thread for discussion of edward st aubyn;s patrick melrose novels, never mind bad news some hope mother's milk at last

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is there a substantive discussion of st aubyn around these parts anywhere, i feel like he's come up ~ a dozen times but never for long

― i better not get any (thomp), Sunday, 11 August 2013 19:15 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i don't think they're the sort of books that inspire substantive discussion really

― password1 (Lamp), Sunday, 11 August 2013 20:07 (Yesterday) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

i better not get any (thomp), Monday, 12 August 2013 19:39 (five years ago) Permalink

http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2011/aug/17/edward-st-aubyn-interview

the key bit here is summarised in the amazingly glib subheader, "Novelist Edward St Aubyn faced a stark choice: tell the shocking truth about his life – or kill himself"

St Aubyn, who went to Westminster School and Oxford, always wanted to write. He started his first novel at 12, and sketched a succession of books in his drug-fuelled 20s, all of which were abandoned. "I saw writing as a transformative machine. It's to do with control. I spent most of my time feeling completely overwhelmed." A suicide attempt at 25 made him accept the need for therapy, and that in turn encouraged him to write the novel he'd been skirting around. "I'd been trying to write clever, fabricated, ideas-based novels, and they didn't have any emotional energy. The suicide attempt made me realise I had a stark choice between telling the truth and killing myself." Patrick Melrose was his salvation.

i better not get any (thomp), Monday, 12 August 2013 19:43 (five years ago) Permalink

i think there's something at least 40-50% more interesting going on in these than the narrative st aubyn manages to sell to the broadsheet coverage but i don't really know what it is yet

i better not get any (thomp), Monday, 12 August 2013 19:44 (five years ago) Permalink

they're really good books to read in one and a half sittings

i better not get any (thomp), Monday, 12 August 2013 19:44 (five years ago) Permalink

can you give me a really basic explanation of what these are and what the deal is, i somehow have managed to miss this whole phenomenon

max, Monday, 12 August 2013 20:15 (five years ago) Permalink

he's a very toff british novelist who wrote a trilogy in the early 90s centering on one 'patrick melrose', who in the first book is in the middle of a hyperbolically awful childhood, and in the second book is in the middle of a hyperbolically destructive addiction, and in the third book is in the middle of a hyperbolically unbearable upper-class social idiom. they're really, really over the top, in a way that is deliberate and hilarious but also switches to a register which makes them really (deliberately) nerve-grinding to read during the worst excesses

he also mentioned after the fact that the worst details were autobiographical, which has led to them being read in a sort of flat way. -- they're really 'heightened' in their realism, composed in their structure, all taking place within 48-hour time spans

they get compared to waugh a fair bit, though i don't know that it's a particularly interesting line of influence -- certainly there's stuff in book two that's kind of lifted from 'the loved one' -- there's also an anthony powell surface resemblance -- but in some ways they're more like gaspar noé or nicholas winding refn, i want to claim

he wrote two more, in 2006 and 2011, the first of which was shortlisted for the booker, which led to him being 'discovered' to some extent

i better not get any (thomp), Monday, 12 August 2013 21:52 (five years ago) Permalink

i have the impression that there's a shift in style or register or commitment to structure in the latter two, but i am still halfway through book three and avoiding further details for the moment

i better not get any (thomp), Monday, 12 August 2013 21:53 (five years ago) Permalink

They're really funny, despite being about some of the most horrible things

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Tuesday, 13 August 2013 06:09 (five years ago) Permalink

I've not read the st aubyn bks (tho yes have picked them up cheap in fopp) but the general description - poshos + cruel comedy - puts me in mind of simon raven as much as powell or waugh

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 13 August 2013 08:03 (five years ago) Permalink

ty thomp

max, Tuesday, 13 August 2013 11:19 (five years ago) Permalink

but in some ways they're more like gaspar noé or nicholas winding refn

I read a shortish chunk of the first one & it didn't really take but this is the first thing I've heard that makes me think I should go back and persist, even though I do not really like noé or refn. I've sort of assumed (as I've said elsewhere) they're some combo of posh voyeurism + misery memoir/TLS + subjunctives-and-poise prose style.

