BOOKS: Literary Platypus V.S.

Naipaul's A Way in the World is an odd -- and unsuccessful -- hybrid of fiction, autobiography and history

In V.S. Naipaul's new book, A Way in the World, chapters based on the author's life precede chapters about Sir Walter Raleigh and Francisco de Miranda, the failed 19th century Venezuelan revolutionary. When published first in England, the work was subtitled A Sequence. The U.S. edition (Knopf; 380 pages; $23) has been redesignated A Novel. Why not? Border disputes between fiction and nonfiction grow drearier, while writers keep declaring their independence with new ways of telling their stories. Besides, calling Naipaul's 23rd book a novel is easier than calling it what it is: a patterning of autobiographical and historical narratives.

Naipaul...

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