“It was not admiration that would reconcile him to his father, or even the famously stubborn love of children for their parents, able to survive far worse fates than Patrick’s. The greenish faces of those drowning figures clinging to the edge of the Medusa’s raft haunted his imagination, and he did not always picture them from the raft, but often as enviably closer to it than he was. How many choked cursing? How many slipped under silently? How many survived a little longer by pressing on the shoulders of their drowning neighbors?”
Some Hope, Edward St. Aubyn
The Raft of the Medusa, Théodore Géricault
The second volume of Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose series contains some of the best and most realistic representations of drug use I have found in literature. The aristocratic Patrick Melrose, whose ancestors were on the winning side of the Battle of Hastings, flies to New York on the Concorde, sets himself up at the Pierre Hotel, and takes a cab down to Alphabet City to top off his heroin supply. It goes downhill from there.
If you are looking for an alternate view of the British aristocracy or if you consider the privileged class a haven for buggery and hard drugs, then Bad News is for you (but read the first volume, Never Mind, first).
For more on this compelling author and the complete Patrick Melrose series, see Edward St. Aubyn.
The funny thing about contemporary (and even some classical) literature is that it tends to be best know in the country of origin. I read a note online yesterday from an avid reader in Great Britain who confessed to never having read William Faulkner but was blown away by the intensity of Faulkner’s prose in one of his short works. Well, turn about is fair play: until a few weeks back I had never heard of Edward St. Aubyn but after reading his novel Never Mind I am intending to read all of his novels, especially The Patrick Melrose series.
Perhaps you haven’t been acquainted with St. Aubyn. One of the best biographical pieces I found on the internet was from the write-up of a German literary conference. This is just the first paragraph:
Edward St Aubyn was born in Cornwall in 1960 and grew up in England and the South of France. His family is of noble descent and he had a privileged, but troubled, upbringing. He attended the prestigious Westminster School and went on to study English at the University of Oxford. In 1992 he published the first two books of his trilogy, which follows the life of Patrick Melrose, his literary alter-ego. The unforgiving portrayal of the social class to which he belongs and the openly autobiographical background of the books were so controversial that the literary value and quality of the works were not immediately recognised. After his sixth novel was nominated for the Booker Prize and he was awarded the French Prix Fémina for a Foreign Novel following a French translation, many of his works were also translated into German, Italian and Spanish.
Continue reading “Patrick Melrose” →