For the number of non-fiction books and essays I’ve read by V.S. Naipaul, I hadn’t tackled any of his novels. Having just finished A Bend in the River, I simply have to say that the man, whatever you think about his personal life and actions, knows how to write. After all the dross conatined in much of what passes for fiction today, it’s clear that standards do remain, and that the bar is set high. It’s amazing in particular to me how he maintains a balance between his characters’ personal narratives and the outside world.
In many of his essays he writes about immigrant Indians inability to look, to see the world around them. I’ve traveled to many places, lived among a variety of cultures and people, but I have this gnawing feeling that I don’t know how to look either. It’s a skill, for sure, and sitting behind a laptop at a cafe isn’t the way to develop a real sense of seeing, let’s be honest. I’m not sure what it takes…writing down observations? Learning names and details? Having an opinion about the small things around you?