I received June edition of ‘Book Today’, a monthly newsletter of India Today Book Club, today. The cover picture of the newsletter was of “Amitav Ghosh” who has recently released his new novel, Sea of Poppies, the first in the trilogy of novels. ITBC is offering 10% discount on this book.
The interesting part was that Chetan Bhagat’s latest book “the 3 mistakes of my life” is coming absolutely free with the purchase of Sea of Poppies. This book was released only two months before and the writer, who was the all time bestseller author after release of his first book, is being distributed free with another book. Seems the magic is lost now or was it really a magic ever before?
The reason is not the market, rather it is very much the marketers and the producers themselves. After one book of an author becomes bestseller, the publishers seduce the author with a very hefty sum of money which makes the writer to write anything and everything but the literature. Then, begins the exploitation of author, literature, readers, goodwill, subject matter, and so on. I remember authors of yesteryears used to take gap of 5-13 years in writing and releasing a book. Ayn Rand took 4 years to release Anthem, 5 years to release The Fountainhead, and 14 years to release her magnum opus Atlas Shrugged. For Richard Bach, it was 7 years for “the bridge across forever” and 4 years for “the one”. The gap between the release of “the golden gate” and “the suitable boy” was 7 years. Chetan Bhagat took 2 years to write each of his books. Paulo Coelho is the rockstar, he writes two books every year. It is an urge to exploit the market hence the books are no more a piece of literature these days, but a product to sell. Something like – think about the plot which can be sold and write something on it. If you couldn’t think of writing more pages than the petty plot demanded, write anything bullshit that you have read during your college years and afterwards.
Not only that, the subjects and plots are also being badly exploited. Take two examples – one, IITs or IIMs or any premium college with a bunch of youths; two, stories (mainly, cultural clashes) of Indian diaspora (NRIs). Now, search the market for the books based on one of these subjects and count the number of books available out there. Here, we are bypassing the non-fictions (better say, self-help or so-called management books) which are more bullshits than the fictions. Many of them give you a feel that even you can write such books after reading 8-10 similar kinds of books. But, this is the way it goes. And this is the reason why books of Ayn Rand and Joseph Heller are still bestsellers. Authors like JRR Tolkien and Mario Puzo had created truly fascinating, unique and separate world in their books and characters of authors like Ayn Rand and Albert Camus were so visually elaborated that we created a flawless images of them in our minds. So much that we are not able to accept and enjoy a movie based on those books and characters. Whereas, mostly books of these days are very stereotypical and identical to their peers. Characters are boring and plots are repeated.
Books are written because they have to be written and to be read by the world. Its a pity that most of recently released books lack this reason. They have a plot which has been repeated umpteen times and an idea which could easily be expressed in an article or a blog entry. Writing is no more a passion, but a fashion. This has created a peculiar kind of gap in demand and supply where both are increasing with the same speed.
Image courtesy: Chetan Bhagat, Brain Stuck