Last year I wrote briefly about listening to Amit Chaudhuri, a well known Indian author. In that post, I found him to be…well…arrogant. I was wrong. I had the pleasure of participating with him on a panel discussion earlier this week about fiction writing. The topic was “creativity” and he spoke about his experiences discovering what kind of writer he was. I hadn’t prepared much – not knowing the audience, being on planes for hours on end the past month, and because I tend to prepare at the last minute – but it’s getting easier to be calm about these sorts of things. It also helped that the first panelist delivered a quasi-academic, not well thought out lecture that meandered through stereotypes of creativity.
It’s a warming, if not somewhat dangerous feeling to know that you may actually be knowledgeable. Or, that you can hold your own. Speaking in public is something I enjoy still for the rush of it, for being listened to, for seeing a person nod in agreement as you make a point, for the absolute ridiculousness of the notion that you may have something relevant to say when it’s really just that people want a chance to engage and be engaged. I find that I garner the most positive reactions when I drop the façade of my job or the guise of a pseudo-academic and speak about something personal. Even a simple anecdote is appreciated more than explaining a theory.
The best thing that may have come out of the discussion is that I believe Amit Chaudhuri and I think along the same lines about a surprising topic: elitism and globalization. My understanding of what he said is that the task before writers (and all of us) now is not returning to some sort of literary heyday or high culture, but to reclaim the world of art and culture from the larger (corporate?) forces that, in controlling and influencing culture, have diminished it.
Finally, someone who actually understands what elitism really is about in the modern context.