Thursday, September 27, 2007

Cultural discourse

Was cleaning up my mail box today, when I came across this interaction with Sarah Weinman of GalleyCat. Her response and my reply to that are pasted below:

Hi,

This refers to the post about the NBCC convention in New York. Since I am in Delhi, I won't be attending it, but I sure don't think that it's akin to "Larry Craig chairing a committee looking into proper airport rest-room etiquette". A lot of interesting people from the book world, such as Dwight Garner and Eric Banks would be attending it, and any forum that discusses the state of culture today is worthwhile. The decline in book reviewing is but one aspect of the general trend towards dumbing down and a place where like-minded individuals debate that cannot be construed as incestuous nit-picking. It's informed discussion.

As regards the other criticism of NBCC members "skimming books" and that too for a repetitive place in some eight odd dailies, I would only like to send across a link to one of my reviews, which discounts both assertions:

http://patrakaar2b.blogspot.com/2007/08/indian-clerk.html

Though this mail represents my personal views, I hope GalleyCat would at least ask for views from both sides of the line in future, and not publish rather one-sided and malicious remarks.

Vikram

Hey Vikram,

Though Ron wrote the post and generally this line of thought is his, I thought I'd respond from a personal standpoint, too. First, that assertion about NBCC members skimming books took me by surprise - but it refers to board members, and while your examples are certainly good to offer up they don't really answer the assertion per se.

Next, with regards the idea of the symposium...well, on the one hand, you're right, but on the other hand, there's already been the exact same types of panels at BEA, a case where the converted were talking to the converted. That's not the larger issue: figuring out how to get readers excited about literature is. And unfortunately, this symposium won't come close to that enthusiasm element. In this instance, Jennifer Howard's comment is pretty much dead on.

All best

Sarah (also an NBCC member)

Hello Sarah,

Thanks for your response. It's good to know that you agree that not all of us skim.

I am really not sure there is a way to get people enthused by literature, except of course, Harry Potter (which isn't literature). Literature, by its very nature, attracts the slightly unconventional, vulnerable, if I may add, and our present culture steeped in stereotypes of power and hegemony is unconducive to spreading the good word. In my view, one can only hope that there would be other dissatisfied souls who would turn to the power of the written word to make better sense of their world. And therefore, the converted talking to the converted is but another exercise in cultural discourse and need not be looked upon askance.

Best,
Vikram

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