woof, Tuesday, 13 August 2013 11:27 (five years ago) Permalink

i still want to read them. everything i read about them came from interviews/essays where other writers raved about them. so, i guess i'm always interested in writer's writers kinda books.

scott seward, Tuesday, 13 August 2013 13:04 (five years ago) Permalink

the third one doesn't do the these-are-vile-events-and-how-do-you-feel-about-enjoying-the-way-they-are-presented stuff of the first two and actually has a non-ironic emotional resolution, how peculiar

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Tuesday, 13 August 2013 23:48 (five years ago) Permalink

is the third one 'the one about the queen mother coming to visit' or is it 'the one about one last weekend in the south of france'? because i liked the former and thought the latter was probably the worst of them

password1 (Lamp), Tuesday, 13 August 2013 23:54 (five years ago) Permalink

haha it's the former but fyi 'princess margaret' and 'the queen mother' are not the same entity

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:00 (five years ago) Permalink

really?

password1 (Lamp), Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:04 (five years ago) Permalink

lamp is fronting, as a canadian he is intimately familiar w/ his rulers

max, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:09 (five years ago) Permalink

puts me in mind of simon raven as much as powell or waugh

He has a nicer style than Raven--less undermining of perfect sentences in order to make a cheap sex jokes.

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Wednesday, 14 August 2013 00:48 (five years ago) Permalink

dylan moran is a big fan of his

Old Boy In Network (Michael B), Wednesday, 14 August 2013 21:56 (five years ago) Permalink

The only books I've read on a Kindle (out of necessity).

Fais ce que voudra, occiderai de même (Michael White), Wednesday, 14 August 2013 22:17 (five years ago) Permalink

necessity?

Nilmar Honorato da Silva, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 22:18 (five years ago) Permalink

The gf bought them on her Kindle and she wanted me to read them so...

Fais ce que voudra, occiderai de même (Michael White), Wednesday, 14 August 2013 22:19 (five years ago) Permalink

Nilmar Honorato da Silva, Wednesday, 14 August 2013 22:21 (five years ago) Permalink

nine months pass...

very long profile in next weeks newyorker does a comfortable job making everything about his melrose novels worthless

dude (Lamp), Wednesday, 28 May 2014 13:25 (four years ago) Permalink

his new novel looks like it kind of might have succeeded in doing that by itself

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 28 May 2014 19:56 (four years ago) Permalink

I thought I had tried to explain my theory that actually these were about ==the problem of other minds== on this thread but apparently i never did

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Wednesday, 28 May 2014 19:59 (four years ago) Permalink

Loved the Melrose books, but the new one looks very dodgy. Have it on order from the library as I'm not sure it warrants the spending of $

ornamental cabbage (James Morrison), Thursday, 29 May 2014 00:19 (four years ago) Permalink

I thought I had tried to explain my theory that actually these were about ==the problem of other minds== on this thread but apparently i never did

There was a thing in the Atlantic (I think?) about him that kinda echoed that thomp. Also made me want to read them.

franny glass, Thursday, 29 May 2014 12:41 (four years ago) Permalink

itt ppl talk abour profiles of edward st aubyn i have not read

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 29 May 2014 12:54 (four years ago) Permalink

this one btw?

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2014/05/the-disillusionist/359809/

"But does St. Aubyn have another story worth telling? While working on the Melrose series, he also wrote two other novels, which were not as successful. One of them, On the Edge (1998), presumably a by-product of his thinking about that fraudulent shaman, is a good-natured comedy about New Ageism in general. The other, A Clue to the Exit (2000), is a novel about how hard it is to write a novel, and is obsessed with one of St. Aubyn’s favorite themes, the problem of consciousness: What is the self, and how can we think about it without our thoughts getting in the way? There are moments in the book when St. Aubyn, an immensely gifted writer of realistic fiction, seems to be suffering from the postmodernist’s ailment: a crippling awareness of the made-upness of novels."

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 29 May 2014 13:07 (four years ago) Permalink

Yes, that one. Although maybe it didn't echo your theory at all.

franny glass, Thursday, 29 May 2014 17:06 (four years ago) Permalink

nah, my theory was way cleverer

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Thursday, 29 May 2014 22:45 (four years ago) Permalink

I had not realised the extent to which the new one was a roman a clef viz his own experience of not winning the booker. oh dear

♛ LIL UNIT ♛ (thomp), Sunday, 8 June 2014 20:36 (four years ago) Permalink

three years pass...

