Saturday, October 27, 2007

Bollywood Hollywired!

A few years ago, India's crossover queen Aishwarya Rai made it to the cover of the Time magazine. In India, it was then considered a nod to Bollywood's emerging international clout.

But recently, when Newsweek put Ronnie Screwala, a relatively newcomer Bollywood producer, on its cover, it signalled the marking of a new faultline in the world of entertainment business. More than a nod, it was a screaming acknowledgement that Bollywood had remarkably arrived on the international entertainment scene. It was time Hollywood, the world's richest and most influential film industry, took its minuscule contender, Bollywood, the world's largest producer of films, seriously!

On the other side, the news has brought a fresh bout of enthusiasm and excitement to Bollywood's upcoming directors, especially those who do not belong to the established film production houses such as Yashraj Films (Run by veteran filmmaker Yash Chopra and his son Aditya Chopra who produced India's biggest blockbuster ever, Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge), Dharma Productions (of Karan Johar of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kahbhi Khushi Kabhi Gham fame) or Factory (of filmmaker Ramgopal Varma, the maker of hits such as Satya and Sarkar), just to name a few.

Emerging Bollywood writer and director Anurag Kashyap (Black Friday, 2007; No Smoking, 2007) cried on his blog: "Believe me, there is going to be a change in order in this Hindi film industry. There definitely is a new wave, I have seen it coming, the world is also seeing it which is why Ronnie Screwwala is on the cover of NEWSWEEK and not Aishwarya Rai or Yashraj or Amitabh Bachchan."

For upcoming filmmakers like Anurag, entry of Hollywood symbolises the end of the tyranny of the status quo in Bollywood, for Bollywood's new blood wants an end of the dominance of the few "mom-and-pop" variety of filmmaking houses in the Hindi film industry.

Aiding them in this endeavour are the Hollywood studios. Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt once said that Bollywood is connected to Hollywood by some invisible umbilical cord. He was talking in terms of Hollywood's influence on Bollywood. Well, in the new century, the umbilical cord is becoming increasingly visible. And there are some cold reasons for this.

Bollywood has been seeing domestic and foreign boom in its reach and revenues. In 2006, India's film business grossed about $2 billion, up from $1.5 billion in 2004, reported The Newsweek. Revenue will leap to more than $4 billion over the next five years, forecasts PricewaterhouseCoopers. Bollywood’s gain in the overseas market is stupendous. Some Indian producers are realizing up to 30% of their total earnings from the overseas market. In Europe, Bollywood has increasingly taken the centrestage, getting quite popular in Germany, Poland, Russia, and England. The USA, Canada and UK are the major export destinations. Other territories such as Japan, South Africa, Mauritius, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East are fast becoming important markets for Indian films.

The game is getting global, the pie is increasing but Hollywood is not getting any of it.

For despite its presence for a long time, Hollywood could not increase its box office share in India's entertainment sector. In fact, Hollywood's market share on India's box office has been swinging between 5 and 8%. The only way it can increase its box office profits in India, they reckoned, is through financing Bollywood films. So, if you can't beat them, join them seems to be the idea behind this jockeying. That's why all these Hollywood giants are flocking to Bollywood.

But why now?

"Apart from the business angle which is the main angle," says Prakash Jha, a veteran Bollywood director and producer (Gangajal, 2001 and Apaharan, 2005), explaining the factors that is drawing Hollywood studios to Bollywood, "the Hollywood studios are also sort of trying to look at the consolidation of Indian production and distribution outlets, corporatisation and some kind of fiscal discipline. They are now surer of taking advantage of this."

With 11,000 domestic screens and millions of eager eyeballs, it is this whopping domestic and foreign success of Bollywood that is inspiring its filmmakers to thing big, think global. So, buyoed by Bollywood's success, when Indian filmmakers like Screwala start gunning for even Hollywood, the world takes note of them. It is remarkable that The Newsweek dubbed Indian film producer Ronnie Screwvala as "the front runner in the race to become Bollywood's Jack Warner—the man who began the transformation of parochial U.S. cinema into its modern global form." Screwvala, the man behind the super hit Rang De Basanti (2006), produced Mira Nair-directed The Namesake, and is now coproducing The Happening, a new sci-fi thriller directed by M. Night Shyamalan with a budget of $57 million. "Our ambition is to be a global Indian entertainment company—there's no reason we can't make big-budget Hollywood movies, too," Screwvala told The Newsweek.

