Friday, December 03, 2004

“Golly gee! People read! Books!”

I have this recurring professional nightmare: on a 20-minute deadline, and with no research allowed, the Editor orders me to produce an overview of, let’s say, quantum physics or some such topic I’ve meticulously avoided thinking about for most of my life. I fancy the Times of India feels much the same way when it writes a story on books. I noted with alarm this morning that there was an article titled "Book, Line and Sinker" in the TOI’s city supplement, wherein the paper seems finally to have convinced itself that people do, in fact, read books and that this bizarre trend is on the upswing.

The first paragraph of this story is a masterful example of how an experience as commonplace (for some of us anyhow) as reading/book browsing can be prettily exoticised. Here goes:

"One would have thought that with TV, the Internet and other modes of entertainment hitting drawing rooms, reading books was a lost culture. Be surprised! For, most of Delhi’s well-known people, and the not-so-famous ones, have one thing in common: a passion for reading. Or to be more precise, the passion of just browsing through shelves after shelves of book at bookstores."

The above para is so rich in comic detail, it deserves multiple readings (which is apt I suppose for a story on the reading culture), just so you don’t miss anything out. (My personal favourite turn of phrase: "browsing through shelves after shelves of book...")

And later: "The classy among the rich and famous are fond of reading from various bookstores..."

This is probably what Alfred E Neuman meant about "rising to new depths", but I suppose one should at least allot points for intention. Me, I’m scribbling out that quantum physics piece now...


  1. hey, same article came out in cal times not so long back. what fun. with cal celebs of course. many of whom read your favourite, paolo coelho, and are therefore 'very into reading'
    they also had an article, when the booker nominations came out - but that was with quotes from delhi celebs, so i guess it was out in delhi first - about how indian writers werent getting enough booker nominations? why? why?
    like its the olympics or something.
    well, i have a cricket team ready for them if they want one...

  2. hey. sorry could not find the relevant post to reply (aka kids and religious beliefs) and well.. too long an explanation.
    it is scary how kids take on parents' beliefs without even questioning (eventually). enough anyways to turn one off parenting :)

    this post of your's reminded me of fahrenheit 451. (where did this article appear?) While reading that I gave the author credit for a fantastic imagination. A world without books! ha! but seeing how i get asked and that too often (how can u read a book? isnt it too fat?? how can u read fiction? i only read non fiction aka celentine prohecy!) i worry for them phew!
    may not be needed eh? trend revived and all.

  3. i remember this article. bombay times i think it was. actually digested it thn with th rest of the trash. thx for givin me back my sense of humor. ;)