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On The Edge


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Edward St Aubyn
On The Edge by Edward St Aubyn


What makes Edward St. Aubyn's satire about New Age soul-searchers so engaging is both his alarmingly familiar grasp of their rhetoric and his compassion for their angst. Ultimately, each of them is only searching for that simple, elusive quality of life: happiness. Peter Thorpe is a repressed, thirtysomething English merchant banker, in the Four Weddings and a Funeral mould of Englishman, who throws it all away to pursue his passion for a girl he spent three days in bed with but who is of no fixed address. Lured into the world of self-realisation by a chance remark of hers, trying to disguise his real reasons for being there, his quest takes him first to a commune in Scotland and finally to the Esalen Foundation in Northern California, where he meets an assortment of Americans at various stages of finding themselves. There are some wonderful comic set pieces: the anti-guru guru ranting his fire and brimstone sermon on psychic freedom; hippy child Crystal's recollections of being a nihilistic teenager, determined to stay awake until she dies; the difficulties of tantric sex. St. Aubyn's comical mastery of the phoney voices of the New Age never cheapens the underlying seriousness of the human mind's need to understand. -- Emily Ormond