Srewwala's rise has been spectacular. An impressed Disney has bought a 15 percent stake in his UTV for $14 million in 2006. UTV already has forged coproduction deals with Fox Searchlight and Sony Pictures, as well as with Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment.

But other players are also getting into the game in a big way. Sony Picture was the first to step in and its first film Saawariya, directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali is releasing in November during Diwali. Viacom has inked a 50-50 joint venture deal with Raghav Bahl, head of Network 18. The venture, called Viacom 18, will produce and distribute TV shows, digital media and (eventually) 10 to 12 movies a year. Together, they have raised $112 million from a London Stock Exchange flotation. Also, three Indian studios held IPOs in London this year, raising a combined $220 million.

Before Viacom jumped into the fray, Disney made a deal with Yash Raj Films in June to take both companies into India's growing CGI animation business. The deal is to make one cartoon film budgeted at $4 million-$10 million each year.

The latest Hollywood studio to gamble on the Bollywood game is, as Variety recently reported, Warner Bros. It is backing its first India production, the action comedy Made in China, to be directed by Nikhil Advani. At a budget of US$12 million, it will be the most expensive Bollywood film yet.

So, where would Bollywood go from here? Will it affect the nature of Bollywood's narratives that is the hallmark of Hindi films? "I don't think the variety of films is likely to change very much," says Jha.

Will then Hollywood's entry in Bollywood shake up the established production houses in Mumbai?

Jha does not think so. "No, they will continue to dominate because most of the times these collaborations would be with these corporate houses. Sanjay Leela Bhansali is collaborating with Sony Pictures. He's got a brand which is acceptable to the western market. Yash Chopra is also collaborating with them for animation films and multiple products. So, collaborations with big Indian production houses are bound to happen."

Unlike Kashyap, Jha is not sure if Hollywood studios will promote new talent in Bollywood. "The new talent is getting promoted by the India corporate houses anyway," he told Today. "You are seeing Percept Pictures or Adlab Films or Reliance Entertainment are working both with tried hands and also the new hands. All kinds of films are being made because now there are possibilities of exhibiting these films in terms of limited shows in multiplexes. That was the sort of thing which was not available previously."

Agrees Gitesh Pandya, the editor of United States-based and a film commentator on CNN: “As more companies from both countries tie up and make films together, we will probably see bigger and better films, especially if the projects involve the most talented filmmakers. New filmmakers will have more opportunities, but those who have been making films for generations will still have their place in the business.”

Whatever way the ball swings, it is great time for Bollywood filmmakers, for they would make hay (and some good movies too) while the sun shines. And most importantly, Bollywood might not barter its spicy grand narrative style for Hollywood’s money. Who can put it better than the king of Bollywood Shah Rukh Khan himself: “My point is I do not want your money. I want your knowledge and technology. I am glad Sony, Columbia and Warner are all here. I like the tie up Yashraj has done with Walt Disney for animation. You tell me how to do it and I will tell my own story. I would like to collaborate with scriptwriters from there. They speak the international language better than we do. I would like to learn that. But the story would be mine and I would shoot it the way I want to.” (Outlook, Oct 22).

An edited version of this article appeared in The Weekend Today (Oct 27).

The dark side of a shining India

These days, a political storm is blowing in India.

The recent Tehelka expose on the Post-Godhra riots in Gujarat is the reason behind this storm. In his editorial, Tehelka's editor Tarun Tejpal asks us to be afraid:

Of the many things that are uniquely appalling about Gujarat 2002, three are particularly disturbing. The first that the genocidal killings took place in the heart of urban India in an era of saturation media coverage — television, print, web — and not under the cloak of secrecy in an unreachable place. The second that the men who presided over the carnage were soon after elected to power not despite their crimes but seemingly precisely because of them (making a mockery of the idea of the inevitable morality of the collective). And finally — as TEHELKA’s investigation shows — the fact that there continues to be no trace of remorse, no sign of penitence for the blood-on-the-hands that — if Shakespeare and Dostoyevsky are to be believed — is supposed to haunt men to their very graves.

Like Germany and Italy once, Gujarat begs many questions. How do a non-militant people suddenly acquire a bloodthirsty instinct? Does affluence not diminish the impulse to savagery? Does education not diminish the impulse to bigotry? Do the much-vaunted tenets of classical Hinduism not diminish the impulse to cruelty? If tolerance and wisdom will not flourish in a garden of well-being and learning, in the very land of Mahatma Gandhi, then is there any hope for these things at all?

