South lndia's most famous novelist writes about his provincial boyhood with subtlety, deftness and control. He recalls himself as a dreamy indolent child raising sand castles and mountain ranges in a corner of his grandmother's Madras garden with his whimsical and idiosyncratic first playmates, a monkey and a peacock. His gallery of characters expands with his educational horizons to include ""a soulless body of textbook prescribers."" R. K. has the good fortune to fail his university entrance exam, however, spends a serendipitous year in the school library exploring the world of English literature and, with ebullient adolescent overconfidence, begins to write. The development of his career, from first rejection slips to stage and movie mis-adaptations of his Malgudi novels, is recounted with ironic humor directed at poseurs, bureaucrats, cheats and parasites -- and a serene, sustaining love for his home and family. Narayan is a gifted storyteller and stylist, and his self-portrait of artistic genesis is in a classic, very English tradition.