Saturday, March 18, 2017

Review: "A Clue to the Exit" by Edward St. Aubyn

I have said many times before that Edward St. Aubyn is my favorite English writer, and the best, in my opinion. No one even comes close: Barnes and Amis bore me to tears, and Ian McEwan, if his latest novel Nutshell is any indication, can’t seem to write an interesting or decent book. I find a lot in Aubyn and his most famous creation, The Patrick Melrose Novels. Over the course of five novels, we see the character of Patrick become a victim and a victimizer, sober and clean, vengeful and vindictive and quietly forgiving. They are a cherished work of art that should be sought out by any bibliophile worth their weight in paper and ink. His novels outside of them aren’t nearly as good though, with Lost for Words, his most recent one, being a fun read, and the less said about On the Edge the better. And this one, which is perplexing but very fascinating, might be the best one outside the Melrose cycle of novels. It begins as Charlie, a successful screenwriter and borderline libertine, is diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and given six months to live. He decides to use that time to writer a novel about death and consciousness while coming in contact with a woman named Angelique, whose gambling problem and appetite for destruction matches Charlie’s. The book is a deadpan fiesta, filled with brutal barbs and quips that only Aubyn could dish out. It doesn’t matter if it all makes sense, or if the book he is writing is a piece of crap (most other character’s reactions indicate that it is), this weird, 185 page journey through one man’s last days is filled with bizarre character’s like the Maestro and his boring films, and a truly confounding ending. This is Aubyn having a little fun outside of the harrowing Melrose world, and because of that, the reader is having fun too.

Rating: 4/5

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