I also read this piece of news on, which is relevant, but not directly related to the political issue at hand. It is about the effectiveness of affirmative action in India or its lack thereof. I had first seen this information by the researchers of Princeton University who had written a letter in The Economist last week. Here's the news from NDTV:

The private sectors' refrain that affirmative action is good enough may not stand now. Fresh studies have proved that there is discrimination in employment.

It was subject of much dispute - many had been saying it, others contesting it. On Friday, a study was released by the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies in collaboration with Princeton University.

The study was conducted against 548 job advertisements with 4808 applicants over 66 weeks, across five metros.

It reveals that in fact a person's caste and religion could be a hindrance in getting a job, despite equal qualification.

The study says that a dalit had 60 per cent less chances of being called for an interview, and a Muslim had 30 per cent less, as against their higher caste peers.

I have many friends from India's minority community who work and live abroad and they don't want to go back to a 'shining' India so readily. You can see why. It is sad but true and I hope things change fast in my country so that people of all faiths feel safe and secure and participate in its historic moment of progress with equal measure.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Why are Hollywood movies so bad?

American film scholar Prof Ray Carney on the Hollywood system of filmmaking:

Why are Hollywood movies so bad? The best way to answer the question is simply to take you behind the scenes on a quick cook's tour of how movies are really made. I warn you. It's not a pretty picture.

The first thing you never want to forget about the movies in that–first , last and always–they are business deals put together to make a quick buck. To say the obvious, the goal is to take $7.50 out of as many pockets as possible. Everything is directed to that interest.

There was an interview in the last Saturday's Globe with Sydney Lumet that more or less sums up the current state of the art.

Lumet's comments are all the more telling in that they don't come from some wild-eyed radical, but from the ultimate Hollywood insider. Lumet has been making successful, money-making Hollywood movies for more than 40 years.

On the other hand, of course a Stalin movie would never really be made precisely because it would be controversial and would alienate blocks of viewers, and jeopardize profits.

What Hollywood is in favor of is not controversy, but pseudo-controversy. On the one hand, you want people to think that your movie is really new and different and controversial; but on the other, you don't want to actually create a disturbance. You don't want to force viewers really to have to think or to learn something. If you are dealing with politics in particular, the formula involves taking a topical issue–Watergate, Vietnam, the Holocaust–but making sure that it is situated at a certain distance from the average viewer's experience or knowledge.

Hollywood movies take our common-sense understandings and sell them back to us, with a slight change of clothes. It's a little like one of those MacDonald's Happy Meal promotions. You add a new spice or condiment or action figure to deep people's interest, but basically you give them the same fast food over and over again.

In terms of the production of these films, timidity is built into the system at every level. Movies originate as "deals"–business arrangements hashed out between producers, directors, writers, and a group of stars, in which the movie itself becomes an almost incidental after-thought: The real goal of each of the parties is to protect his or her financial interest, and to maximize the final product's "bankability."

In the service of doing that, the overriding goal is to secure a name star at any cost. When I talk to beginning directors, it's usually the first story they tell me: How they took their first script to a studio–sometimes a marvelous script–and were told the project could only get a green light if a particular "name" actor plays the lead–if Johnny Depp or Tom Hanks or Tom Cruise can be persuaded to do it–no matter how ludicrously inappropriate that particular choice might be for the role.

Then once a real "star" signs on to a production, the dynamics of the deal allow the star to demand as many rewrites as he or she wants until they are happy with the script.

If this interests you, you should read the entire article/talk script.

Bollywood, on the other hand, is not much different.

Bombay's hottest director Anurag Kashyap wrote this on Bollywood way back in 2004:

Things have changed for Indian cinema. Foreign funding is on its way here. Venture capitalists are squeezing in through the door. Everyone from Bandra to Jogeshwari is making the next 'crossover' film. (If that's not enough, now there's even a company called Crossover!) Everyone's speculating as to who's the tallest poppy in the field.

Do we really believe all of this? We certainly seem to. But then why are our films not working? Where is all the insane amount of money pumped into the industry going? Why is everybody adding mysterious alphabets to their names? When successful cinema is all about the beauty of the story being told, then why are Mr 'Numerology' Jumani and Sunita 'Tarot' Menon key decisive factors in the success of our films?

