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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Monday, December 29, 2014

A Shakespearean comic ending to a satiric novel

I guess I'm a little envious that the UK has such a lively literary scene that a top writer could publish a satire of the Booker Prize award ceremony and the book could actually become a hit. No such satire imaginable in the U.S. where hardly one of a thousand readers - let alone the millions of nonreaders - has any interest in literary prizes. The humor would totally fall flat here - so what's Edward St. Aubyn's complaint, really? That awards are driven by commerce and politics, both personal and national? Instead of carping about the Booker prize, which he has never won (though he's been a "short list" finalist), he should be grateful that readers in his country care a whit about such things. That said, St. Aubyn's Lost for Words is a romp, easy to read, full of many passages so funny as to be nearly Pythonesque, and though in the end it's a slight piece aimed at a sitting-duck target, it's worth a quick read - or maybe even a careful read: savor the wit of the best passages, the excerpts from the nominated books, the bloviating of the French pseudo-intellectual, excepts from one of the jurors's spy novel and forget about the flimsy plot. There are few if any characters in Lost for Words that we actually like or are meant to like or even sympathize with (similar to his Patrick Melrose novels), but he does has a soft, humane touch in the end: boy gets girl, the right book wins the prize, the crazy assassination plot fizzles away, a comic ending in the Shakespearean sense, most but not all of the characters reconciled to one another and to society, with a few fools getting what they deserve and a few sorrowful sorts left isolated in the wings.

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