Books: A Short, Painful Life

MR. STONE AND THE KNIGHTS COMPANION by V. S. Naipaul. 159 pages. Macmillan. $3.50.

This grotesque tale of a happy marriage has the unsettling effect on a reader of a stop-motion film, in which otherwise familiar flowers bud, blossom and decay in a few shallow breaths of a viewer's time.

Novelist Naipaul takes as his hero a 62-year-old bachelor, Mr. Stone, head librarian in a commercial firm, who treasures all the "uncreative years" of his life "comfortingly stacked away in his mind." But one day, sitting in the pub at lunchtime sipping his glass of...