Furthermore, he adds something that instantly links up with the Hollywood scenario described above by Ray:

Every time I, as a filmmaker, go to a producer with my script, he asks me, before so much as laying a finger on the document, 'Who is the star?' Directors who don't have a single 'good' film (or a 'successful' one for that matter, as the two are not synonymous in this country) to their credit are heading corporates, taking decisions on how films should and shouldn't be made. They are so plum in their newfound job security that they don't take a decision until and unless it is everyone's decision. So that if they fail, everyone is responsible, not just them.

One head might roll. A bunch of heads generally gets a second chance!

Anurag's No Smoking is releasing today in India. Writes The Guardian: "While a slack pace, unsettled internal logic and a goofy subplot undo much of director Kashyap's hard work, the film has a slick look. If and when Bollywood does deliver a crossover hit, it's likely this film-maker will be behind it."

In a recent interview, the Black Friday and No smoking director also blames the Indian film journalists for the poor film appreciation culture in India:

No journalist in India watches cinema, unlike film journalists abroad. Go to a film festival, you see so many journalists there.

Indian journalists don't watch cinema, they only cover gossip. That is why nobody has a clue about cinema. They don't even know what questions to ask. They ask the same questions: 'What is John doing? What is Ayesha doing?'

The problem with this country is its media that covers cinema. Our cinema is immature. Our media is very immature. Our critics are worse than our filmmakers. Our film journalism is the worst in the world. Barring a few critics, nobody has a clue what they are talking about.

This is exactly what I like about Carver's stories

From James Lasdun writing in The Guardian on the Raymond Carver's-widow-pressing-to-have-his unedited-stories-published controversy:

Like most people interested in the form, I was knocked out by these stories when I first read them, and I continue to reread them frequently with undiminished pleasure. I like their chaste preference of action, dialogue and curtly objective description, over the kind of ruminative authorial guff that blurs and sinks the work of so many other short story writers. I love the dead-on accuracy of what they choose to tell, and the uncompromising silence they maintain on what they choose not to. The image of a man sitting with the entire contents of his house out on the lawn becomes a totally fresh way of conveying the hurt of a broken marriage in Why Don't You Dance? About the marriage itself you learn nothing - but this too, this disciplined reticence, feeds its disturbing energies back into the situation.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anne Enright, Mohsin Hamid and Rana Dasgupta

So, finally, the verdict is out. To the disappointment of many, Anne Enright's novel, The Gathering, has won this year's Booker:

Irish writer Anne Enright won the Man Booker fiction prize for "The Gathering," an uncompromising portrait of a troubled family that its author called the literary equivalent of a Hollywood weepie.

Enright had been considered a long-shot to take Britain's most prestigious, and contentious, literary trophy.

The prize, which carries a cheque for 50,000 pounds (US$100,000; ?75,000), was awarded during a ceremony last evening at London's medieval Guildhall.

She is the second Irish writer to win the prize in the past three years, after John Banville's "The Sea" in 2005.

"The Gathering" is a family epic set in England and Ireland, in which a brother's suicide prompts 39-year-old Veronica Hegarty to probe her family's troubled, tangled history.

Enright said people looking for a cheery read should not pick up her book.

Sharon has done a good job of collecting some interesting viewpoints, adding her own insights on this issue. Worth a read.

I can't offer my opinion on this (how am I feeling?) as I haven't read Enright's novel (but I would want to; her novel's theme appeals to me). But why to spoil her day? Three cheers for Enright!

A note from The Guardian:

Disappointed though he will doubtless be, Ian McEwan can at least take comfort from his incredibly healthy sales. On Chesil Beach is far outselling the other books on the shortlist combined (not to mention the surge of sales for Atonement in the wake of Joe Wright's film). Sales figures of the other books, by contrast, exemplify the tough climate for literary fiction in the marketplace - and Enright's book has so far shifted just 3,253 copies. The latest figures from Nielsen BookScan show that the McEwan has sold a total of 120,362; Nicola Barker's Darkmans, 11,097; Mister Pip, 5,170; Mohsin Hamid's The Reluctant Fundamentalist 4,425, and Indra Sinha's Animal's People 2,589.

Indians might be disappointed too as Indira Sinha's novel, Animal's People, was also on the shortlist. But I have no idea how many Indians were rooting for her. I read an interesting review of her work in The Time recently.

Coming back to the number of books sold from the Booker shortlist, here's an interesting thought. How can the sale of a book (a novel nominated for this year’s Booker) in UK and USA reflect the culture of those nations? Believe it or not, it is a study in contrast. The NYT did a story on this. Read it here:

WHEN Mohsin Hamid embarked on an 18-city book tour across the United States, he found readers receptive to his latest novel. It is the story of a young Pakistani Princeton graduate who feels empathy with America, but becomes so disillusioned by the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks that he packs up and returns home to the city of Lahore.

