Wednesday, January 11, 2006

literature for the self

“I am doing this because one day I will become a novelist. A great one who will be known throughout the world of literature and yet have a book which will not be part of the bestseller list.” That is what I tell myself whenever I write. I want to become a great novelist but I don’t want to be part of the bestseller list. You ask me why I am saying such an absurd statement. The main reason that I am saying such a thing is because I see the bestseller list as a stamp of commercialism.

Yes, you will get rich and be known world-wide but I highly doubt that majority of the people who bought your book actually understood its literary meaning. Most probably, the people who bought it were just joining the bandwagon and pretending that they actually loved it because it was such a well-crafted story. They’d be saying ‘Oooohh… have you read Dan Brown? The way he constructed his plot was so amazing that I couldn’t stop reading it.’ Great… To those people who are saying that, I just want to say that the only reason why Dan Brown is such a huge hit is because his chapters are short. Fine, it might also be because of the plot but it is really the short chapters that get you hooked to it. With the younger generation (my generation included) having a short attention span, it is not at all surprising if they liked that book because of its ‘well-constructed plot.’ But I just have to make a correction. It is not the plot. Rather, it is the pacing that is worthy of praise.

Don’t kid yourself. Having something that is well-liked by almost everyone does not mean that it will be well-liked by everyone. On one of my favorite author’s interviews, Susanna Clarke said that there should not be any canon on what books to read and people should discover for themselves what book gives them the certain magic. And in most cases, as Jonathan Safran Foer puts it, people are somehow put off by the books that were assigned to them in school just because they were assigned. I agree with them. Each has his or her own book out there waiting to be opened.

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