I've just finished reading Paul Theroux's SIR VIDIA'S SHADOW
and am still tingling with pleasure. I have always liked Theroux as a writer and look forward to his books but for some reason never got around to reading this one when it came out in 1998/99. Perhaps because I was not interested enough in VS Naipaul to care that they'd apparently had a falling out; perhaps because the reviews suggested that Theroux exposed himself as spiteful and small-minded while criticizing a famous lit-giant.
I am glad now that I waited to read it because in the intervening years I have read several new books by Theroux but only the odd word or two by Naipaul. The fact that the latter was finally awarded a Nobel changes nothing: I don't choose my reading based on prizes. I read 'SHADOW as if it were a murder mystery -- but with a friendship rather than a corpse at the heart of the mystery.
I would say that it's a must-read for anyone who is interested in books and literature, in writers and their lives. Theroux does expose himself -- and that is what makes this such an unusual book -- it's like reading the diary of an intelligent, well-read and sophisticated lover who has been jilted in the most atrocious way and then, in the way of ALL lovers, intelligent or not, cannot stop himself from screaming his heart out. The entire book is a very well-articulated, superbly crafted scream of deep, unquenchable heart-hurt. The pain of a lost friendship IS often more unbearable than the loss of romantic/sexual/conjugal love because it very often involves betrayals at levels that the loser does not even know existed until they are revealed.
It is a wonderful book, better than any fiction. Go on, then: run out and buy it/borrow it/read it AT ONCE.