Edward St Aubyn Discusses Winning the Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction
Posted on May 20, 2014
NPR's Terry Gross interviewed author Edward St Aubyn. St. Aubyn just won the 2014 Wodehouse prize, the UK's only literary prize for comic fiction which is named for P.G. Wodehouse, creator of Jeeves and Bertie Wooster. The novel, Lost for Words, is a satire about Britain's book awards. St. Aubyn, who had never written comedy before, beat out Sebastian Faulks' authorized Wodehouse sequel Jeeves and the Wedding Bells which was a bit of a shocker. The judges described St Aubyn's novel as a "wonderfully funny send up of literary prizes and ... contemporary cultural life".Before he wrote Lost Words, St Aubyn published five semi-autobiographical novels. The lead characters is Patrick Melrose, who grew up in a wealthy family full of terrible, abusive people. The novels are dark and have terrible things happen to the lead character, which makes St. Aubyn's Wodehouse win all the more interesting.
St. Aubyn's new book is quite a departure for him from his prior work. He told NPR, The [personal] contract under which I originally wrote Never Mind, my first novel, was rather a drastic one. I tried writing three or four novels up to that point and I never completed them, and I'd thrown them away. And I made a deal with myself that I would either write a novel and get it published or commit suicide."
St. Aubyn got the novel published and felt that that type of novel worked for him so he kept at it, although he says he was "very unhappy at that time." By the time he got to his eigth novel he wanted to try something different, something funny. He says he asked himself, "Can I write a book I enjoy writing and which people enjoy reading?" The answer appears to be a resounding yes.