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Archive for the ‘Edward St. Aubyn’ Category

MelroseThese books, Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk, have been gathered into the one splendid package, and a more elegantly written collection of total desolation and despair one can hardly imagine. The story line is spectacularly depressing, even odious–it would be difficult to summarize it without instantly disgusting any would-be readers. But the writing is so extremely witty, so astonishingly inventive, even lyrical, that I was charmed despite myself. There I was, cackling away at descriptions of  ludicrously wretched events. ‘The dead are dead,” says Patrick’s monstrous father, “and the truth is that one forgets about people when they stop coming to dinner. There are exceptions of course–namely, the people one forgets during dinner.” It is mockery that is completely heartless but which is undeniably both funny and true to life: a way to bear the unbearable. A familiar trick, actually–a coping technique that is often surprisingly efficacious. But NO ONE can do it like Mr. St. Aubyn. Imagine the effervescent prose of P.G. Wodehouse and the wit of Oscar Wilde, describing the bright young things as they shoot up heroin, binge drink, and  fornicate– in the Stately Homes of England, in charming chateaux in the south of France, in palatial cottages in the Hamptons. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry! Well perhaps neither of those, but you will certainly chuckle. And, one cannot but be moved by the sadness of the man trying to overcome the torments of his blighted life, as when Patrick tells a friend that he “gave up on drugs when the pleasure and the pain became simultaneous and I might as well have been shooting up a vial of my own tears. “

I have put a bunch of quotations here. I was sorry to come to the end of this book, and look forward to reading more by the same author–even though, even though, I prefer–as I expect we all do– a story about undamaged people who win through to happiness. But, failing that, a book written in dazzling style that makes me laugh despite myself will do very well.

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