Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Some interesting MR links
Tom Smith

Interesting stuff may often be found on the Marginal Revolution blog, though I find myself often out of sympathy with Tyler Cowen's various prejudices (he's much more of a middle of the road libertarian than I am).

But anyway -- here: V.S. Naipaul seems to have loved his cat more than his first wife. More understandable had he been a dog owner, but rather appalling in either event. Of course, it may be, had you known his wife and his cat, you would have forgiven him. But I doubt it, given what most cats are like. We are meant to regard Naipaul as a Great Writer, but I don't see it. He will be long forgotten when intelligent readers are still reading Jane Austen, whom he disses.  Naipaul's greatest accomplishment, it seems to me, is to have been born at precisely the right moment to take advantage of the emergence of the vogue for writers of color, any color, except white. His long list of things that he looks down his nose at, Oxford, people who tap their toes to music, lots of poor people everywhere, you name it, while at the same time being -- Thank God! A Writer from the (formerly known as) Third World! Just in Time! just goes to make him complex, I guess. But is there really any need to read more than one of his books? I never felt the need. Maybe I should try again. But honestly, I'd rather read Pride & Prejudice for the Nth time, and not because I'm some Austen fanatic either. At least her snobbery is innocent, while his is, oh, well, you know, he's very angry for having been born in Trinidad instead of Barclay Square or someplace, and out of that grows an elaborate, revenge-driven criticism of nearly everything.  The idea of taking one lumps with some grace seems not to have occurred to him. He may be an acquired taste, or maybe he's more a coerced taste, like some dish from some poor benighted country you are supposed to like, but actually find dreadful, though in Niapaul's case, it would be more insufferably bland than say, too spicy. I like it that he is supposed to be a conservative, but he comes across to me as more a great reader of what is lionizable in the UK's fervid lit-world and the conservatism more of a pose. That he doesn't like Muslims much hardly makes him Edmund Burke, given that he was born into a Hindu family. But at least he's not Martin Amis, in whom one is duty-bound to take no interest.

. . . Well, I see readers seem to like Naipaul quite a bit at Amazon, so maybe I am being unfair. I will try to read something of his, probably not the whole thing, and see if my early impressions were wrong.

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"A Bend in the River" is one of the best books I have ever read. I think you mischaracterize Naipaul's political personality; he dramatized the corruption of post-colonial Africa in a way that I think was unprecedented at the time. He is not a good writer now but he must have written five or ten books that were excellent. Not a bad record.

Posted by: Kieth | Dec 13, 2012 2:19:47 PM