The response was so strong that Mr. Hamid, 36, with only one previous novel, sold close to 100,000 copies of "The Reluctant Fundamentalist", enough to propel the book, a work of more literary tone than popular flavor, onto the New York Times best-seller list last spring.

Now Mr. Hamid is the center of literary attention in Britain, where the novel is on the short list for the Man Booker Prize to be announced Tuesday.

But while his novel has received critical acclaim in Britain, home to nearly two million Muslims, the commercial reception has been cooler. In a country where people are worried about what has become known as "the enemy within", sales of a novel that speaks unnervingly to fear and disquiet about Muslims have yet to reach more than several thousand.

To Mr. Hamid, the contrast is telling of the difference between the United States, and its embrace of newcomers, and Europe, particularly Britain, where immigrants can forever, it seems, be made to feel like outsiders.

Finally, here's a call for a lit event in Singapore. My friend Deepika sends me this news. Please spread it far and wide and do attend if you happen to be in Singapore:

FROM 3pm-4pm
PH: 6473-6763

Sunday, October 14, 2007

An act of faith

To be a writer or an artist or a creater of anything with an aesthetic value attached to it is an act of faith. You just have to do it regardless of the result. You do it because you love doing it.

My conviction in this line of thought got reconfirmed when I read this account of a writer/journalist covering this year's Frankfurt Book Fair.

Carole Cadwalladr likens publishing to "a carnage", if I haven't misread it (doubts always linger in my head). Though the article makes a central reference to the crisis at the UK's literary agency, PFD, the general impression that an aspiring writer may get from it is one of lust, caution. I am using lust here in the sense of lust for getting published, as in a lust for life. Confusing? Forgive me if I sound so. Read it for yourself to see what I mean by saying this.

Carole writes in her report, 'It's carnage ...' Inside the genteel world of books:

Oh, the writers. What becomes abundantly clear from Frankfurt is that if you've got a book inside, it's really not a bad idea to keep it there. Why does anybody even want to be a writer? And I say that as one. Two weeks ago the BBC reported that it came top in a survey of the nation's dream jobs. I end up ranting about this at the Bloomsbury stand, and Alexandra Pringle, the editor-in-chief of Bloomsbury, rants with me.

'I know!' she says, 'It's mad. It's a horrible job. It doesn't pay well. It's lonely. It's depression-inducing. It's frustrating. There's no fun to be had. But everyone has a drive to be a writer. And everyone thinks they can do it.

'Whereas to be one is some sort of mental derangement! They're all bonkers. When my writers say I could earn more money at the till at Sainsbury's, I say, well go and do it. There's no point writing unless you feel that you have to do it. You have to really want to do it and to be prepared to suffer to do it. Or else you really might as well go and work on the till at Sainsbury.'

Are you hooked? Getting gooseflesh? Well, good. Then read on:

Patrick Janson-Smith, whom I find in the agents' centre looking rather gloomy, says: 'You look around and you think the world needs another book like it needs a hole in the head.' I know Patrick because he used to be the head of Transworld, and the publisher whose signature is on my contract. He's also one of the highest-profile publishers in recent years to jump ship and become an agent.

'If you're not in a three-for-two or Richard & Judy, forget it,' he says. 'There's no point. If you ask me, publishing is in a mess.'

Even in the last two years, he says, fiction has got tougher and tougher. 'The retail side, Borders and Tesco have squeezed them so much that they've become completely risk-averse. It really is all down to what sales and marketing think these days. And, frankly, there's no point even selling to a publisher if they can't get enthusiastic about it - you might as well chuck it in the bin.'

But you can't let it get to you. Or maybe here I mean me. Alexandra Pringle is right about the madness, I think. Fiction-writing is just not a logical thing to do, so you've got to either get on with it and not moan about it, or head off to Sainsbury's.

If you haven't read this piece, read it for refreshed instruction on this game or for some juicy snippets from the world of publishing. There are some good ones there.

And here's a piece of advice too: 'No writer should ever go to Frankfurt. It's soul-destroying. You see writers being traded like pork bellies.'

So the thing is, as Carole says, if you want to do something, do it for love. You can never fail, can you?

PS: Got this bit from Outlook. Hope it makes some sense to you, dovetailing the above post, as it did to me.

