Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Insulting Time to be a Writer

Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi writes that it's an insulting time to be a writer. Why? Read on...


Writer's BlockPerhaps it's a depressing time to be a writer. Offended by the littlest thing, censors and cretins elbow publishers into pulping books. Readers patronize novels written by former accountants that retail with bright gold stickers bragging Rs 80 ONLY! Publicists scold you if you don't tweet like Shashi Tharoor — provocatively, unrelentingly, uselessly . Editors say, 'Have you considered an Indian Sixty Shades of Grey?' (Yes, it's my memoir). Big book prizes beg around to stay funded, amending old names to the latest sponsor. Critics know they've become as culturally irrelevant as the books they review in publications with an annual readership of five. If there was never any money to be made in publishing books there is now money to be lost in writing them. Bah. 

And yet, we write. I write. It's an insulting time to be a writer — and in a strange way, the most important thing to do right now. I don't mean to write novels to win readers (good luck, babe) or to write long, hectoring essays that appoint authors as ambassadors of causes (you can be a big fraud or a small fraud, either ways the capital investment is the same). I mean writing in the old fashioned sense of an active endorsement of solitude, writing to fashion and organize a life, writing as a means to think aloud. And to be a writer who is not a cultural celebrity, as he was until recently, but someone who put up in relative isolation, obscure and sloshed, raging against the world and celebrating beauty at every possible occasion, as he always had. Books became again what they were: love letters to people you are yet to meet. With all perks under check, and no expense account to speak of, you'd have to be nutty to want to be a writer. If you are one then I salute you. Few things make me as insanely joyous as being faced by a blank, commandeering page, and to experience this joy without any of its accompanying consolations of public success is to meet, finally, something like accomplishment. This feeling is personal, and enduring.

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