Monday, April 18, 2005

The commercial side of books

Books don't need to be literary to be succeessful. We all know this. We see this every day. Da Vinci Code is such a super seller for such a long time now.

I often wonder, then, what is important? How do you know if a book is a success? What matters most? The readers' response? Sales? Reviews? The other issue is that of getting famous beyond the borders of your country. Is it important? Should it be actively sought? Or is it an automatic byeproduct of globalization? Premchand is India's greatest short story writer but who has heard of him outside India? And why did Naipaul travel to UK to become a writer?

On the other hand, there is the reader--the innocent reader. Writers write books for them. Publishers publish books for them. What do they think? What matters to them?

I guess all this marketing hype around books is so confusing for a normal reader. Is s/he succumbing to it? Why is everyone reading Harry Potter? These are some of the questions that have engaged my mind quite often.

I came across this interesting point of view while reading one of the blogs. An interview was mentioned there. It was novelist Mathew Branton's interview. Enjoyed reading his comments in The Independent.

He says: "It's because of this dumbing down, and our collusion in it, our acceptance of it, thinking that watching soaps every day is somehow authentic, thinking that buying chick-lit and lad-lit and Harry bloody Potter is okay because it's a meaningless holiday read, whatever. These things aren't okay. We're not Cool Britannia. We're a global laughing stock, with our Spice Girls and our Cockney gangster movies, and our artists who shit the bed and get paid for it, and our boarding-school wizards. And nothing else!"

6 comments:

bibliobibuli said...

Glad you're writing again, Zafar. Went off to read the whole Independent article - love this guy's attitude! And this line:

"If anyone is interested," he says, "then here is one small good thing. And what we need now from people is lots of small good things, because the big things are in a terrible bloody mess."

is so wise.

Zafar Anjum said...

Yes, this guy is damn interesting. I admire his courage. As of my writing again, I hope something keeps trickling down my pen. Imagine the fate of a guy who is practically in office from 9 to 9 six days a week! How can he do a blog regularly? But I try. We all try. Thanks for dropping by.

Shakeel Abedi said...

Commericialism is the product of our times. I am afraid we may not be able to escape its clutches.

But the literary - non literary has always fascinated me. I have read crap that has been called literary fiction, and Puzo's Godfather was not...

As you said, hardly anyone has ever heard of Munshi Premchand, and I read his stories with such awe. Or take the one one time wonders: Mirza Ruswa with Umrao Jaan Ada and Ahmed Alis's Twilight in Delhi...

Keep writing Zafar...

Maya said...

Hi Zafar,

Yes, keep writing. I used to visit your site every now and then and for some time there weren't any new additions and I thought, if Zafar doesn't write I don't have to either...hehe

But what you write is good. Thanx.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Shakeel Bhai for dropping by. Umrao Jaan was excellent. Your post has suddenly reminded me of the beautiful language (Urdu). Alas, I have nothing in Urdu here with me!

In humour I had also loved "Fasana-e Azad". God willing, one day I would like to do a comparative study of Pandit Ratan Nath Sharshar's Fasana-e Azada and Miguel Cervantes' Don Quixote.

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Maya. I will try to increase the frequency of posts. We should all inspire each other.