Um, there's a 5-part miniseries starring Benedict Cumberbitch, on Showtime (in the US) and Sky Atlantic (in the UK). I won't see it for a while (no cable), but it has a score by Hauschka.

Bad wig continuity (Sanpaku), Monday, 4 June 2018 20:46 (six months ago) Permalink

It's okay. The books are better, obviously. I enjoyed the Booker book and the NYer profile, though.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 4 June 2018 21:24 (six months ago) Permalink

Okay = no real reason to exist especially as the books are so short, but not terrible. I haven't seen the Princess Anne scene yet, which is the only part I'm really curious about.

Chuck_Tatum, Monday, 4 June 2018 21:25 (six months ago) Permalink

i still have two books to read. I don't have any desire to see an adaptation since the books are searingly vivid to me.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Monday, 4 June 2018 21:53 (six months ago) Permalink

like he sketches the characters so elliptically but they are so fully formed that seeing an actor playing one of them could never be anything other than a disappointment.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Monday, 4 June 2018 21:55 (six months ago) Permalink

a (possibly stupid) thought of mine was that Bad News would have been better titled Bad Blood.

Heavy Messages (jed_), Monday, 4 June 2018 21:58 (six months ago) Permalink

(given the obsession with bodily fluids in that book).

Heavy Messages (jed_), Monday, 4 June 2018 21:58 (six months ago) Permalink

Loved the books, but have absolutely no desire to watch child rape on TV.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Tuesday, 5 June 2018 04:15 (six months ago) Permalink

I've only read A Clue to the Exit, which I thought was clunky and bad, and I only finished it because it was very short and I was on holiday in Turkey with a limited number of books. So I haven't bothered with him since but I've now seen so much praise for the Melrose books that maybe I was wrong, or maybe A Clue To The Exit was just a one-off misfire

Zelda Zonk, Tuesday, 5 June 2018 05:50 (six months ago) Permalink

The last two Melrose novels are far inferior to the original trilogy, imho.

Ward Fowler, Tuesday, 5 June 2018 06:09 (six months ago) Permalink

The general consensus seems to be that all his non-Melrose books are pretty bad: one of those writers who fall apart if they move beyond autobiography.

Mince Pramthwart (James Morrison), Wednesday, 6 June 2018 03:05 (six months ago) Permalink

The last two Melrose novels are far inferior to the original trilogy, imho.

― Ward Fowler, Monday, June 4, 2018 11:09 PM (one week ago) Bookmark Flag Post Permalink

bullshit, mother's milk is the best one

flamenco blorf (BradNelson), Friday, 15 June 2018 19:41 (five months ago) Permalink

i was skeptical of the miniseries bc... how necessary are these books without aubyn's sense of patrick's or mary's or robert's interiority? but it's really well done; weirdly my least favorite books of the series work the best, some hope in particular. at last made me cry a lot

flamenco blorf (BradNelson), Friday, 15 June 2018 19:43 (five months ago) Permalink

only seen the first one, cumberbatch is good!

the bhagwanadook (symsymsym), Saturday, 16 June 2018 02:31 (five months ago) Permalink

Yeah, series was great. Now need to read the books.

Stevolende, Saturday, 16 June 2018 09:10 (five months ago) Permalink

one month passes...

I finished At Last, at last. It's very good but does a lot of exposition that would have just been evident from the situations, dialogues or fleeting disconnected or overlapping thoughts in the initial trilogy. Still it is very good and it was helpful for me. A friend said it had done her more good than the therapy she'd been going through.

Mother's Milk is the weakest by some distance and Ward F is correct that both of the final books are a significant drop in quality.

The most amazing thing about finishing the cycle is feeling like there are characters in there (particularly Patrick, of course) that seem as vivid to me as my actual friends. I was in London as I was reading it and fully expected to bump into Partick/ Edward St A.

Britain's Sexiest Cow (jed_), Monday, 13 August 2018 21:18 (four months ago) Permalink


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