What happens when you throw together a tight-assed author who has nothing at all interesting to say at his book launch with a gaggle of wide-eyed young journos who have to find some sort of peg for a story on this dull man? Answer: you get screaming headlines in the next day’s papers, all announcing that V S Naipaul has - gasp! - announced his retirement (most memorable, the HT City strapline that marries sensationalistic reporting with bad copy-editing to tell us: "Nobel Laureate Naipaul says Magic Seeds is the last book he has written"). Never mind that the man first "announced his retirement" years ago (simultaneously announcing the Death of the Novel), only to return with another novel, and now another one. Never mind too, that many book-lovers would frankly not consider his retirement all that much of a loss to the form he so decries.
So, for whatever it’s worth: I was at the Naipaul book launch on Thursday and can vouch that his statement of retirement was unaccompanied by "distraught gasps of horror", as was widely reported. (I did attempt a snort myself, but since I had a slight cold it turned into something more honk-ish.)
Now don’t inconvenience me by asking what peg I would’ve chosen if my editor had stuck me between a gun barrel and a deadline and insisted I file a piece on the thing. I was a disinterested observer that day, not a journo.