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Reading And Writing: A Personal Account Hardcover – 1 Jul 2001

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 64 pages
  • Publisher: NYRB Collections; 1 edition (1 July 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0940322382
  • ISBN-13: 978-0940322387
  • Product Dimensions: 14.5 x 1.2 x 21 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,430,567 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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About the Author

V. S. Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932 and emigrated to England in 1950, when he won a scholarship to University College, Oxford. He is the author of many novels, including A House for Mr. Biswas, A Bend in the River, and In a Free State, which won the Booker Prize. He has also written several nonfiction works based on his travels, including India: A Million Mutinies Now and Beyond Belief: Islamic Excursions Among the Converted Peoples. He was knighted in 1990 and in 1993 was the first recipient of the David Cohen British Literature Prize.

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First Sentence
I WAS ELEVEN, no more, when the wish came to me to be a writer; and then very soon it was a settled ambition. Read the first page
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Mr. A. Maher on 26 Jun. 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you haven't read any of the author's writings before you should start with one of the novels or travel books. However, this reflective piece on the sources of Naipaul's inspiration is very interesting, and covers such topics as the significance of India, and colonial Trinidad's relative insignificance (from his point of view).
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
41 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Reding and Writing By V.S. Naipaul 10 July 2000
By Vishnu Gosine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
`Reading and Writing ` by V. S. Naipaul ( Pub. New York Review Of Books ,2000) A review by V. Ramsamooj Gosine.
In spite of its brevity, Reading and Writing ` by V.S.Naipaul is compulsive reading for anyone who is interested in the development of this writer and by extension other writers.
This short work of non-fiction ( 64 pages), examines critically the strands of history which have shaped and reshaped Naipaul's thoughts and ideas . For example, Naipaul pays glowing tribute to his father whom he saw writing patiently and enthusiastically. Little Vidia listened to his father read stories and this greatly influenced him . So much was Vidia influenced that at age 11 he had already decided that he wanted to become a writer. It was a noble thing and he wanted to be part of it.The book also sifts through memories of his childhood, his days at Oxford, and his earliest attempts at writing. We are all influenced by the landscape we grew up in. It is an inescapable fact and Naipaul is now sharing that experience with his readers, at the same time, he is looking at the material from a distance.
This reviewer would have preferred a longer work in which Naipaul develops his major concerns on which his imagination fed: the Ramlila of The Ramayan, his anthology of Literature, his father's love for books which he got Naipaul interested in , Mr Worm, his primary school teacher, and the cinema. The basic themes are there and only readers who are acquainted with the material could readily understand the discussion. Those who have lived outside the colonial system would have certain problems.
Not surprisingly, Naipaul thinks that education ( in his days ) produced only crammers , not real thinking men. This is the sort of opinion Naipaul forms when he analyses what he himself has been through.
Even after Naipaul had written his earlier books and was set on the road to becoming an established writer, he was still searching, examining and analysing everything around him , including definitions. One gets the strong feeling that Naipaul is not the sort of writer who readily accepts things easily. Evelyn Waugh defined fiction as ` experienced totally transformed ` while Joseph Conrad ( a writer Naipaul admires ) saw the novel as a `fabrication of events which properly speaking are accidents only.'
Naipaul questions and draws his own conclusions. In this way, he does nothing impulsively and accepts nothing without reservation , but shapes and reshapes. In parts of `Reading and Writing' Naipaul shares his own attitude to new raw material. And this is definitely worth looking at.
In this autobiographical piece, subtitled "A Personal Account,' and written for the Charles Douglas Home Memorial Trust, the reader may have stumbled upon bits and pieces of information before but Naipaul painstakingly organizes his information l in such a way that each idea contributes and guides the reader along.
`Reading and Writing' could be read in one sitting but truly , the work should be read slowly and meticulously. There is just so much to absorb and to consider if one is really to comprehend the mind of a great, gifted writer. Naipaul often presents different viewpoints , which invite the reader to weigh and consider just as he did when the material first presented itself to him. In this way, Naipaul admits the reader into the curious laboratory from which he emerged.
