Friday, January 28, 2011

Literature without the books that comprise it

Excellent post here by Chandrahas about Open magazine's slapdash approach to literary journalism. I've been a fan of Manu Joseph's writing for a long time (and was part of a jury that took approximately 45 seconds to give the Hindu Fiction Award to his novel Serious Men) - in his own work, he shows a sharp eye for detail as well as a natural talent for shaking up long-held notions and providing an off-kilter view of familiar things. But some of the magazine's recent editorial pieces about literature have read like watercooler chats gone awry; forced attempts to be sensationalistic for the sake of it, without thinking an argument through. (When someone sweepingly dismisses books that he hasn't actually read on the basis that the titles "speak for themselves" ... well, I'll just be polite and say that I sweepingly dismiss his rant after having at least done it the courtesy of reading it.) I hope the magazine becomes a little more discriminating soon.

(To Open's credit, it also ran this candid and to-the-point piece by Pramod Kumar KG, the director of the first Jaipur Literature Festival in 2006 - an event that Chandrahas and I attended back when the world was younger and more innocent. Here's a short interview I did with Pramod exactly five years ago today.)

And Chandrahas's observation about tabloidish journalism during the Jaipur lit-fest is spot-on too; more than once, I got the impression that young reporters had been given the brief to cut well-known authors down a peg or two because it would make for piquant copy. Tch.

1 comment:

  1. That piece on Kiran Desai's interview that Chandrahas refers to - yes, it's catty, but it's also bang on. She did come across like a giggly airhead. He says that journos like that view "literature less as an autonomous entity with books at its centre, and more as a subset of the celebrity-and-entertainment-gossip industry" - substitute the JLF for the word literature in that para, and it is quite accurate in that the JLF does encourage a bit of the celebrity culture, so naturally the journos would too. Look at the sessions with Candace Bushnell this year and Chetan Bhagat last year - or the near stampede with the hindi lyricists - it was naked celebrity veneration, so can you really blame journos for poking fun at this? I think any serious minded journo would have found it difficult to write a serious minded piece on Kiran Desai's interview.