Tuesday, August 26, 2008

10 reasons why you should read Arundhati Roy

Arundhati Roy is one single writer who has never disappointed me, and who always gives value for my time. I can read her any time any day. Give me a new Arundhati piece, and I'm into it in an instant, reading and savouring it word for word - literally. She is a window for me. She is my idea of a real writer.

So, what's it that draws me in? Or, why should you read her?

1. She has poetry in her prose. Or, music. If you love literature, you can't miss it.

2. She writes about sensitive, yet important subjects that other writers would carefully avoid for reasons of libel and/or personal security( e.g. globalisation, judiciary, dams, nuclear tests).

3. She has more brains for a writer, and is endowed with a sharp analytical mind.

4. She is a one-woman army and can take on the establishment without considering about the consequences.

5. She has astounding skill to garner facts and figures about India (the emerging superpower to some)and the world.

6. She is a rare independent writer with integrity, who is never afraid of asking questions.

7. She has great imagination to enrich her work.

8. She writes less, and never ever any crap - whether fiction or non-fiction.

9. She did not blush when people were clapping on her Booker award occasion.

10. She has no blog or any account on Facebook or You Tube.

Now, read Arundhati Roy's New Article at Outlook India magazine.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Sea of Poppies : Two readers

I have just finished Sea of Poppies and am on a high, the euphoric state that occurs when I have read a masterpiece for that is what this book is. It is perfection. And I am so glad to read that this is the first of a trilogy on which he is working already.

A sweeping, complex narrative, a large cast of characters and the most extraordinary use of language, combining 19th century Anglo-Indian with Bhojpuri, Bengali and Hindi with no concessions to Western readers. It is gripping stuff and I was mesmerised, eyes transfixed on the page. The story telling is so masterly without any hiccups or laboured prose, it carries one away as on the crest of a wave.

The last time I felt like this was on completing Midnight's Children in '81 just before the Booker Prize was announced and I did a victory dance in front of the telly and went to see Rushdie two days later. One could do that then!

I still haven't read In An Antique Land but will do so now. I am hooked.

I have no interest in Amitav Ghosh and his writing. I had only read Shadow Lines. I don't consider his writing to be literature. He works hard on his books, especially in terms of research. But that does not amount to literature. Besides, in the context of Indian apartheid and the opportunistic duplicity of writers, Ghosh included, I have no interest whatsoever in their output.

People like Ghosh write, an elaborate artifice, precisely to produce the kind of reaction you felt. But it has nothing to do with India. It does'nt come from there nor does it go there. And most of all, not only does it not contribute an iota to change in the apartheid situation, it only reinforces the charmed narcissism of the English-reading class.

(Source: my inbox. Names withdrawn because I've not sought their permission. My apologies.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Literary teddy bears!

"Do you believe Indian writers published by the West have conformed to a specific style?

Not so much a style as a certain formula, limitations on content, the expectation of a cultural- social-spiritual-exotic biriyani, good for an evening out for the White Masters, not too hot, not too aphrodisiac, an Anglofriendly masala, not politically or sexually impudent. Have you noticed that teddy bears don’t have sex organs? They want us to be their literary teddy bears, pettable and dispensable at will. I am an independent, autonomous human being with sex organs, and I refuse to be a Western reader’s teddy bear! But many of us oblige."

Guess who's talking. Not any familiar published Indian author, for sure. Note his in-your-face tone and style. One needs balls to talk like this. Here's a writer who is not bothered to be as as savvy, clever and politically correct as other Indian writers. He just speaks as he thinks and experiences. It is as simple as that. And it's not bullshit. It makes sense.

Richard Crasta writes quality books for his own literary pleasure, publishes them himself, and sells them too. Publishers and distributors have never favoured him, but he has his fans and some of his books are best sellers.

He's my idea of a writing geek.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The only book by Alexander Isayevich Solzhenitsyn I have read is Gulag Archipelago, and that too at a very young age when I had little experience of the real world. I remember I didn’t like the book much because it was more journalism and history than literature, and I found the writer very crass in his critcism of Vladimir Lenin, who he thought to be the person responsible for the vast system of prisons and labour camps in Russia.

But it was an awesome work in terms of first-hand testimony and primary documents of interrogation routines, prisoner indignities, camp massacres and other inhuman practices.

I’ve always wondered how, under constant surveillance of the KGB, he worked on this colossal book living in a camp with single-minded dedication and effort. He had to do his writing secretly, and as soon as he was done with a few pages of writing, he smuggled those pages onto his trusted friends scattered across the Soviet –to different friends at different times to save his work. This way he built up a huge, gigantic work – published later in three tomes from Paris.

He was an extra-ordinary dissident. He had amazing guts. He was a real writer.

If not for anything else, Solzhenitsyn would be remembered for this work alone.


Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn: The Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970

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