In Part II, Naipaul continues a discussion - the importance of the novel - which he has raised elsewhere. He focuses on the novel and its uses in the later 19th century and now wonders whether the novel has served its usefulness. Interestingly enough, he quotes long passages from Charles Dickens and R.K.Narayan and makes pronouncements on their fiction and in all this, Naipaul the enquirer is still engaging his mind in discussion. What `Reading and Writing' reveals more than anything else is that Naipaul, the artist, is always challenging his mind to get at the best. Serious writers , especially the young, should read closely his conclusions. Naipaul is not unfair. His roving critical eye would not permit him to write second rate pieces. It is the sort of standard he places on himself.
Naipaul thinks that,' Literature ,like all living art is always on the move....No literary form , the Shakespeare play, the essay, the work of history - can continue for a very long time at the same pitch of inspiration .' Harsh but realistic ! Is Naipaul then on a quest for another form to carry out his work ? And is he attempting to create a new form to mirror the world ? He partly answers the question in the new form he uses in his later travel books, (eg. India: A Million Mutinies Now ), but from all appearances ,he is still evolving something.
`Reading and Writing ` opens up a new world for us to examine. It is not the world he created but it is colonial Trinidad , India and Motherland , England. This is certainly not a text to be rushed through, short as it may be, but it certainly gives an insight into Naipaul, the writer.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
The author as an enigma 7 Nov. 2002
By Matthew J. Lambert - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was introduced to V.S. Naipaul a number of years ago principally through his non-fiction. He is an elegant writer with unique perspective and insights. Although his unusual background is well-known to his audience, the first half of this spare book (64 pages) focuses on how his desire to become a writer ultimately developed substance. There are some wonderful passages about his father's habit of reading portions of books to his son that emphasized the particular qualities or character of the author. I found myself wanting to learn more about this relationship because it seems that it explains a good deal about Naipual's interests and his style.
The second portion of the book is a bit more disjointed. It opens with Naipaul speaking about the two Indias: the political India (of Ghandi and the freedom movement) and the personal India (of his grandparents)and how it has been represented in literature and how that representation misses the essence of the country. The final portion is an interesting analysis of the evolution of the novel and how Naipaul views it as a derivative form that is nearing the end of what it can do.
The first half of the boook was the most valuable to me as it added to my understanding of the writer and his craft and particularly about Naipaul as an artist. If you enjoy his work this should be of interest to you.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A writer explains what writing is to him 23 Oct. 2011
By Shalom Freedman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
V.S. Naipul describes in this work his early years, his decision to at the age of eleven become a writer, the kind of reading he did at that time, the influence of his journalist father upon him. He tells of how the outsider child by hard work in colonial Trinidad won the scholarship that brought him to Oxford. He tells of the time of his poverty after Oxford and his discovery of himself as a writer. He tells too of the various worlds from which he came the world especially of those Indians who brought with them a great literary and religious tradition and saw it somehow diminished in their new world. He tells of how he found his voice as a novelist and then even as a success understood that he had to write in other forms if he was to continue to explore and discover reality as he needed to. He tells of his work in Travel writing and how this helped him discover in speaking with others something of his own voice as a writer. He also of course speaks about those writers that have influenced him, Dickens,Conrad, Narayan and underlines how important the Cinema has been to his understanding and exploration of reality. Naipul is in a sense an idiosyncratic voice, and one which often has a sharp, satirical edge. These two essays give real insight into how he became the writer he is, and what he looked to be in writing.
This is a highly recommended work.
1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Random 11 April 2002
By Ryan - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I listened to Naipaul's nobel lecture, and found many of the things he touched on in that speech echoed in this short work. Naipaul speaks at length about growing up in Trinidad, and of the people he encounters. He speaks about his education. He also speaks about his father's short stories. Reading this book gives one a good sense of what led Naipaul to his first novels, as well as what led him to his later ones. The somewhat puzzling ending wraps up the writer's pessimism re: the future of the novel, which I found disingenuous. It's both unconvincing and the ultimate ingratitude to the form that won him the Nobel Prize.
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