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A Writer's People: Ways of Looking and Feeling

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  140 ratings  ·  31 reviews
V. S. Naipaul has always faced the challenges of "fitting one civilization to another." In A Writer's People, he takes us into this process of creative and intellectual assimilation, which has shaped both his writing and his life.

Naipaul discusses the writers to whom he was exposed early on—Derek Walcott, Gustave Flaubert, and his father, among them—and his first encounter
Paperback, 208 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by Vintage (first published 2007)
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(showing 1-30 of 295)
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Rajat Ubhaykar
Insightful, but a little too disjointed and self-indulgent, not to mention grumpy. Naipaul's famous scorn for other writers' work is on full display here, to the extent that one performs a double take upon seeing a stray word of praise [he heartily approves of Madame Bovary though, thankfully, but takes down Flaubert's historical novel Salambbo]. His uncharitable views on Anthony Powell, a renowned novelist and Naipaul's mentor and friend in England, for instance, are really quite vicious. In ad ...more
Words used to describe Naipaul's work in the jacket copy of this book: "Astonishing", "rich", "extraordinary", "compassionate", "rich", "elegant", "gentleness", "humour".

Words Naipaul uses to describe the work of other writers in this book: "Unwieldy", "ponderous", "overstated", "over-written", "shallow", "minor", "vain and mad".

'Nuff said.
Tanuj Solanki
The minor danger is that Naipaul, the Exile exemplar, might be himself turning into an 'over-written-about' country.

Otherwise, he does here serious harm to Anthony Powell's life-work, calls A Passage to India w/o meaning, destroys Flaubért's Salammbô, and educates about the making of Mahatma Gandhi.
Jigar Brahmbhatt
The piece I enjoyed the most in this collection of essays, all bound together by themes of looking and feeling, was about India, and it is amusingly titled: "Looking and not seeing - the Indian way".

Salim, a little known author of a book called Jeevan Darshan, leaves India and goes to Surinam back in the early 20th century. 20 years later a young Indian from South Africa returns to India with a vision of his own. Naipaul encounters a mattress-maker in the ancestral home of his grandmother in Tr
Usually I manage to resist reading a review before I read any book. But, when it is reviewed as the main article at the London Review of Books, it becomes incredibly hard to ignore. And impossible, either due to the reaction to it or because of my admiration for the writer, if it is a Naipaul book. Through such travails of reading the book after having read about it, and, amidst reverberating echoes of such canon-shots booming between the pages, I finished Naipaul's latest book Writer’s people - ...more
It's my fault to began reading V.S. Naipaul from his non-fiction essays not from his great novels awarded prestogious Nobel Prize. In the first non-fiction books I couldn't find the spirit of his genious, mastery of his language, marvelous gift og writing. After finishing this book, which was also collections of essays I must admit I had been wrong. I've found in it evidence of his talent, especially in descriptions, language – simple and accurate. And because of it the subject which was rather ...more
I started with this sometime back, and when work life got hectic, kept it aside, to pick up again recently, in two minds whether I should. I ended up rereading parts I had read, and while I was tempted to take away a star for Naipaul being what he is -- leaving a bad taste here and there, sweeping in his judgements here and there -- I'm going to keep all five, mainly because of the way he redeems himself in the last chapter, towards the end, where he mercilessly (well, that's to be expected of h ...more
V.S.Naipaul has always been interested in the disparate ways in which different cultures 'think' and 'see'. He has written about them at various times in his many books. This book is specially devoted to this subject. He deals with the way of 'seeing' by the Indian culture, by the British and by the Caribbean.
However, as he ages, Naipaul is not able to bring back his brilliance which was easy to see in his younger years. This book has some summary dismissals which do not do any good to him as a
Bookmarks Magazine

Critics have always, understandably, had a difficult time separating V. S. Naipaul's personality from his work, and the author's arrogance and solipsism often come under fire, particularly when he attacks fellow writers. For example, in an essay on fellow Nobel laureate and Trinidadian Derek Walcott, Naipaul questions his countryman's recent output. As the Philadelphia Inquirer points out, however, Naipaul "blithely ignores the fact that the same point has been made about his own work." A good m

General consensus is that I should look for the merits of this book beyond the apparent arrogance and malice of the author. But, frankly, even with arrogance and malice put aside - this book is very shallow and it is much less than what it could have been, considering the writer is so learned.

