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A TURN IN THE SOUTH - 1989

This book like Finding the Center may have come at a time in V S Naipaul’s career when anything he wrote generated attention. The reviews were interesting. Clifford T. Manlove compares the mature “wiser impressions” of Henry James and V S Naipaul: “From James's point of view, the American South appears European, with a peculiarly classical look, which is reproachful of New England and commercial America generally. Standing in another corner, Naipaul reports the Caribbean and African speaking instead, though veiled by “white civilization,” what he calls the southern “religion of the past”” (38-39). Laurie Langbauer argues that many narratives have continued to portray the American South as a place of “futility, uncertainty, or doom” (11). Richard King feels that the book is “More generous, less eager to sneer and scorn; near the end of an extended excavation of his own life.” Peter Kuryla reads the book as a post-civil rights text where “Naipaul reaches the conclusion that African American communities and their institutions, the wellsprings of the movement, which were created and sustained under segregation, now find themselves threatened with extinction.” John Shelton Reed writes that Naipaul “reflects on how historical memory weighs differently on blacks and whites and speculates about the effects of persisting frontier conditions on everything from honor to obesity.” Eugene Genovese comments: “Naipaul lets conservatives and liberals, whites and blacks, men and women speak for themselves, and reveal the dark side of the story in their own ways.” Nell Painter makes the point that “Naipaul’s American South belongs to the larger past of plantation societies and coerced labor, to a developing world full of losers.” Instead, Rob Nixon argues: “His first American book, it brought him unexpectedly face-to-face with his Trinidadian ancestry and childhood. The bonds he discovered between the South and Trinidad— bonds of slavery, racial conflict, and plantation society— stirred in him a mixture of anguish and serendipity.”