Thursday, June 29, 2006

Writer's blockheads

Some of the features in our city supplements, much like the great classics of literature, are worth revisiting - you discover something new each time you read them. With minimum comment, here are excerpts from the lead story in today’s HT City. It’s about...well, actually I’m not sure what it’s about, judge for yourself:
Gone are the days of the kurta-clad, jhola-sporting writers, who carried a sordid expression on the face to justify their ingenuity. The 21st century writers are a dynamic lot, who pursue writing as just another indulgence.
And ask them about their writing skills, [Ira] Trivedi says, “Writing is my forte, so writing a book for me isn’t completely out of the blues.”
Most perplexing of all, in a story that focuses on people who have day jobs as bankers/doctors etc and who don’t treat writing as a serious pursuit, is the sudden reference to Upamanyu Chatterjee (name misspelt, of course):
Anil Arora of Book Worm bookstore concurs, “Code Name God has done well for us and Upmanyu Chatterjee’s book is still selling even after years of publication.”
And here’s how the piece ends:

So got any idea? Get cracking on it, may be you end up being a millionaire!

(bold marks mine)


  1. who carried a sordid expression on the face to justify their ingenuity.

    Hahaha... but what does it mean? did he/she got confused with what "ingenuity" means?

    I have always wondered, do these city supplements have editors? or even writers? they sound as if they are auto-generated!!

  2. 1) You carry a sordid expression on your face.

    2) Could that article be on blogging?

    3) Please come to the defence of Indraprasth. It is under attack. I request and require your brilliant writing skills to counter those Western-Indian usurpers.

  3. I saw an Ila Trivedi's quote and moved to more interesting things like the movie schedule!

  4. This is a serious issue. The problem is most of these journalists come from Delhi, where the standard of education is really, really low, compared to a city like Bombay. So, when they come in as migrants desperate for work, they bring their inadequate degrees along, hence the shoddy work :( As for the writers from Bombay, they're too busy earning some serious money to bother about correcting copy.

  5. Please tell me there was a picture of a writer sporting a sordid expression. I'd like to know what one should look like the next time a sordid expression is called for.

  6. Upamanyu Chatterjee is an IAS office by day....

  7. I can just HEAR Ze Arora saying "Upamanyu" with a Punjabi accent, hence the mis-spelling of UC's name. Of course the person who erote the article had never heard of UC before ...


  8. I have a great idea. How about the moving and brilliant tale of someone gasping for air in the manner of goldfish out of their depths? It would only be writing what I know, for this is indeed how my face feels at the moment. Plus, it would totally justify my ingenuity.

  9. Cut Trivedi some slack. After all Shobaa aunty started with a sort of kiss-and-tell, albeit a fairly disappointing one with no real juicy bits.

    Give her 10 years, they'd be putting her on poco and pomo syllabii from here to San Francisco.

    I guess if articles like these can persuade Indian parents to stop haranguing their kids about how their wasting their time becoming writers, well it's all good.

  10. it is precisely writing of this sort, so candidly presented, almost proud of itself, that makes me want to drown myself in my little cup of morning coffee. sigh.

  11. Delicious, just delicious. Why are people complaining? This is original writing. Julia Moore and Daisy Ashford have some serious competition...

  12. Ira Trivedi writing a book is obviously not out of "the blues" (though it might induce the blues in some), but out of Jazz, maybe?

    HT has been leading the editorial bloopers stakes recently, second only the the unassailable leader, Mumbai Mirror. There was that "Wild wetty days" article, as you have no doubt read about. That was a masterpiece.

  13. I guess if articles like these can persuade Indian parents to stop haranguing their kids about how their wasting their time becoming writers, well it's all good.

    Swati: I’m completely against parents forbidding their kids from pursuing any (legally permissible) calling. But from my experiences working on the lit beat and being regularly bombarded with requests to review the most mediocre books, I have little sympathy for the thousands of people who delude themselves that they can write. The world has far too many terrible writers/wannabe writers as it is, and the blogosphere has made it worse - by turning nearly everyone into mini-celebs with their own idiot fan followings. (Btw, there’s the cue for my anonymous troll to post a comment here!)

  14. Oi Jai,
    Hilarious as the HT piece was, ponder this;

    There has indeed been a paradigm shift in that more people from unusual backgrounds are now attempting to write.

    It's true that most of these random hordes say "ingenuity" when they mean flatulence or "sordid" when they mean "sardinic" (as in a facila expression that resembles that of Mr Schnellenheimer of the Perfecto Zizzbaum Corp.)

    But some few of these may actually turn out to be decent writers. You cannot have people at the top of a pyramid unless the pyramid itself exists.

    So it's ultimately a good thing to have this trend for exactly the same reasons that it's good to have an academic system, which endures the churning out of gazillions of crappy papers. The really good stuff wouldn't happen without the random hordes of idiot PHD-seekers.

    And, give HT credit for spotting the trend. Too bad they got an illiterate to do the story! But admit it, it's a story you should have thought of and done yourself. Now you can't because it's already done and a repeat would be against all the canons of journalism.

  15. DD: I didn't have the welfare of the human species in mind when I put up the post (or the comment to Swati), only my own. As someone who has to regularly deal with writers and books that come from the bottom of the pyramid (and you and NSR know what this is like), I'd prefer it if everyone just decided to become pizza-chomping CAs or thugging lawyers or evil doctors instead of flinging their packaged word-turds in my face.

    ...a repeat would be against all the canons of journalism

    I'm assuming this was one of your tongue-in-cheek jokes. As you know, most journalism is nothing but recycled stories. So yes, I can still do the story and do it a lot better. But only when Wimbledon and this football thing are over.

  16. Interesting.. very very interesting..
    Jai: forwarding this link to the ed

  17. Wha...? You mean your editor doesn't read the front page stories? Anyway, while you're at it, also ask him/her about that recent story (another front-pager - I think it was about manuscripts being rewritten) where an inane quote was attributed to Rana Dasgupta when the reporter hadn't even spoken to him.

  18. * THAT issue has two sides to the story ...
    And the unnecessary mention of the self in the third person sort of swings my vote the other way

    * Of course she reads the front page. I'm sure she'd like a laugh at this Seinfeldish nitpicking

  19. Oh, that's cool then! I aim to humour before anything else (though Groucho Marx is my weapon of choice, Seinfeld being way after my time).

    And of course everything has two sides - otherwise we'd all be living on Möbius strips, and what would that be like...