India-born Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People may have made it to the Booker shortlist, but a recent UK survey gives him a more dubious distinction. Sinha’s book about the Bhopal disaster is the slowest-selling novel on the Booker shortlist: it has sold only 1,189 copies, which won’t even get him into the Indian bestsellers’ list. But the good news: it’s sold five times better than before he got into the shortlist (231 copies).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

You think you are an artist?

Do you care about Ingmar Bergman's work?

Even if you don't (or you don't care about cinema at all), here's something that the great Swedish filmmaker has said on the subject of art, films and craftsmanship, that should make every artist stop in his trail for a while and ask himself/herself some relevant questions:

On film and craftsmanship…what’s creativity?

My films involve good craftsmanship. I am conscientious, industrious and extremely careful. I do my work for everyday purposes and not for eternity; and my pride is the pride of a good craftsman.

Yet I know that what I tell myself is self-deception and an incessant anxiety calls out to me: What have you done that will endure? Is there a single metre in any one of your films that will mean something for the future, one single line, one single situation that is completely and absolutely real?

And with the sincere person's deep-rooted inclination to lie I must answer; I do not know, but I think so.

On art and worship

Regardless of my own beliefs and my own doubts, which are completely without importance in this connection, it is my opinion that art lost its creative urge the moment it was separated from worship. It severed the umbilical cord and lives its own sterile life, generating and degeneration itself. The individual has become the highest form and greatest bane of artistic creation. Creative unity and humble anonymity are forgotten and buried relics without significance or meaning. The smallest cuts and moral pains of the ego are examined under the microscope as if they were of eternal importance.

Thus we finally gather in one large pen, where we stand and bleat about our loneliness without listening to each other and without realising that we are smothering each other to death. The individualists stare into each other's eyes and yet deny the existence of each other, and cry out into the darkness without once receiving the healing power of communal happiness. We are so affected by our own walking in circles, so limited by our own anxiety that we can no longer distinguish between the true and the false, between the gangster's ideas and pure ideals.

If thus I am asked what I should like to be the general purpose for my films, I would reply that I want to be one of the artists in the cathedral on the great plain. I want to make a dragon's head, an angel or a devil - or perhaps a saint - out of stone. It does not matter which, it is the feeling of contentment that matters. Regardless whether I believe or not, regardless whether I am a Christian or not, I play my part at the collective building or cathedral. For I am an artist and a craftsman; and I know how to chisel stone into faces and figures.

I never need to concern myself about present opinion or the judgment of the posterity. I am a name which has not been recorded anywhere and which will disappear when I myself disappear; but a little part of me will live on in the triumphant masterwork of the anonymous craftsmen. A dragon, a devil, or perhaps a saint, it does not matter which.

For the latter quote, I think if you watch Bergman's video interview (below), he says he does not exactly see art and worship related with an umbilical cord but he still insists on the utilitarian objectives of cinema (art).

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

What Ails the Short Story?

Just as I was trying to absorb the sadness at the announcement of Silverfish New Writing's ceasing of publication, I stumbled across this piece on the state of short stories in the US by Stephen King.

In the beginning of the quote, King says something that I have been telling to anyone who cares to listen to me. I don't know anybody who reads short stories these days except for other writers, wannabe writers or critics. And has it affected the way short stories are being written these days? Yes, it has. Read what King has to say on this:

What’s not so good is that writers write for whatever audience is left. In too many cases, that audience happens to consist of other writers and would-be writers who are reading the various literary magazines (and The New Yorker, of course, the holy grail of the young fiction writer) not to be entertained but to get an idea of what sells there. And this kind of reading isn’t real reading, the kind where you just can’t wait to find out what happens next (think “Youth,” by Joseph Conrad, or “Big Blonde,” by Dorothy Parker). It’s more like copping-a-feel reading. There’s something yucky about it.

Last year, I read scores of stories that felt ... not quite dead on the page, I won’t go that far, but airless, somehow, and self-referring. These stories felt show-offy rather than entertaining, self-important rather than interesting, guarded and self-conscious rather than gloriously open, and worst of all, written for editors and teachers rather than for readers. The chief reason for all this, I think, is that bottom shelf. It’s tough for writers to write (and editors to edit) when faced with a shrinking audience. Once, in the days of the old Saturday Evening Post, short fiction was a stadium act; now it can barely fill a coffeehouse and often performs in the company of nothing more than an acoustic guitar and a mouth organ. If the stories felt airless, why not? When circulation falters, the air in the room gets stale.