Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Converstaion with Vikram Seth

Vikram Seth is touring the world promoting his latest work, Two Lives. A few weeks ago, he was in India and lots of his interviews appeared in the Indian media. Outlook magazine even published an interview in which Seth's mother also played a part (she also wrote a book that was published one or two years ago).

Now Seth is in the US and SAJAers Sreenath Sreenivasan, SAJA co-founder and Aseem Chhabra, SAJA board member, caught him in a web, err, a live webcast! The webcast is archived here. If you would rather read the conversation, go here.

I am quoting some interesting comments here:

On A Suitable Boy: "… the publisher asked, can we have a few more foreign characters to appeal to the foreign market… that’s why I was rather surprised that the… interminable book about a rather obscure period of Indian history in the ’50s… without war, without the assassination of prime ministers, without… much in the way of sex… without even a glossary… was successful outside India…"

On how does a small town writer make him- or herself heard? "I’m sorry, I don’t really know… the first book I wrote… [describes how his dad told him to go to the library and look up publishers, and he mailed unsolicited manuscripts which died unheralded and unmourned on the slush pile]… Finally an editor looked at a chapter or two… I didn’t have an agent in the beginning, and I didn’t know how to get one… when I wrote The Golden Gate, I didn’t think I could sell something as strange as that [a novel in verse] through an agent…
Try to write what you’re [compelled] to write, not what the market tells you… the market didn’t tell me to write a 300-page novel in verse. Selling a 60-page novel in verse would have been impossible, so why 300?… my own method of entering print was rather unorthodox…"

Got the point?

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