Tuesday, November 22, 2005

One post @ the risk of sounding like the fox

"A hungry fox passed below a fine bunch of grapes hanging high from a vine. After trying in vain to jump and reach for them he gave up, saying to himself as he walked off, 'the grapes looked ripe, but i see now they are quite sour."

This morning my sister sent me the link to a review for a 'popular' author's new Bestseller. She unfortunately received a copy of this 'best seller' from a well- meaning relative who knows she likes to 'read'. Ha. Did i say
unfortunately, her expression, not mine, i would like to hastily clarify.

Another book by the same
popular author was published sometime ago. Yet another well-meaning relative bought the book and gave it to B as a birthday present. The hapless soul thought he was giving B a relevant book, after all it featured his engineering school!

I have to confess i was excited when i heard about the 1st book. Seemed like the desi answer to Snapshots from Hell was finally here. Needless to say, i was getting a bit carried away. About 50 pages on, i was convinced, what's good sauce for goose is not always good sauce for the gander. Or vice versa. Bad editing not withstanding, I did attempt to labour on, but work and all that got in the way, so the book remained unfinished.

Once I attempted to discuss the pros and cons of the book with a friend, she responded with ' My husband who doesn't like to read, says this is a great book'! My point exactly!

Many months followed, as did a brilliant pr job by the author/his publishers. Suddenly this was the stuff dreams are made of! Not literary dreams, but marketing dreams certainly. Every now and then i heard people discuss this book, the intellectuals from their high horse, peeved with the quality of his writing. A former class of the author's, sorely referred to him as 'Vernie' (snobbish public school speak for those who don't speak English quite correctly, with plenty of unforced grammatical errors etc.
) Who would read this, he agonised.

But someone obviously did! Also, no matter how critical the reader / non-reader, everyone, just everyone, grudgingly admitting that the marketing plan was immaculate.

I have to admit though, for some time now i have been grappling with a basic dilemma. It probably started bothering me 5 years ago, when after attending a book reading with VS Naipaul at the Boston Public Library. In the q&a, he said that 'The study of English was becoming common and bastardized' A strong remark there, he was referring to the 'dumbing down' of literary courses in the UK, even in the hallowed portals of Oxbridge to make them more inclusive. Or relevant perhaps?

The reviewer echoes this in her article in Business Standard, 'He (the popular author) writes for a generation that sees very few reflections of its aims, heartbreaks and language in contemporary literature.'

So lower the bar, let others in, and stop being pretentious. Or does it mean, stop attempting to understand things that are difficult, let's play to the lowest common denominator? Let's sell instant novels - ' Bas, Do minute, aur chatpata swadisht kitab ' ? Another take - be more egalitarian, move over Hoi Oligoi, the Polloi are here!

As one fan of the popular author delightfully proclaims on yet another website (appropriately named mouthshut.com!) about his latest book, ON@TCC , ' His language is not heavy duty, story is filmy, and i read in 5 hours flat , man'.

See what i mean? Is it fair that my sister, larger groups of highbrow friends, and caustic, cerebral critics clip the poor popular author's wings in this manner?

I mean, that last comment there, isn't it just the stuff your literary dreams are made of?


Joe Berenguer said...
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