Don't get me wrong, book is very readable, I finished it in a day. But when I picked it, it expected to learn about writing, a writer's influences and so on. The book focuses on how a writer's outlook can
I enjoyed the critique of the other writers. However, as usual, I think it is a telescopic view and overgeneralization when it comes to extrapolating the view of the culture from the view of the writers. I somehow did not find the coherence that would tie one chapter to the other and come to a strong conclusion. The initial chapters were very interesting. However, did not understand what he wanted to say when he critiqued "The Autobiography of an unknown Indian"... or some such...
Naipaul has his sharp edges (During an interview with an author, he began a question, "But getting back to your wretched book—" ouch.) He also is a spectacular thinker and writer.

But the Flaubert portion of this writing baffles me. It seems to be him summarizing Flaubert's Salammbô in order to illustrate why it doesn't equal the brilliance of Madame Bovary.
A detailed summary as a criticism? odd.
Thomas Bousquet
I had never read a Naipaul's book - never even heard of him - before a flatmate, leaving my shared accommodation, passed this one onto me. This should act as a strong disclaimer of my understanding and appreciation this piece.

'A Writer's People' traces the life and literary output of a dozen of writers - of note or not - that have somehow stuck in Naipaul's mind: it ranges from Trinidad's authors I didn't know about to household name like Gandhi or Flaubert. Usually, this sort of exercises turns
Anthony Caplan
Interesting biographical information about Naipaul's humble beginnings in Trinidad. All the more remarkable, but understandable, is the brittle, somewhat pompous voice that develops over the years.
After reading this book and Finding the Centre back to back, I felt I had been unreasonable in thinking him arrogant. Showed me how media opinion tends to seep in.
It was interesting to learn about some of the South Asian diasporic writers that Naipaul discusses, but there is too little insight and too much bitterness.
This non-fiction is interesting since, I read somewhere, his aim is that his readers would enjoy reading his writing. I think this book is worth reading if you don't mind following his narration in which it might be tedious sometime but you'd learn something more from his unique information related to his "Ways of Looking and Feeling" as part of the book title.

For instance,

This had been an education in itself, training me out of my old idea that poetry dealt in declamation and obvious beauty: s
Harini Srinivasan
Naipaul's ways of looking and feeling are different and interesting. I really enjoyed all the chapters on India. He makes many acute observations about the country and its figures. His assessment of Gandhiji's true greatness is incisive. So are his snide and hilarious remarks about those he considers fake -- my word, not his -- like Nirad C. Chaudhuri and Vinobha Bhave. It's the sort of thing one would say only to a close friend, but Naipaul never bothers to be tactful or politically correct. Th ...more
Given the unquestionable talents at Naipaul's disposal, his decision to make this book a pulpit from which to deride now-deceased former friends is both a curious and a distasteful one.

As with all his works, a great deal of pleasure is to be taken from SOME of what he writes here; it is a shame he had to spoil the book with unprofessional- at the very least unbecoming- remarks.
David Inglesfield
I love Naipaul's gentle pace and human description. I have to say those who are deterred by his prickly personality I think miss the point - you can like the writing without liking the guy (whom of course I have never met).
Nallasivan V
A good book that talks about how writing is all about "seeing" things from a new perspective. The book does this mostly by analyzing writers ranging from flaubert to Derek Walcott to Mahatma Gandhi and explaining to us how their way of "seeing" is flawed. A good read if you can make some allowance for Naipaul's candidness and lack of sensibility when ripping apart other writers.
Naipaul has been more sympathetic to the Indians in this book than his earlier works like India:A Wounded Civilization and India a Million Mutinies.
Richard Goodman
Worth reading for Naipaul's affectionate tribute to Derek Walcott
Interesting glimpses on culture and writing. But it was dry.
fascinating beginning, boring middle, disappointing end
I don't care what anyone says, I like Naipaul!

Settling scores. Lovely essay on "Salammbo".
Not a very likeable man but a great writer
Ameet Singh
naipaul at his acerbic best
listened to audio CDs.
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Naipaul was born and raised in Trinidad, to which his grandfathers had emigrated from India as indentured servants. He is known for the wistfully comic early novels of Trinidad, the bleaker novels of a wider world remade by the passage of peoples, and the vigilant chronicles of his life and travels, all written in characteristic, widely admired, prose.

At 17, he won a Trinidad Government scholarshi
More about V.S. Naipaul...
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