Friday, February 12, 2010

Bloggers and Books.

The other day I just finished a book by this rather famous blogger-who-become-an-author.

I don’t really know what I was expecting – since I am not a big follower of this particular person’s blog. I had a nebulous idea perhaps – of a plot which spoke the same language, or situations, places and events which I had experienced, maybe some controversy, maybe some humour – something topical which I could relate to.

What I didn’t expect, was to be bored out of my skull.

Harsh? Well yes, rather.

But the truth was what would have been tolerable-interesting as someone's private blog just did not translate into a readable or engrossing or even passable novel. I found the plot loose, the writing mediocre, the humour contrived, the characters one-dimensional, and the predominant reaction at the end of the book, was relief that it was over.

Strangely enough, these are criticisms which one could level at dozens of blogs, mine included – but that has never stopped me from reading those blogs (or writing mine for that matter), and I don’t think I have consciously passed harsh judgement on the content, the writing or anything of the sort. I enjoy reading those blogs – even when the sentence construction is faulty, even if the odd post is not very interesting, but the sum total of the parts ends up being an enriching experience.

But when the same thing happens in a novel, it is different altogether.

So that brings me to a very interesting point, – are we as readers more willing to forgive mediocrity in blogging but not so in books (even if it is from the same author?). Do we have vastly different expectations and levels of what constitutes an acceptable blog versus an acceptable book? I would say, yes.

The question is, why?

The most obvious and no-brainer answer to that of course, is that authors get paid money and bloggers don’t. So perhaps, if someone is writing for a fee, is a professional writer, one expects a much higher degree of competence.

The authors I read, MUST be at an intellectual, linguistic, entertainment plane which is much higher than what I am capable of doing. Then, and only then, can I enjoy, appreciate and can revel in the books. It doesn’t mean it has to be an intellectual opus – a lot of light reading isn’t, but then there is this indefinable and intangible ‘quality’ in it which sets it apart from amateurs, which one respects. It could be the turn of phrase, the etching of the characters, the quirky humour which subtly tells the reader, that there is much more to this writing gig, then well, just writing.

Maybe it’s a sense of fellowship – a blogger is a fellow, someone you can interact with, mail, comment, and chat with. An author is supposed to be a celebrity – inaccessible, aloof, and with a halo which is larger than life. So I might not be willing to extend the same benefit of doubt as I would to a blogger-mate.

The other reason could be the fact that in blogging, one is exposed to minute quantities of the persons thought processes at any given point of time – thousand to two thousand words, one incident. In a novel, one is exposed to maybe forty times that quantity. Much vaster canvas to be critical off isn’t it?

And I think very personally, bloggers who turn bad authors, bring out the biggest conflict in me -a person who has always harboured hopes of getting a book published some day.

On the one hand it gives this perverse sense of hope – that if someone who is not-very-good can get published; I might have a fighting chance too. On the other, it gives rise to a lot of self-loathing and criticism for NOT having done anything about it yet – especially when I knows in my heart-of-hearts that I might not have the perseverance, or the talent to actually write a decent book.

And there is always the other conflict – that even assuming average authors get published, does one actually want to go down in the annals of history as being one of those average authors or is it better not to attempt the task at all? Is it better to be mediocre and famous, or know one’s limitations and rein in one’s ambition to what one is passably good at?

I just shared this post with Mo, and she had a very interesting point. Viz. that bloggers are commentators and they comment on the current state of being – they are not story tellers. Which is a hugely valid point in retrospect – because one of the problems I DID have with the book, was that it was like a collage of events – not woven together, but just jostling each other for space.

So in other words this static, still photograph technique of writing can be acceptable in blogs, or to use an analogy – in a home video, might seem very amateurish when you go to a multiplex to watch a movie where you want action, dynamism and movement.

What do you think?

(No, not Sidin, I have not read Dork (Though I plan to). I do not want the post to be misconstrued just because he happens to be the latest from the bloggers-turned-authors genre).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ab Buzz Bhi Karo

I think I am technologically harassed.

It starts innocuously enough – Google or twitter or something comes up with this one-worder-thingummy. Then because everyone on twitter is punning, funning and moaning about it I go and try and figure out what the heck this is. Mostly, I just get a vague sense of it's use. Then I go back to twitter, or facebook and do the online version of nodding knowledgeably and hope no one will really ask me too many uncomfortable details.

Then, depending on how interesting it seems and how professionally relevant and important it is likely to be, I go back and laboriously wade through sites and manuals to actually understand it.

And when I just about get the hang of it, something new turns up.

Now, I am thinking of going on strike. Because of the following reasons.

1)Six degrees of connection.
All these sites encourage one to be connected to people. The problem is I am already connected to those people – in five different ways. Most of them I don’t even want to be connected to in ONE way.

2)The never ending echoes.
The corollary to point 1. Since I am connected to the same person in six different ways, I am also privileged to hear that person’s opinions/post/comment/remark six different times in six different places. It’s like a iterative, looped vortex of the same thing again, and again, and again ...

