Cover image for Lost for words
Title:
Lost for words
Author:
St. Aubyn, Edward, 1960- , author.
Edition:
Unabridged.
Publication Information:
New York, NY : Macmillan Audio, [2014]
Physical Description:
5 audio discs (approximately 318 min.) : CD audio, digital ; 4 3/4 in.
Summary:
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.
General Note:
Title from web page.

Compact discs.

Duration: 5:18:00.
Language:
English
Added Author:
ISBN:
9781427245441

9781427262721
Format :
Audiobook on CD

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Summary

Summary

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 in this witty audiobook.

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 audiobook 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.


Author Notes

Edward St. Aubyn was born in London in 1960. He is the author of a series of highly acclaimed novels about the Melrose family, including At Last and Mother's Milk , which was short-listed for the 2006 Man Booker Prize, as well as the novels A Clue to the Exit and On the Edge .


Reviews 3

Booklist Review

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.--Levine, Mark Copyright 2014 Booklist


Publisher's Weekly Review

The latest from St. Aubyn (the Patrick Melrose novels) marks a departure from his previous work. This comedic novel chronicles a year in the life of the Elysium Prize, a fictional Booker-like British literary award. The Elysium is mired in scandal and incompetence from the get-go: the underwriting funds come from a dubious agribusiness conglomerate, the judging panel is marginally qualified, and the process of selecting a shortlist is more about alliances and favors than quality. St. Aubyn inserts some amusing parodies in the early part of the novel, including selections from wot u starin at, a crude Scottish drug novel, as well as All the World's a Stage, a dense historical work about Shakespeare. These surveyings of the terrain of Irvine Welsh, Hilary Mantel, and others are among the novel's highlights. In addition to following the judges, St. Aubyn devotes chapters to several would-be nominees. Katherine is a rising literary star whose publisher accidentally submits a cookbook instead of her latest manuscript; Sonny is an Indian prince who takes the slighting of his self-published opus, The Mulberry Elephant, as a grave personal affront. St. Aubyn is clearly having fun with this material, and the book is breezy and propulsive. Still, the satire isn't particularly deep, and none of the many characters in this short novel are featured long enough to make a lasting impression. A modest entertainment from a writer whose output had hitherto been uniformly exceptional. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Library Journal Review

As literary awards go, there couldn't be a more unlikely collection of judges, authors, publishers, and publicists than the one assembled for the Elysian Prize, a fiction award standing in for the real-life Man Booker Prize. The committee, chaired by former MP Malcolm Craig and made up of a self-important group of writers, academics, and actors, set themselves the task of finding works of fiction with social relevance, geographic representation, and political correctness. With no intention of actually reading most of the cringe-worthy submissions, each member champions the one book he or she has glanced at, the most improbable of which is The Palace Cookbook, an assemblage of recipes and anecdotes from India submitted accidentally by a careless publisher instead of the serious novel that should have been sent. The fun begins when the delusional nephew of the cookbook author sets out for murderous revenge after his own self-published tome has been overlooked. VERDICT For anyone who wonders about the process of judging literary awards, this fast and funny lark from the author of the notable Patrick Melrose novels may shed some -comedic light. [See Prepub Alert, 12/7/13.]--Barbara Love, Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

