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The author (VS Naipaul) slates Dickens for his "repetitiveness" and cites the experience of reading Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey as a revelatory one.

"I thought halfway through the book, 'Here am I, a grown man reading about this terrible vapid woman and her so-called love life.'

"I said to myself, 'What am I doing with this material? This is for somebody else, really."


It's funny how the article states that "Naipaul attacks literary giants" when, really, I think he's being perfectly reasonable with Austen. I had the same experience when reading Emma.


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Mar. 29th, 2006 11:05 pm (UTC)
Which would be fair enough, right up to the moment that Naipaul fails to apply the same standards, the demand that no significant writer ever be flawed or irritating. to his own work...Someone once said that a novel is an extended piece of prose fiction with something wrong with it.

The Jane Austen issue is a particular point though. Part of the issue is that she is someone who grabs you at a particular point in life and is best not read early. One of her strengths is a bitter jaded but ultimately observation of humanity which is not the same thing at all as the worldweariness of one's teens and early twenties. She has a classical mind and you have to come out the other side of Romanticism to like her. Plus, she avoids big themes and loudness.

I remember trying Emma in my teens and not liking it at all, teaching it in my twenties and feeling, well, this is beautifully put together, but cold and unimportant, and reading it in my thirtie and forties and feeling oh my god, I am that silly smug arrogant girl and this is how I have treated people all my life and why don't people hate me?
Mar. 29th, 2006 11:26 pm (UTC)
heh. maybe i'll try reading it again in my thirties (or forties, i could wait). i read EMMA in high school and didn't like it, read part of it again in my twenties and thought the writing was nice, but that i just didn't care about characters--that i was reading about a vapid woman's love life, as naipaul says, and that it just wasn't for me. that i was probably better off reading other things.
Mar. 30th, 2006 12:29 am (UTC)
load o' rubbish
That's an odd criticism (vapid love life) to make of Northanger Abbey since it's in part a satire of Gothic novels (Mrs Radcliffe et al.) and their bodice-twisting, vacuous heroines. I've never read Emma.

Reading the article I do think V.S. Naipaul is full of shit. Of course, James, Joyce, Forster, Dickens and Austen are all crap. I've only ever read A House for Mr Biswas by Naipaul and it certainly didn't grab me more than the stuff I've read by the people he's criticising with wanton abandon.
Mar. 30th, 2006 12:38 am (UTC)
Re: load o' rubbish
oh, i don't think he was offering that much of a criticism of those books, just saying he didn't like them. he has criticised, before, from memory, but in this one, i was just interested in his comment of saying, 'surely this is for someone other than me.'

i've never read any naipaul, myself. perhaps i will now that trash fantasy week appears to be over.
Mar. 30th, 2006 08:56 am (UTC)
Re: load o' rubbish
If you're seriously going for Naipaul don't go for Half a Life as that's pretty dull.
Mar. 30th, 2006 08:58 am (UTC)
Re: load o' rubbish
Been reading a lot of anti-Dickens stuff recently and although I can accept that he can be a bit tough going, he was pretty radical in his time and he really makes you think about whether we have moved on as much as we think we have.
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