Thursday, November 03, 2005

Inscrutable readers - and reviewers

Here’s a characteristically acerbic review of the Chetan Bhagat book by Kishore Singh (who is my immediate boss, and who reads this blog - so maybe I’m setting myself up to be Dooced!). Not going to nitpick about the review (which is typical of what most critics will say about this book anyway), but here's a quick disclaimer: I never said the book was "brilliant" or "full of witty one-liners" (I’m the colleague referred to in the third para). For shame, Kishore! This is careless misquoting of the same sort as done by blog commenters who extrapolate a simple sentence like "This is an entertaining, fast-paced read" into "Jabberwock thinks this is a great book." (What I have said about it is still here for all to read.)

Just one other point regarding "this is a thoroughly entertaining read (oh, I give it that) but must it have pretensions to literature?" But of course it doesn’t. It probably wouldn’t be selling hundreds of thousands of copies if it did.


  1. granted that kishore singh is a fine writer (hey, i thoroughly enjoy his saturday column:).

    that doesn't give singh the licence to trash bhagat left, right and centre.

    or maybe, it does. a critic, after all, is there to crib :)

    what he fails to realise, however, is that the incestuous band of highbrow writers has absolutely nothing to do with the masses.

    they live in their own little ivory towers. but the towers are damn well networked with the publishers, critics, and basically the u-scratch-my-back-and-i-scratch-urs types.

    i learn that singh has his won little tower in that urban jungle (hey, no dope this: got to learn thru his columns).

    so his contempt for the bhagats / mathurs is understandable.

    he's entitled to his views. and he can crib abt them ad nauseam in the cocktail circuits he gets invited to, oh so often :)

    the bhagats in the meantime will emerge as the voice of a brave, new india.

    as for whether bhagat's work is a "literary masterpiece", he makes no bones aboutit. in almost all his interviews he says: "Mujhe zyada angrezi wangrezi nahin aati. I'm not here to impress the critics. my books are read. and that's the bottomline" (HT/other papers).

    raise a toast to bhagat, mr Singh. u've nothing to lose but ur brahminical pretensions :)



  2. CB is making money with his indi-english pulp book...that's what is making every1 jealous..the man never said that his book was 'litereature'...every1 comes up with tht angle...i don't think it is good abt a view on the current zeitgeistical mindset of the delhi youth which is making the book reviewer thinks and writes abt that..

  3. what i find remarkably puerile in this entire debate is the lack of thought that goes into typing words - much like bhagat's writing. whether one classifies literature as high/low brow, challenging/entertaining or whatever, by definition there has to be an artistic element in art - the contribution of creativity. obviously this implies an inherent subjectivity when it comes to literary criticism. my conception of art could be very different from yours, hence we should all sit in our own "ivory towers" and pronounce our judgements as soon as the latest book comes out. this subjectivity (un)fortunately bodes well for the critics who write these columns for newspapers, magazines and other cheat sheets. they will always find a certain critical mass that goes along with their verdict.

    apropos bhagat representing the "voice of brave new india" -methinks, such bravado should be wrapped up in a plastic bag and thrown down the yamuna..