I’m reading Sir Vidia’s Shadow, Paul Theroux’s book about his friendship(?) with V S Naipaul. It’s excellent. I think some of it is true. Here’s Naipaul as the writer in residence at a university in Uganda, giving critical feedback to students who showed him their work for appraisal:
“Really.” Vidia found the boy’s eyes and ﬁxed them with his weary
stare. He said, “Don’t write any more poems. I really don’t think you
should. Your gifts lie in some other direction. A story, perhaps. Now,
promise me you won’t write any more poems.”
The boy shook his head and made the promise in a halting voice.
He went away baﬁled and dejected.
“Did you see how relieved he was?” Vidia said. “He was glad I told
Vidia rubbed his hands and disposed of other students in the same
fashion. I was surprised when he agreed to be the judge of a univer-
sity literary competition, but he carried out his duties his own way.
He insisted that there be only one prize, called Third Prize, because
the entries were so bad there could be no ﬁrst and second prizes.
“Make it absolutely clear that this is Third Prize,” he told the
people in the English Department.