1 When that Cold War relic Sir David Hampshire had approached him about becoming Chair of the Elysian Prize committee, Malcolm Craig asked for twenty-four hours to consider the offer. He had a visceral dislike of Hampshire, the epitome of a public-school mandarin, who had still been Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office when Malcolm was a new Member of Parliament. After he retired, Hampshire took on the usual bushel of non-executive directorships that were handed out to people of his kind, including a position on the board of the Elysian Group, where he had somehow fallen into the role of selecting the committees for their literary prize. His breadth of experience and range of contacts were always cited as the justification, but the truth was that David liked power of any sort; the power of influence, the power of money and the power of patronage. Malcolm's doubts were not confined to Hampshire. Elysian was a highly innovative but controversial agricultural company. It numbered among its products some of the world's most radical herbicides and pesticides, and was a leader in the field of genetically modified crops, crossing wheat with Arctic cod to make it frost resistant, or lemons with bullet ants to give them extra zest. Their Giraffe carrots had been a great help to the busy housewife, freeing her to peel a single carrot for Sunday lunch instead of a whole bunch or bag. Nevertheless, environmentalists had attacked one Elysian product after another, claiming that it caused cancer, disrupted the food chain, destroyed bee populations, or turned cattle into cannibals. As the noose of British, European and American legislation closed around it, the company had to face the challenge of finding new markets in the less hysterically regulated countries of Africa, Asia and Latin America. That was where the Foreign Office, liaising with Trade and Industry, had stepped in with their combined expertise in exports and diplomacy. The latter had come very much to the fore after some regrettable suicides among Indian farmers, whose crops had failed when they were sold Cod wheat, designed to withstand the icy rigours of Canada and Norway rather than the glowing anvil of the Indian Plain. Although the company disclaimed any responsibility, an un-usually generous consignment of Salamander wheat proved such a success that Elysian was able to use a shot of the gratefully waving villagers, their colourful clothing pressed to their elegantly thin bodies by the billows of a departing helicopter, in one of its advertising campaigns. Elysian's weaponized agricultural agents had come to Malcolm's attention when he was asked to sit on the Government committee responsible for the ' Checkout List'. Aerially dispersed, Checkout caused any vegetation on the ground to burst immediately into flame, forcing enemy soldiers into open country where they could be destroyed by more conventional means. Debates about the Checkout List had of course remained secret, and from the general public's point of view, Elysian's name continued to be associated almost entirely with its literary prize. In the end it was backbench boredom that persuaded Malcolm to accept the chairmanship of the prize committee. An obscure opposition MP needed plenty of extra-curricular activities to secure a decent amount of public attention. Who knew what opportunities his new role might bring? His moment in the pallid Caledonian sun as Under-Secretary of State for Scotland had been the climax of his career so far, as well, he hoped, as the climax of his self-sabotage. He had lost the job by making a reckless speech about Scottish independence that ran directly contrary to his party's official policy and ensured that he would have to resign. He hoped he might one day return to his old job, but for the moment it was time to put away affairs of state and take up childish things, to look through a glass darkly - over a long lunch. When he rang Hampshire to tell him the happy news, he couldn't resist asking why the prize was confined to the Imperial ash heap of the Commonwealth. 'Those are the terms of the endowment,' said Hampshire drily. 'On the wider question of why an institution as vacuous and incoherent as the Commonwealth continues to exist, my answer is this: it gives the Queen some pleasure and that is reason enough to keep it.' 'Well, that's good enough for me,' said Malcolm, waiting tactfully until he had hung up the phone to add, 'you silly old twat.' Broadly speaking, he did not regret his decision. His secretary was busier than she had been for a good while, collecting newspaper clippings and recordings of radio interviews. Malcolm noticed an increase in the ripple effect of his presence in the Commons bar, and an added liveliness to his conversations at dinner parties. The only aggravating aspect of the process was Hampshire's refusal to consult him about the other members of the committee. As a well-known columnist and media personality, Jo Cross, the first to be appointed, made sense by raising the public profile of the prize. She turned out to be a veritable geyser of opinions, but once Malcolm managed to make her focus, it turned out that her ruling passion was 'relevance'. 'The question I'll be asking myself as I read a book,' she explained, 'is "just how relevant is this to my readers?"' 'Your readers?' said Malcolm. 'Yes, they're the people I understand, and feel fiercely loyal to. I suppose you would call them my constituents.' 'Thanks for putting that in terms I can easily grasp,' said Malcolm, without showing the patronizing bitch the slightest sign of irony. The presence of an Oxbridge academic, in the form of Vanessa Shaw, the second recruit, was probably unavoidable. In the last analysis, Malcolm felt there was no harm in having one expert on the history of literature, if it reassured the public. When he invited her to the Commons for tea, she kept saying that she was interested in 'good writing'. 'I'm sure we're all interested in good writing,' said Malcolm, 'but do you have any special interest?' 'Especially good writing,' said Vanessa stubbornly. The committee member Malcolm most resented was one of Hampshire's old girlfriends from the Foreign Office, Penny Feathers. She had neither celebrity nor a distinguished public career to recommend her, and a little Googling soon established the emptiness of Hampshire's claim that she was a 'first-class' author in her own right. Malcolm couldn't look at her without thinking, 'What in God's name are you doing on my committee?' He had to remind himself that she had one of five votes and his mission was to make sure that her vote went his way. The final appointee was an actor Malcolm had never heard of. Tobias Benedict was a godson of Hampshire's who had been 'a fanatical reader ever since he was a little boy'. He missed the first two meetings, due to rehearsals, but sent an effusive apology on a handwritten card, saying that he was there 'in spirit if not in the flesh', that he was reading 'like a madman', and that he was 'in love with' All the World's a Stage , a novel Malcolm had not got round to yet. The truth was that he had no intention of reading more than a small proportion of the two hundred novels originally submitted to the committee. His role was to inspire, to guide, to collate and above all, to delegate. In this case, he asked Penny Feathers to look into Tobias's choice, feeling that one lame duck should investigate another. He asked his secretary to skim through the early submissions looking for his own special interest, anything with a Scottish flavour. She had come up with three novels of which he had so far only had time to look at one. A harsh but ultimately uplifting account of life on a Glasgow housing estate, wot u starin at really hit the spot when it came to new voices, the real concerns of ordinary people, and the dark underbelly of the Welfare State. He intended to lend it his support and start a discreet campaign on its behalf. He was also pleased, for personal reasons, that she had unearthed The Greasy Pole , a novel by Alistair Mackintosh, but he must be careful not to support it too overtly. When it came to running a committee, Malcolm favoured a collegiate approach: there was nothing like proving you were a team player to get your own way. The point was to build a consensus and come up with a vision of the sort of Britain they all wanted to project with the help of this prize: diverse, multi-cultural, devolutionary, and of course, encouraging to young writers. After all, young writers were the future, or at any rate, would be the future - if they were still around and being published. You couldn't go wrong with the future. Even if it was infused with pessimism, until it was compromised by the inevitable cross-currents of unexpected good news and character-building opportunities, the pessimism remained perfect, unsullied by that much more insidious and dangerous quality, disappointment. The promise of young writers was perfect as well, until they burnt out, fucked up or died - but that would be under another government and under another committee. Copyright © 2014 by Edward St. Aubyn Excerpted from Lost for Words: A Novel by Edward St. Aubyn All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.