Sunday, January 30, 2011


The Lit zone is the new hot spot. If earlier it was Rohit Bal taking his shirt that caught your pg 3 eye, now it'll be William Dalrymple like a big dervish(thankfully with his kurta on)doing the trick. There's a new influx of babalogs and Beautiful People in the earlier boring world of book events. The truth is: even the writers look smarter and prettier these days. With a dash of Brechtian 'temporary suspension of disbelief', you could be at a Taj hotel attending not the lunch of the winter collection of Tarun Tihalini but at the lunch of Rana Dasgupta's new novel.

Of course, it's from a story of an Indian daily's culture page, done by a literary savvy scribe. Take note of the tone of the writer. He seems to take great delight in reporting Dalrymple's trick, new influx of 'babalogs and Beautiful People'(who never read literature) in the book events, and glamorous book lunches.

Alas, this sums up the literary scenario in India and elsewhere, courtesy the new culture that free market economy has fostered. Literature is now touted as gliterature. Would you laugh or worry?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Jaipur Lit Festival & William Dalrymple

The article is more than a fortnight old, but since the Jaipur Lit Festival is still on, it's not stale yet, featuring as it does William Dalrymple, "the pompous literary arbiter of literary merit in India", who calls the shot as its director.

It is not for nothing that over the recent past, Dalrymple has been in conversation with authors as diverse as Tishani Doshi (though a romance linking Wales and Gujarat is perhaps a fit setting for him) and Sonia Faleiro (what could Dalrymple have to contribute to the Bar Girls of Bombay?; on the evidence of the evening, not much). Symbols matter, and if Dalrymple appears central to our literary culture, it says something far more damaging about us than about him.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literary Festival or Fashion Week?

Some literary festivals have become the Bombay Times party of the book world. Not surprising, considering that some writers now get more advances than models. With money and fame both at their feet, the literati is no different from the glitterati. This is why even those whose bedtime reading is their credit card statement will elbow their way to the DPC Jaipur Literary Festival opening this Friday. It has evolved into a new genre of Fashion Week. Everyone is turned out in intellectual chic, or the bohemian Dalrumpled look.

From Jaipur to Kolkata, this is the season of literary festivals all across India. I know no one better to give a low-down on them than Bachi Karkaria, that fabulous columnist, with her cutting wit and humour.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Roberto Bolano on literature and exile

"Literature and exile, I think, are two sides of the same coin, our fate placed in the hands of chance. "I don't have to leave my house to see the world," says the Tao Te Ching, yet even when one doesn't leave one's house, exile and banishment make their presence felt from the start. Kafka's oeuvre, the most illuminating and terrible (and also the humblest) of the twentieth century, proves this exhaustively."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Oh, the Joy of reading Haruki Murakami!

I've begun the new year with Haruki Murakami, and want to read his works exclusively this year. For a while now, Murakami has captured my attention and interest. Last year, it was Roberto Bolano who piqued me this way.

The Murakami book that I just finished was After the Quake, a collection of six short stories. I read one story a day, and though I was tempted to begin the next one, I decidedly held back. Each story had its resonance, and I needed to live it in full. For three stories, I jotted down my impressions there and then.

Thailand: A wonderful story about man-woman relationship in today's hectic world. The metaphor of polar bears is just as apt and brilliant.

All God's Children Can Dance: It's about a young man who seeks his biological father in vain. Offers great insights into religion (Christianity) and sexuality.

Super-Frog Saves Tokyo: An amazing story of Katagiri, an average Japanese ("All I do is eat, sleep and shit"), who fought his battle - not in real terms though - to save his beloved city from an earthquake.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Helon Habila interview

"People should not compare ours with the generation of Chinua Achebe. Our content is not the same. It is not this generation that will judge us. This generation judges the books written 50 years ago. Likewise we shall be judged by the next generation maybe in another 50 years."

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