BOOKS: PICK OF THE WEEK

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The Independent Culture
For 30 years, writer Paul Theroux (right) enjoyed an intense literary friendship with the cantankerous VS Naipaul. They met in 1966, when Naipaul was already a feted novelist. "He was stimulating and tiring to be with, like a brilliant, demanding child," writes Theroux. "But he seemed to like me."

Naipaul encouraged the young, unpublished Theroux, and as the years and landscapes passed by, they stuck together, becoming each other's confidants and editors. Then, in 1996, they shared a platform at the Hay on Wye Literature Festival, fell out, and Naipaul withdrew all contact. "Do we have something to discuss?" asked Theroux. "No," replied his mentor. "Take it on the chin and move on."

The mysterious affair has so rankled Theroux that on Thursday he risks another literary platform, at the National Theatre, to talk through that souring relationship, chronicled in his new book, Sir Vidia's Shadow: A Friendship Across Five Continents (Hamish Hamilton, pounds 17.99).

TS Eliot Poetry Prize winner Ciaran Carson makes the trip from Belfast to read at the Troubador on Monday. One of the real front-rankers in poetry, Carson dives down "the wormhole of memory" to retrieve remembered traces of his native city: the catapult expeditions to the Bog Meadows; the child's eye vision of sewer covers which seemed to be the portals to a parallel sub-universe; or the fistfuls of bolts, rivets and car keys which angrily rained down as "Belfast Confetti".

Follow the twisting thread of Carson's digressions to unpick a seam of glorious anecdotes from his long-lined shaggy dog narratives, such as "Dresden". The tale of twin brothers, living in a decrepit caravan surrounded by baroque pyramids of empty baked bean tins, Carson's virtuoso poem sees the men dusting down their memories of bombing Dresden, re-imagining the tinkling echoes of china shepherdesses, milkmaids and cherubs, cascading off their store-room shelves in an avalanche of porcelain. "Horse Boyle was called Horse Boyle because of his brother Mule," begins Carson, "Though why Mule was called Mule is anybody's guess."

Paul Theroux, Lyttleton, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 (0171-452 3000) Thurs, 6pm, pounds 3.50/pounds 2.50 concs

Ciaran Carson and Eva Salzman, The Troubador Coffee House, 265 Old Brompton Rd, London SW5 (0181-354 0660) Mon, 8pm, pounds 4/pounds 3 concs

Judith Palmer

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