Some Dusty Old Stuff

1. When I heard about the discovery of a long-lost Lord Byron poem, I immediately thought of The Aspern Papers, a great novella by Henry James about a scholar who learns that an ancient lady living with her neice in Venice was once the lover of romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern (who seems to have been based on Byron). She is guarding a trove of lost writings by the poet, and the scholar comes up with a grand scheme to insinuate himself into the household and gain access to the papers. Because it’s a Henry James story, the scholar becomes unwittingly entangled in a pathetic and poignant romantic situation and the papers are forever lost.

Back in the real world, it seems the newly found poem was discovered by a librarian. There must be a juicy story hidden somewhere here, but nobody’s telling.

2. Apparently 20 publishers and agents fell for an old trick and failed to accept or recognize a previously published, award-winning V. S. Naipaul novel. I like agent/blogger Miss Snark’s spirited defense of her peers (“So we miss stuff. So fucking what.”), but I’ll go even further.

V. S. Naipaul is a boring author and I have never, ever, ever heard a real person speak with excitement about one of his books. I’ve cracked a couple open myself, and the stuff is instant sleep. Sure, he writes with dignity and precision, and according to Wikipedia he explores themes similar to those of Joseph Conrad. But people actually enjoy reading Joseph Conrad, and Naipaul has never mastered the art of captivating readers. The question isn’t why 20 publishers and agents rejected his novel, but rather why so many literary awards get handed to a writer who is as dull as any college professor you ever met.

And, no, I don’t care that he’s Sir V. S. Naipaul, either. It takes more than gravitas and elegant prose to make a writer matter.

13 Responses

  1. V.S. NaipaulMy mother read a
    V.S. Naipaul

    My mother read a V.S. Naipaul book last year because it was recommended to her by her brother. The enthusiasm for which it was recommended was genuine, and I can vouch for it because I was standing in the same room when they were talking about it. She read it and liked it so much that she recommended it to me.

    I, of course, chose not to read it because, well… that’s how I am.

    Anyway, sorry about your theory, but even though you didn’t actually hear my mother (or my uncle) talk (with enthusiasm!) about a V.S. Naipaul book, it did indeed happen. And you know my mother is a real person because you’ve met her. So there you go.

  2. Are you sure she wasn’t
    Are you sure she wasn’t getting V.S. confused with C.S. Lewis?

    I’m just asking.

  3. Okay then, that’s two for
    Okay then, that’s two for Naipaul. What book was it they were talking about? Maybe it’s the long-lost interesting Naipaul book I’ve never been able to find.

  4. ByronI’m looking forward to
    Byron

    I’m looking forward to hearing more as it unfolds. A.S. Byatt wrote something sort of similar with Possession, but then sadly it was turned into a god-i-wish-my-narcolepsy-would-kick-in-right-now film.

  5. the Naipaul thingjust reminds
    the Naipaul thing

    just reminds me that any given book can be accepted or rejected at any given time.

  6. Yeah, I agree with Bill here.
    Yeah, I agree with Bill here. I see the response to my own book. When I ask people how they liked it, some genuinely say they enjoyed it and couldn’t put it down (best possible compliment) and some hedged their answer by not really answering (worst possible criticism).

    In the end, reading boils down to plain old simple subjectivity.

    You either like a book, or you don’t.

    BTW – I’ve never read Naipaul, and you guys have pretty much assured that I won’t in the future – ha!

  7. Stevadore, I’m going to order
    Stevadore, I’m going to order your book tonight from Amazon.com!

    With everyone talking about what books they’ve read & what books they might read next, I think it’s high time us LitKickers started buying each other’s books.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly, Bill.
    I agree wholeheartedly, Bill. If we can’t support each other…. you know?

    I’ll be off now to visit your web page and others. I’m becoming more and more curious about the books offered here by these great underground writers.

  9. In defense of NaipaulHI, I
    In defense of Naipaul

    HI, I have only read one of Naipaul’s book : “The Mystic Masseur”. It was riddled with a desenchanted sentiment. But the guy can really be funny, believe it or not. He is apparently a secretive person and I have the idea that his books are hiding gems in a same way the author do in his real life. But he does sound bitter.

    It is worth your while to at least read one. He is asking some of the more important questions in life. I would not say it is boring but slow.

    I thought I would give him a second chance from what I read Paul Theroux saying about him. (Though I have not read yet “Sir Vidia’s Shadow”, and maybe never will)

    I am reading his last one “The Magic Seeds” and it is very promissing.

    Good reading and or writing to you,

    Mila (a new member)

  10. I finished “Magic Seeds” by
    I finished “Magic Seeds” by V.S Naipaul…I made me soemtimes think of JP Sartre in “La Nausee” (The nausea) by the fact that I felt that the notion of being ‘en trop’ (too much) was there… The hero made me think of Roquentin.

    It does have gems hidden in there. Like about memories or about being an independant thinker and take hold of ones life (or to get one).Because the hero lead sometimes a purposeless life. half a life…
    But it does has a slow moment 1) because of the situation : the hero is in the guerilla in the forest or in small villages and is often bored. 2) because the description of the scenes are very detailed.

    I can’t help but imagine how different his life would have been if he had returned to live in Trinidad. Trinidad isn’t so bad to my opinion. You have more “chances” to live a less meaningful life or empty life in rich countries than in Trinidad.
    But this is none of my business.

    I learned much about writing well by reading this book. Thanks Mr Vidia.

    Mlla

  11. HI, sorry for the typos, and
    HI, sorry for the typos, and errors …it was late and I am a french speaker…

    Mlla

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