Booker Prize Attitude

So yesterday I heard Kiran Desai read from her novel The Inheritance of Loss.  Introducing her was Amit Choudary, no slouch himself in the field of letters.  Choudary, however, didn’t really introduce Desai so much as engage in what I would describe as a cross between and interview and an exposition of his own thinking as it related to Desai’s novel.  It had some strange results and wandered into strange territory, such as both of them criticizing American writing as becoming “simple” in form and structure, with the implication of a resulting decrease in quality.   Also included was a discussion of some Latin American writers, including Gabriela Garcia Marquez and Italo Calvino, who, I’d like to point out to them both is Italian, not Latin American.  (No one mentioned this, incredibly.)  And Choudary even went so far as to let us know that he didn’t think much of Marquez, although he said he was joking (I’m not so sure).

So when it came for question and answer time, I had to speak up.  I offered that American writing, if it had become simpler in terms of structure, seemed to thus allow for more reader engagement with the text, rather than overdone description down to the minutest detail.  And I said that I found Desai’s novel jarring because of the way it jumped around in language and location, and because of the different structures that Desai employed in her writing.  I asked her whether that was intentional and asked Choudary whether, as a vocalist (he sings apparently — cd on sale at Oxford books) he had a view on writing in taht style, given that it would have some strange results in song.

They didn’t answer my questions.

Now call me naive, but it seems that as a matter of basic decorum and decency you should actually respond if you agree in advance to participate in a Q & A.  And far be it from having a useful book discussion.  Maybe that’s hard when it’s all about the photo-op.  Ah well, at least it made the decision on whether to ask for an autograph an easy one.

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5 Comments

  1. Yes! My sister and I once asked some pointed questions of two journalists at a reading from their book Hubris at the legendary Politics and Prose in DC. They ignored our questions completely. It’s like they had been programmed to promote instead of engage. I thought discussion and friendly back-and-forth would be thrilling to them as writers and journalists. No, they just wanted us to worship them. How disappointing. At this point I’m afraid to meet some of my writer idols because they might be lame in person. Better the fantasy of brilliance!

    Reply

  2. maybe all that time cloistered away behind a computer has made writers unable to engage with the public? Did they take to writing because they couldn’t express themselves orally to an audience?

    Or just bad manners??

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  3. I now know what I’d like for my birthday….Bring on the Chaudhuri song stylings! I think it’s fair to say that no one likes to be challenged – especially in public. But since we expect that authors, academics, and other contributors to international thought/opinion are interested in the exchange of these ideas and opinions, the disappointment in their behavior has an extra sting to it. Guess you won’t be inviting either of them to your middlebrow book club now!

    Reply

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