in a bad mood. You will be cured of it. (Sunday Express)

The book is a riot, complete with belly-achingly hilarious pastiches of the bonkers novels that are sent in for the prize to consider (Sunday Times)

Lost for Words is a long-overdue, laugh-out-loud satire on the whole business of literary prizes (London Evening Standard)

[An] intricate satire, written with restless wit . . . A gorgeous viciousness is present . . . St Aubyn's ear for fakery never falters . . . This novel is a pleasure to read (Observer)

Anyone cynical about literary prizes will laugh out loud at Edward St Aubyn's delightful satire . . . as his novel hilariously demonstrates, notions of what constitutes literary pedigree are as fickle as the wind . . . What makes you smile, and smile and smile is the elegance of the writing. Seldom was so much pretentiousness skewered so stylishly. (Novel of the Week Mail on Sunday)

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)

A fizzing satire that neatly skewers all the contradictions and absurdities of literary prize-giving, and the awkward fit between literature and 'celebrity' (Daily Telegraph)

Lost for Words is a witty, often excoriating, riposte to the phenomenon and workings of major book awards (Independent)

Fun, black and brilliant stuff. Lost for Words - puckish, bitchy and shamelessly silly . . . Very clever and extremely funny. (The Times)

St Aubyn's latest novel is an entertaining satire on the literary-prize industry, full of splendid jokes (Tatler)

Edward St Aubyn takes a very sharp and deserved satirical knife to a world riddled with agendas, thick with vanity and unable to look beyond itself, otherwise known as the world of literature (Press Association)

With his Patrick Melrose novels Edward St Aubyn confirmed his standing as one of our great literary writers, with a fine elegant style that was both capable of handling pathos, tragedy and heartbreaking humour. In Lost for Words we follow the judges of the Elysian Prize for fiction and the hopeful authors desperate for literary glory. From the chairman of the judges standing up for the reader, to the judge who will consider a book on its length rather than quality, the novel is a thinly-veiled, brilliant satire on literary life and the Man Booker Prize (Bath Magazine)

Edward St Aubyn is easily among the best of contemporary British novelists, writing with a cold crystal-clean precision, creating beautifully-honed sentences and striking metaphors that would be the envy of any writer. In addition he is, in Lost for Words, extremely funny as well, with humour ranging from carefully plotted mishaps and sophisticated put-downs to pure slapstick (The Bay)

The prize should go to Mr St Aubyn, if only for the parodies from his fictional shortlist . . . It must have been fun to write and is fun to read (Country Life)

St Aubyn here turns his biting wit on to the whole sorry business of literary prizes in a comedy worthy of the young Evelyn Waugh (David Sexton Evening Standard)

This will make you chuckle aloud (Country & Town House)

Shot through with moments of profundity and grace (Irish Times)

[St Aubyn's] humour remains winningly dark and his one-liners elegantly brittle (Reader's Digest)

Not a word is extraneous or a comma out of place (Vogue)

A hilarious, acid-tongued novel (Woman & Home)

Hilarious, elegant and written with effortless insight into people's behaviour. He's such a perceptive writer and does in a few words what would take anyone else several hundred pages (Elizabeth Day, Best Books of 2014 Guardian)

Sharp, satirical (Best Books of 2014 Huffington Post)

Review

'The book is a riot, complete with belly-achingly hilarious pastiches of the bonkers novels that are sent in for the prize to consider.' (Sunday Times)

'Lost for Words is a long-overdue, laugh-out-loud satire on the whole business of literary prizes.' (The Evening Standard)

'[An] intricate satire, written with restless wit ... A gorgeous viciousness is present ... St Aubyn's ear for fakery never falters ... This novel is a pleasure to read.' (The Observer)

'This is a seriously entertaining and inventive novel by which I mean it is not serious at all but exceptionally entertaining and inventive. And seriously good. Edward St Aubyn is already considered the master of social satire ... With Lost for Words, he cements this reputation and, if anything, surpasses himself.' (Sunday Express)

'Anyone cynical about literary prizes will laugh out loud at Edward St Aubyn's delightful satire ... as his novel hilariously demonstrates, notions of what constitutes literary pedigree are as fickle as the wind ... What makes you smile, and smile and smile is the elegance of the writing. Seldom was so much pretentiousness skewered so stylishly.' (The Mail on Sunday) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Genuinely good author and, good though this book is, the Patrick Melrose novels are better, l think.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Book recommended by a friend. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
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Format: Hardcover
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 became the most controversial in years. That and the fact that St Aubyn was nominated for the prize in 2006 for Mother’s Milk and didn’t win, brings us to Lost for Words, a so-called comedy that very tamely claws the prize.

