I was at the Times Literary Carnival yesterday. Despite Times of India's pulling power, the audience was sparse yesterday. The sessions last year were better attended. What went wrong? Are we seeing a polarisation of literary festivals. Hehehe. Meaning Litlive's (Tata's) people will not attend Litcarnival and vice versa? Well, that would be taking literature to new heights of bitching. Why were so many icons of literary life in India missing despite the money and the media clout: newspaper, television, internet, magazines?
Saw the mother-daughter duo of Anita Desai and Kiran Desai in conversation with the publisher of penguin. What else can you expect from this session except a view of their writing habits and some mother-daughter pow-wow. Turned out to be that exactly. What did I benefit. Nothing. In fact I wanted someone who has read Anita Desai to quiz her on her characters and story plots. There are many sessions like that such as "Bringing up Vikram" about bringing up Vikram Seth. Come on, now which aspiring writer would be interested in that? They won't be bringing up any writers soon, not in the literal sense. Add something intellectually challenging, something zingy. Is this a Carnival or what? Suketu Mehta hasn't written anything after "Maximum City" for eight years and he was there as the keynote speaker. Wow!
I saw a cute penguin car near the entrance (oh I forgot to photograph it, it was an ambassador of vintage make) which advertised the company more than its books. There were moderate crowds at the book shops, but no one at the Times Book Stalls. Food was expensive. Imagine a sandwich selling for Rs 150. Can't afford these Litfests, what say?
Some cooling salve was applied by Jeet Thayil's session with Anjali Joseph, author of Saraswati Park. Jeet rued that the gentler days of the seventies and eighties have gone. 1992 altered the character of the city, he said. He said his research for Narcopolis was drawn from personal experience of the opium dens in his student years at Wilson College, which he calls embedded journalism.
He read an excerpt from his opera Babur in London and said Babur was a ruthless killer and also a poet. Babur said, "Writing badly will make you ill." Yeah, it will. I feel ill after writing a bad blog post and despair about it night and day. This is one of those.