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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

New Additions : A guest post by Amit Shankar

Dear friends,

Today I am posting a write-up by renowned "writer" Amit Shankar. Amit Shankar is the best-selling "writer" of books like "Flight of the Hilsa" and "Cafe Latte".  Do visit his website at www.amitshankar.co.in





New Additions


"I want to be an author." He said
"A writer you mean? Who is stopping you?" I quipped
"No, I want to be a good published author." He narrowed down.
"Name the Noble winning author for the year 2014." I scanned his face.
"Well..."
"Try remembering the one who bagged it in the year 2013." I offered assistance.
"Well, I want to be one who is famous and rich." He spilled the beans, finally.
"So why be a writer at all?  Be a businessman, a politician, an industrialist, a mafia, for that matter even a pimp or a hooker." The cynic in me was rising
"But being a famous author is easy."
"And who told you so?" I was curious.
"Well, we all know it. Spend money on online and PR, befriend the owners of book chains and suck up to the lit fest owners."
"And writing?" I was getting angry.
"You think any of the top ten selling authors can write?" He looked into my eyes.

I had no answer.

Days after this conversation, I was discussing life in general with a friend of mine--writing, future, reading list etc. I was sharing how lack of social and PR skills could impact a writer, with me being the casing point. I was also sharing my experience how scandalized I felt being part of a literary board which also had marriage photographer and cocktail circuit, page 3 pseudo-journalist, to name a few. 

We had a hearty laugh accompanied by long conversation. Like any other conversation with her, this one also gave me something new—some food for thought. Though this food took away my appetite, as I was not ready to accept the articulation of our conversation.  

Was I over reacting or just being old fashioned? How could literature change so much or was it the need of the hour? Too many questions were on my mind. 

I logged on the Google and Facebook--the ready reckoner of this age. It took me less than thirty minutes to confirm my worst known fear. For sure, there was a cartel that was controlling the ‘product life cycle’ of writers. For sure, there were authors who were living off these cartels.
Harmonious and convenient co-existence.
‘I publicize you and you do the same,’ ‘I put you on boards of other lit fest and you do the same,’ being the only mantra. Like any other cartel the names were the same.  Omnipresent and omnipotent. Handful of them on all boards, panel discussions.  Most of them have made being on the boards of lit fests their full time occupation. Their email signatures shamelessly announce their fancy tags and how powerful they are within the lit circle. 

Still not convinced, I Goggled the biggest and the most coveted lit fest of  this year;  Times Lit Fest. Don't take my word, please check the list of so-called authors presents there. Some of whom they have hired to be on the panel to judge stories and to mentor young writers don't even know to write themselves. The list starts with mediocrity and ends with the same.  Look up the panel and the panelists. You will have the same names. Needless to say, all of them mediocre and a by-product of networking culture. As a nation are we bereft of talent?

With a self-published title to credit—fiction or poetry, these 'high on fest, low on talent' writers are to be seen everywhere--Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and every single online channel. There claim to fame? Well their affinity and allegiance to the lit fest owners, journalists and high and mighty friends. If sources are to be believed the “Lit Casting Couch” has been laid and is being used.

Well, if it is all about networking, scratching back and balls, why bother to term the jamboree as a lit fest? Call it anything you like. Maybe Moronic Circle, The Suck up club and the list could go on. 

An interesting story to share. There was this lit fest owner, giving some deep insight into the world of literature and how the time has come to salvage it. “Have you read Svetlana Alexievich or Alice Munro?” Needless to say the expression said it all.

There is another hot and throbbing market for these “Hot Authors.” They have started conducting writing workshops that promises to make you a best selling author in one day. The dichotomy: None of them have managed to sell more than three hundred or four hundred copies. I am not even discussing their writing skills.

Feeling a little dejected, I walk to my bookshelf and pull out Vikram Seth. The title is immaterial so is the chapter or the page. I know I would read a page, then a page by Rushdie and wish the day when I could write as them.

And yes, the two words that started it all and ought to be added to the new version of lexicon were Lit-Mafia and Lit-Pest. Made for each other? Don’t blame me but my friend who started it all.


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