Writers including Tom McCarthy and Joe Dunthorne consider whether the coming of computers and the net has changed the way they write: The Guardian

In an interview with the Paris Review, the American poet Frederick Seidel mentions a time in the 1970s when he visited an old girlfriend at Columbia University. Seidel’s girlfriend was studying for a PhD in Electrical Engineering and during his stay the poet was given five minutes to work in a secure room on the Defence Department mainframe:

“The computer was enormous and filled the room but it had such a tiny screen. I typed out the beginning of my poem Homage to Cicero and was hooked then and there. What hooked me was the way you could instantly change the shape of the stanza, the length of the line. It was the instantly part that got me.”

Ernest-Hemingway-007Hemingway often derided fellow authors who wrote about what they had read, rather than what they had experienced. To him, such abstract writing was ornamental and stolid. Firsthand experience, firsthand understanding should provide the uncut marble for the writer’s chisel, he said.

For example, Hemingway thought Edgar Allan Poe drew his material from fancy—invented from rhetoric and literariness, rather than reality and truth. He characterized Poe’s writing as “skillful, marvelously constructed” but ultimately “dead”.

By Zafar Anjum

The Aryavarta Chronicles, Book 1: GOVINDA, by Krishna Udayasankar, New Delhi: Hachette India, 472 pp, paperback. $25.

I remember reading an interview of the late Chilean author Roberto Bolano in which he said that in the third world countries, blooming of literary fiction precedes mushrooming of genre fiction. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing in itself, I won’t go into that (perhaps one needs both?) but this is how the literary scene has evolved in India.

First, there were the R K Narayans and the Raja Raos, then there were the Naipauls, the Anita Desais, and Kamala Markandayas and then came the generation of new diaspora writers such as Rushdie, Vikram Seth and others. At home, the Stephanians ruled the roost for a time but with the liberalization of the Indian economy and the rise of a new Indian middle class, slowly and steadily Indian writing in English, largely an upper middle class phenomenon, went down a slippery slope.

Then came along Chetan Bhagat, the writer-prophet of this newly minted middle class. His novels found a bridge with India’s youth. Since his arrival on the scene, there has been a deluge of fiction from all kinds of hacks. Suddenly, Indian writing in English has become accessible to anyone who knows how to read a sentence in English. Today, home-grown Indian writers are writing sci-fi novels and thrillers and there are writers who specialize in chick lit and teen lit (I’m sure Clitlit will follow soon after the success of Fifty Shades of Grey). The number of books sold by these authors has jumped through the roof and publishers, both desi and foreign, are only too happy to encash this trend.

One of the genres that have bloomed during this revolution is that of mythology or the retelling of stories from India’s past. Today, there are many leading names in this genre. Amish Tripathi’s The Immortals of Meluha has become such a runaway hit that a famous Bollywood film director has bought its film rights. I am tempted to place Krishna Udayasankar’s debut novel’s Govinda (The Aryavarta Chronicles, #1) in this category but perhaps I should not.

This is not a junk-food-novel. A few pages into the novel and you know you are reading a well-researched work, a work of mytho-history.