Criticism & Features

NBCC Reads

NBCC Good Reads 3 [The Long Tail]  Tim Jeal Recommends…


This year’s NBCC award winner in biography, Tim Jeal, had this suggestion for the NBCC Good Reads Spring 2008 list, recommendations by NBCC members, awards winners and finalists:

I’ve recently read two new novels but think neither good enough to recommend, but I have also read Patrick French’s marvellous life of V.S.Naipaul,* “The World Is What It Is,” and have no hesitation in recommending it. Though French portrays the great novelist as having been deliberately exploitative and casually cruel and to his first wife and to his longterm mistress, he lets his subject’s actions and words speak for themselves, and only moralizes once or twice in extreme circumstances. Naipaul himself tells the truth, as he sees it, fearlessly in his own writings, and in allowing French to do the same about his life, he shows extraordinary courage. I wonder whether people who read this perceptive and startlingly revealing biography will be able to read Naipaul’s novels afterward in the same innocent, unselfconscious way that was possible for an earlier generation of readers.  Over time, I am sure the novels will survive, despite their author’s warts.—Tim Jeal

*due out in the US in November 2008