3)Technological debris.
One of the recurring complaints I have heard from our generation is about the amount of clutter our parents managed to collect–from those ubiquitous plastic fruits in the showcase to absolutely useless curios falling over every flat surface in the house. We resolve to have minimalistic houses with no material junk. Then why the heck should I litter my mind with all this technological jumble (isn’t that just what we are doing?) Frankly it’s getting hard to disentangle the useful stuff from the bric-a-brac.

4)The pressure of the unfunny.
People write things, post updates, post pictures, flood with emoticons share each and every dreary minutiae of their life as if it is the world’s wittiest write up or sexiest photograph. And expect you to participate and react to it. And get offended if you don’t.

5)The Attendance Marker.
The corollary to point no.4, there are some people who feel obliged to comment, remark, generally mark their attendance on YOUR posts. Usually with something utterly inane and irrelevant just to show that they are present. Most of my posts are completely arbitrary vents or white noise which I jot down. I have no idea how to react when someone says “Nice” or “: p” to them.

6)The Personality Full Monty.
In offline interactions once can chose just what level of personality exposure one chooses to do – one can go all the way with some people, or just take out a sock or two to others. Social media does not allow one the luxury of that. Its either the whole hog or nothing.

7)The Truman Show.
The corollary (I think) to point to 6. Some people apparently WANT to live their life in the public eye. Therefore unsuspecting audiences are subjected to nauseating public displays of affection, love, and lust by couples and other related people. How many times have you seen a flood of comments on a photograph written by a spouse saying “my prince charming” or something else in that vein? Get a room, already.

8)The #tag.
One of the most annoying inventions of all time MUST be the #tag – some people apparently cannot construct a single sentence without flooding the sentence with these useful attention-grabbing things. Soon we will have conversations that go
“Oh you know my auto broke down on the road #fail #traffic #roads #municipality #bandra #bombayauto“

So now in protest I am going on a connectivity sanyas. Hmpf.

Absolutely incoherent rant this is- started out against buzz and I have no idea where it ended. Hmmm.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


I am so blogcked right now, its almost pitiful. Cant seem to write anything, or read anything whether its blog or comments ( mine or others). Some strange state of suspended animation. So am recycling something from June 2007 from blog no.1. Please, please don't stop reading me!!!!I shall be back. To write AND to read

The other day I saw this Marathi movie – Uttarayan. A sensitively depicted film about love in the twilight years- between a widower with a grown up son (engaged to be married and subsequently married during the course of the movie) and his first love (the victim of a destructive, broken marriage). Been done quite a lot in Hindi movies (whether it’s ‘Pyaar mein twist’ or ‘Baghban’ I know, but this, thank heavens was without the hindi film histrionics).

It was thought provoking, especially since, one of my friend’s fathers DID actually do that. Well, not fall in love – but he got married for the second time in his sixties (albeit an arranged marriage) very recently. My friend has been married for five years, his elder sister for more than that. His mother passed away very suddenly about a year and a half ago. And Uncle used to shuttle between the two kids and his home – and was extremely lost and adrift without his wife. Few months ago, the daughter’s in-laws suggested that he marry again in order to gain a semblance of stability and he did so.

At one level one feels that it is probably a good thing to do – the movie as well as the real life. Rationally, any sensitive, thinking individual will feel that people at any age deserve to have companionship and love – and who deserves this happiness more than ones’ parent?

But I think there is always this illogical, emotional, straight-from-the-gut reaction – where the remarriage is the ultimate act of betrayal by one parent to the other. No matter how good or bad the marriage was, no matter how purposeless and lonely the surviving parent is. The very fact that a parent, after thirty or forty years of sharing a life with someone CAN proceed to create a new home with someone else WILL hurt like hell.

I suppose children, however old they are never view their parents as individuals. It is always consciously or unconsciously in relation to oneself. An extremely egoistic worldview, which one is born to and never quite shakes off. One would like to think that one ceases to have expectations from ones’ parent as one grows up. Material expectations perhaps one does – but to shake off the expectation of unvarying loyalty – that doesn’t happen. And a remarriage shakes the very foundation of that loyalty.

Also the fact remains that, almost ALL other relationships the parent has, the child inherits them (the parents sister is linked by ties of blood to the child and so on). A new marriage on the other hand, the parent is forging a relationship, which is unique to the parent alone. So while it easier to share the parent with someone you are tied to, to do so to a person outside that circle becomes difficult.

I honestly don’t know what my friend thought or felt about his father’s second marriage. There are some topics that are completely off limits and this is one of them. I know that he was devastated by his mother’s death. I can guess that it CANNOT be easy to see your father with another woman. But I also know that he and his wife have acted very gracefully about it – welcoming the new wife into their lives. And I really admire him for that.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Things I dont understand: #287

Why on earth should Jessica Simpson uhm...passing wind, make it to the newspapers in India?