Tampa, FL, United States | Member Since 2006
If anyone can poke fun at contemporary literature and the machinations behind one of its major prizes, it's Edward St. Aubyn.
His send-ups of the various gimmicky sub-genres that seem to be perennial fixtures on literary "buzz" lists are laugh-out-loud funny, perhaps made all the more so by Alex Jennings's spot-on reading of the affectedly authentic narratives (which range from a gutteral Irwin Welsh-style Scottish to a wincingly stagey Elizabethan English).
Indeed, far as the narration goes, it's hard to imagine that reading the print version of the book could be nearly as enjoyable as hearing Jenning's portrayal of Sonny Bunjee, the delusional Brahmin snob, or of the French intellectual Didiot, with his non-sequitur rants and comically formulaic writing process.
In fact, all of Jennings's character's accents are exquisite except the American ones, which are such a weird mashup of regional accents--flattened midwestern/ rounded southern vowels, hyper-rhotacization and dropped word endings--that it's almost uncanny how alien it is to any actual existing American speech pattern.
Fortunately the two American characters in the novel appear only very briefly, but when they do, the listening is painful enough to be a noticeable departure from an otherwise flawless performance, which was the only thing that kept me from giving it 5 stars. (Of course this is a completely US-centric opinion--Jennings's Indian and Scottish accents could be just as inaccurate to their native's ears--but there you have it.)
Compared to the rest St. Aubyn's work, this little book is mostly just silly fun--you certainly won't find more than the occasional glimpse of the depth and subtlety of the Patrick Melrose novels. But St. Aubyn Lite is still, well, St. Aubyn--no less brilliantly tight and crisp for the subject matter. And there's enough underlying commentary about art is and how it's recognized (i.e. a work of great art should, by definition, be original enough to defy the kind of comparison that an art award/competition requires) to give some welcome substance to the satire.
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