Saturday, June 02, 2007

Bad News Is Good News

I once said on this blog everybody should read Elfriede Jelinek. I am still of the opinion, although I have yet to read another of her books (Piano Teacher being the one I did read, almost in one awed-horrified sitting) - her writing is stunningly brilliant, yet somehow so ragingly bent on exposing the combined brutality and pettiness of people that I knew a little would go a long way, that I wouldn't need (couldn't face?) to read another one for quite some time.

I have no idea why I opened this post with Elfriede Jelinek, when actually I wanted to sing the praises of Edward St Aubyn.

Better get on with it then. Last year, I was quite blown away by E St A's Mother's Milk, a truly unexpected find at the open-atriumed tropical library in Hilo, Hawai'i. Now, a couple of days ago, I picked through a discount box at a second-hand book store and lo, I found E St A's Bad News, for the silly price of 1 €. A euro! What a bargain. I love his writing - cannot emphasise this enough. A critic on the back cover of the book describes it as "savagely funny" and I have to concur, but I would add it describes pain from the inside, with absolute accuracy and honesty, with the been-there of someone who actually has, who is not fabulating - not just a book about addiction, I think, rather (or also) a book about pain. A fascinating topic, wouldn't you agree? and beautifully, smoothly, richly written, with original turns of phrase hitting you in the eye every few sentence. And funny, yes, very funny. By Mother's Milk, as I recall (I would really need to own that book too), he has developed a tenderness, if not a forgiving then certainly a humane understanding for his characters and their human failings, their follies, their smallness. I think this is my Jelinek chain of associations, actually - she is terribly unforgiving, at least in Piano Teacher.

E St A hasn't been translated into Finnish yet (any Finnish publisher reading this, don't hesitate to get in touch with me, I'll do it).


Tom S said...

'Bad News' is the second book in a trilogy by St. Aubyn; the trilogy starts with a young Patrick Melrose (aged about 5); the second part is Bad News; and, finally, in the last part we find Patrick on the road to redemption. It's called 'Some Hope' and it's easy to buy on the net and essential reading if you liked 'Bad News'.

Anna MR said...

Hei Tom S (I wonder if you're the Tom S I went to school with? Nah, the likelihood of that is minute I'm sure), thank you. I knew "Bad News" was the middle part of a trilogy - just haven't got round to ordering the other parts from anywhere, be it library or online (I am trying not to get into online book shopping, as that way lies doom). Anyway, thanks for that. Did you read/like "Mother's Milk"?

Feel most welcome to come back again, whenever you feel like it, Tom S, on any thread that grabs your fancy.