Edward St. Aubyn’s A Clue to the Exit (Book acquired, 8.17.2015)

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Edward St. Aubyn’s 2000 novel A Clue to the Exit is getting a U.S. paperback release from Picador. Their blurb—

Charlie Fairburn, successful screenwriter, ex-husband, and absent father, has been given six months to live. He resolves to stake half his fortune on a couple of turns of the roulette wheel and, to his agent’s disgust, to write a novel-about death. In the casino he meets his muse. Charlie grows as addicted to writing fiction as she is to gambling.

His novel is set on a train and involves a group of characters (familiar to readers of St. Aubyn’s earlier work) who are locked in a debate about the nature of consciousness. As this train gets stuck at Didcot, and Charlie gets more passionately entangled with the dangerous Angelique, A Clue to the Exitcomes to its startling climax. Exquisitely crafted, witty, and thoughtful, Edward St. Aubyn’s dazzling novel probes the very heart of being.

Book Acquired, 2.03.2012 — Edward St. Aubyn Edition

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Picador has put together all four of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels in anticipation of the final novel, At Last, which debuts later this month from FS&G. I haven’t read St. Aubyn’s stuff, which hasn’t been widely available in the US until now, but I do know that Open City put some of it out, and they put out stuff by heroes of mine like David Berman and Sam Lipsyte (who blurbs the book). Anyway, here’s a short description from Picador:

For more than twenty years, acclaimed author Edward St. Aubyn has chronicled the life of Patrick Melrose, painting an extraordinary portrait of the beleaguered and self-loathing world of privilege. This single volume collects the first four novels—Never Mind, Bad News,Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk, a Man Booker finalist—to coincide with the publication of At Last, the final installment of this unique novel cycle.

By turns harrowing and hilarious, these beautifully written novels dissect the English upper class as we follow Patrick Melrose’s story from child abuse to heroin addiction and recovery. Never Mind,the first novel, unfolds over a day and an evening at the family’s chateaux in the south of France, where the sadistic and terrifying figure of David Melrose dominates the lives of his five-year-old son, Patrick, and his rich and unhappy American mother, Eleanor. From abuse to addiction, the second novel, Bad News opens as the twenty-two-year-old Patrick sets off to collect his father’s ashes from New York, where he will spend a drug-crazed twenty-four hours. And back in England, the third novel, Some Hope, offers a sober and clean Patrick the possibility of recovery. The fourth novel, the Booker-shortlisted Mother’s Milk, returns to the family chateau, where Patrick, now married and a father himself, struggles with child rearing, adultery, his mother’s desire for assisted suicide, and the loss of the family home to a New Age foundation.

Edward St. Aubyn offers a window into a world of utter decadence, amorality, greed, snobbery, and cruelty—welcome to the declining British aristocracy.

I haven’t had much time to dip into this, even though it intrigues, because my wife immediately snapped it up. I had to go find it in her night stand to do this post. At the risk of mangling this completely though (and correct me if I’m wrong), it seems like a little bit like a contemporary Henry James shot through with Bret Easton Ellis (and maybe a touch of Downton Abbey). I will ask my wife to report.