Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Hearing Naipaul at 92Y
V.S. Naipaul was climbing out of a cab when I approached the 92Y. He was a small man and leaned heavily on the arm of his bigger, younger wife. At the Y to promote his latest book The Masque of Africa, he read from the Gambon section, in which a French-educated biracial Gambonese lawyer speaks about the forest at the heart of African religions. Ultra-civilized himself, Naipaul read the account of magical rituals and secret rites in the voice of an interested but detached reporter, conveyed through prose at once transparent and artful. The interview segment was less successful, The interviewer asked convoluted questions but gave Naipaul too little time to respond. The questions were also too abstract. Last night tested Naipaul's faltering memory, but did not give the storyteller a chance to mesmerize.