Monday, May 10, 2010

Thoughts about wave of new Indian fiction writers

I have spent the last few months reading a lot of new Indian authors - all product of the "post-Chetan Bhagat era", which instilled a confidence in professionals of various hues that they can all narrate interesting stories and that there was an audience waiting for them. And I am talking about Anuja Chauhan, Tushar Raheja, Abhijit Bhaduri, Nishant Kaushik, Neeraj Chibba and the likes. And this post is a few initial thoughts about such books.

Firstly, the good thing is that most of the authors are drawing upon stories from their own life experiences or their knowledge of their industry or profession and it is a welcome peek into fields and backgrounds that would have otherwise been difficult to grasp. (Would you get to know about living and studying in Russia? Would you happen to be an Advertising executive?) Its akin to peeking into the American Law field through the prism of John Grisham novels. The other good thing is that some of these stories, though spiced with drama obviously demanded by a wide audience fiction publication, is a reflection of what a lot of us have gone through in our lives - struggles with education, jobs, relationship, money and so on, and not at a superficial level, but at a level that I can easily appreciate.

That said, I feel there is a lot that this generation of authors need to learn. One of which is that writing clear English with proper grammar is a must. You can let a character talk SMS-speak, but you can't write a novel in a that lingo. Thats just pathetic, for lack of a diplomatic word to express my frustration. I read one novel which was full of "...". Every single page had 2-3 of these. To believe that a professional editor let this be published without demanding that it be corrected speaks very poorly of the quality of editors we have. (That novel is successful enough to boast of being a "National Bestseller" and has a "Special Anniversary Edition")

I know that we live in an era where the newspaper with most circulation, Times of India, is so full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, starting from the first page, on every single day's publication, that it is clear that values such as proper English is too much to ask for, but to believe that the nation, which so thrives on it being a good English speaking populace for its global interactions, can get away with filling up popular fiction genre with pure junk is completely unacceptable. We shall pay for this when the next generation of our workforce comes with no understanding of what a proper english sentence is, while other countries, who aren't there now, will undoubtedly get better than us.

The more frustrating attribute for me is the lack of basic research by any of these authors. You can't blame some of the newbies when a hugely successful Chetan Bhagat can get away from wide gaps in his  research. I read another book where the Indian cricket team suffered an upset defeat in the third round of a knock-out tournament by Bermuda. What wasn't explained was how Bermuda got to the third round.
I know that fiction is about exercising creative freedom, and that creative freedom as exhibited in Bollywood, our primary source of expression, is taken to extremes, but an intelligent set of readers, as I believe our readers are, would be better served by a set of authors who take their research and their fiction seriously enough for it to be gripping stories of coincidences and extraordinary events, all of which shall be explained nevertheless.

Or am I asking for too much?

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