Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A rootable boy

Oh who cares if this was written 6 years ago?! Read this Guardian profile of Vikram Seth, on the Doon School website no less. Don't miss how he disses Doon (including, SG tells me, at a prize-giving function to which he was invited as chief guest). Also, his memories of Oxford give much cause for comfort:

There were no exams, it was a joke, hardly any term-time. I didn't attend tutorials, went to perhaps 15 lectures in my three years, read a lot, went for walks, thought a lot." He had started writing poems, but "so badly, so fake, too self-regarding, I didn't see the world, I was incredibly unskillful.

Note, also, how wrong this profile ends up being about An Equal Music - 'It makes for a curiously un-Seth-like book, a book that might disappoint' - but how generally insightful it is about his writing style and method (c.f. Amitava Kumar's criticism of Rushdie as an 'academic' writer):

For Seth, writing is a simple business that has been muddied by academic critics and diverted from its original course by an obsession with style and modernist knowingness. "I don't read a lot of modern fiction, but it seems to me that too much of it is thesis fodder," he says. "Since the rise of the academic critic, writing has had to have an increasing sophistication, as if subjects such as love, ambition and family are worthy only of the airport novel. Writers come out of university courses and carry into their writing academic concerns rather than the concerns of the general reader.

No wonder Seth's characters stay and stay and stay with me and I'm thrilled to hear him say:

There's still so much to write about India. I don't think I would want to do a straight sequel to A Suitable Boy. But perhaps a story about Lata when she is a grandmother. Or a prequel, a series of small prequels rather, because the characters hadn't come together yet, small stories, 200 pages, about Mrs Rupa Mehra and her husband the saintly Raghubir Mehra, Mahesh Kapoor's fight against the English, the youth of Nawab Sahib.

Oh go the read the whole thing.

i think this is my favourite line:

"It was all quite traumatic," recalls David Davidar, the head of Penguin India, who published it there. Seth was obsessed with detail, such as ending the book at the bottom of the last page. "He moved into my house and we screamed at each other every day across my dining table," Davidar says. "Nothing of that scale had been attempted before. It was great fun, in retrospect."
i have a friend who was living in shimla when v.s. was writing a suitable boy. he apparently breezed into their place one night, in total panic. his printer had broken down and he needed to print out a copy of the book to send to his publisher. so the first copy of the book was actually printed at my friend's place and he got an autographed copy of the book as well, when it was published! cool huh?
cool! i would have bloody charged for printing though. particularly before one knew how good or bad the book was..
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