Is it just me (I !!), or are there other people in this world who think that R.K. Narayan is actually a very pedestrian writer? Three issues here.
If a man publishes books (as distinct from topical articles) in English, perhaps he should write English and not an Indian dialect? The great R.K.'s work is full of the very warts that I abhor - "am wanting", "was in the habit", passive voice. This might seem to be quibbling, but his language seldom rises above that of a competent clerk.
You there by the window ... I know what you're going to say. Style over substance? The man is a writer. I assume he has something to say, but then, so does my grocer. A writer is a craftsman. Or should be. Would you pay a carpenter for a botched-up cabinet on the grounds that his design was wonderful on paper? Ergo, if a man has a bushel-full of great ideas but lacks the ability or the effort to express them fluently, is he still worthy of praise?
One of my favourite themes, in keeping with my belief in the free market - a writer does not pay the reader, it's the other way around. Therefore it behooves the writer to work hard to retain the reader's interest. (This holds equally true for films, for music, for any form of creative art. I'd rather read Bill Bryson than Marcel Proust, rather watch "Notting Hill" than "The Others".) I'd say that RKN doesn't make the cut on this count. He is not a very good story-teller.
On the other hand, his books sell. Therefore he is a successful writer. But not, in my opinion, a good one. His acclaim may be the outcome of a good marketing machine. Or there may be hordes of retire civil servants and Southern gentlemen who buy his books because they feel comfortable and nostalgic. And are reassured that the English they use is acceptable, even good!
Point to ponder (thank you for the 50-year cliche, RD) - if one were to accept my premises, Dan Brown is a better writer than RKN. Hmmm. Back to the drawing board, fellas.