Doppler

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A Year in Reading: Alix Ohlin

2012 was the year of Edward St. Aubyn for me. I started reading his Patrick Melrose novels (the first four of which were published in a collected edition by Picador in January) and couldn’t stop. The series follows Patrick from his privileged, abusive childhood in France through a drug-saturated trip into the abyss in New York City to his first faltering steps towards adulthood in England. The prose is brutal, elegant, acidly funny. No one is spared — not Patrick’s selfish, weak-willed parents, not even his pitiful childhood self. Although the novels sketch a corrosive portrait of life among England’s upper class, the affections and failures they present also feel universal. I don’t think I’ve ever read books so utterly lacking in sentiment, and yet so completely heartbreaking.

Other books I read and enjoyed this year include Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine, a caustic, unrelenting look at failure, featuring an ill-fated parrot; Kevin Young’s wide-ranging, beautifully written book of cultural criticism, The Grey Album; Elaine Dundy’s The Dud Avocado, as fresh and funny on American expat life in Paris as it must have been when it was first published in 1958; and Doppler, a brief sort-of-comic parable by the Norwegian writer Erlend Loe, about a man who, after getting hit on the head, decides to live in the woods and hang out with a moose named Bongo.

More from A Year in Reading 2012

Don’t miss: A Year in Reading 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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