The story follows the selection of the Elysian Prize’s judges through to its long and then shortlisting. Each chapter follows a different character from the head of the judging panel, Malcolm, who’s an opportunist MP, to Alan, an editor having an affair with Katherine, a novelist, who failed to get onto the list this year because her publisher submitted the wrong book - an actual cookbook called The Palace Cookbook.

There are numerous other characters and at first it can seem a bit overwhelming - who’s Sonny? Sam? Vanessa? - but by about halfway through you’re more or less familiar with the cast. Except for the female judges of whom I think there were three but it was hard to distinguish between them. I think Vanessa was the one with the troublesome daughter and wanted the literary book to win, or maybe that was Jo? And there was definitely a third but her name and motivations escape me. It doesn’t help that St Aubyn can’t write individual voices so that most of the characters sound the same.
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Format: Hardcover
The fine line between satire and farce is obliterated in this novel about the annual granting of England’s most prestigious literary prize. Author Edward St. Aubyn never hesitates to leap with both feet from satire into bold farce here, as often as some of his characters jump into each other’s beds. At the same time, however, he also maintains a bemused and distantly objective point of view regarding the machinations of those authors competing for the Elysian Prize, along with the judges who will decide the winner, and the literary establishment which recognizes the internal wheeling and dealing but still takes the whole process seriously. The prize in this novel is named for Elysian, a highly controversial agricultural company which manufactures “the world’s most radical herbicides and pesticides, and a leader in the field of genetically modified crops.”

St. Aubyn’s parodies of various literary styles, represented by some of the candidates for the Elysian Prize mentioned here will bring smiles of recognition to many readers. ALL THE WORLD’S A STAGE, a book favored by Elysian judge Tobias Benedict, an actor, shows St. Aubyn’s skill in writing sophisticated parodies of Shakespearean drama here. Conversations between William and Ben [Jonson] and Thomas Kyd and John Webster conjure up the controversy about who REALLY wrote Shakespeare’s plays. Like Shakespeare himself, author St. Aubyn also delights in mining the depths of low humor and farce for other scenes. The writing of one candidate for the prize, WOT YOU STARIN AT, by Hugh MacDonald, is so full of gutter language involving Death Boy and Wanker that it cannot be quoted here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Whilst lacking the subtlety and breadth of the wonderful Melrose books, Lost For Words is an entertaining romp with some genuinely funny moments. At its best, when the economical, crafted prose has echoes of early Waugh, it offers promise of real quality. However, for most of the novel he tells his tale effectively, without aiming for any great heights The objects of his satire are obvious and personal, but hardly a revelation to any but the lest astute observer of the literary scene ( even from my distant perspective). Like Waugh, he has little emotional engagement with the characters he satirises and even the main focus of his ire, Penny Feathers ( another Waugh nudge) is not treated with great bitterness..The parodies that punctuate the narrative are a source of amusement and there is an overall sense of fun that makes this a satisfying quick read;it is, however, not the great comic novel, which I think he has in him.
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By Jill Meyer TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 July 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
Most readers - serious or not - tend to keep track of the finalists and the winners of the major literary awards. There are literally hundreds of organisations who give prizes for literary excellence. Perhaps one of the coveted is the "Man Booker Prize", awarded to the best original novel, written in the English language, and published in the UK. For an author, even to be recognised as being on the "Long List" is an honor. But who are the judges and what criteria do these organisations use to recognise excellence in writing?

British author Edward St Aubyn's novel, "Lost for Words" is a look - a glance, really - at the Man Booker Award, here named the "Elysian Prize". The book, which is clever, is actually pretty short and is a fast read. St Aubyn gives the five judges - drawn from the literary, political, and arts worlds - with their pasts, presents, and futures, and, most important, their literary biases. He also features excerpts from some of the books under consideration. One of the six finalist books is an Indian cookery book, which was submitted by mistake by the publisher. He was supposed to submit a novel - the prize is for novels - and instead the cookery book is sent in its place. Edward St Aubyn is clever in both his plot and characters but somehow the book seems insubstantial. There's not much there for the reader to remember when he's finished the book.

Perhaps a better book on the same subject is Ruth Dudley Edwards' "Carnage on the Committee". Dudley Edwards writes the "Robert Amiss/Lady Jack Troutbeck" novels - which are savage, not "politically correct" mysteries - and "Carnage" is a biting look at the committee set up to select the "Knapper-Warburton Literary Award" winner.

Edward St Aubyn's book is a gentle, satirical look at literary prizes, while Ruth Dudley Edwards' is much more over-the-top witty.
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