“Do you read my books?”
Possibly one of the most dreaded questions one could face from an author. I started following her almost ten years ago, maybe soon after she started blogging. Writing was her solace after she lost her father all of a sudden. Her posts were fun, insightful. She wrote about almost everything under the sun and interacting with her was a pleasure. Her first book came out a few years later, a compilation of her blog posts, which is being republished, she mentioned. The next one was about a girl with bipolar disorder, which I loved again. After that, there was a sense of change in tone, in her blog and the subsequent books, I felt. A few friends with similar taste in books echoed my thoughts. And slowly the interest in her writing waned.
She is now a celebrity author, a darling of the young. Most read woman author in India, one of the 100 most influential ones in the country, titles galore sit on her head with ease. As for her question, after years in corporate world, I still find it difficult to hide my feelings easily.
“First 3-4, yes. After that, I kind of….”
“Why?” She asked.
“I love your non fiction more than your fiction,” I escaped, or so I think. But then, that is the truth.
Why do we love some and then stop? Is it when they start moving away from our expectations? As for authors and their writing, could it also be because of what we perceive them to be?
If you ask me who my favorite authors are, one of the names that pops up immediately is Anita Nair. It was her Sunday columns in Indian Express more than sixteen years ago that started the affair. Her books were a natural progression. There is not one of them that I haven’t liked, in fact I’ve loved most of them. Then came ‘Cut Like Wound,’ a totally different genre. I was skeptical, to be honest. A crime thriller, set in Bangalore? How exciting could that be? What a book it turned out to be. Even after 3-4 years, I can inhale the aroma and stench of Shivaji Nagar even as I think of Inspector Bore Gowda. The expectation of a reader, an ardent fan ofbhers, has changed. I’ll take anything from her now, blindly.
So what happened with the first author? Was it envy? Yes, at first. Very much so. Thinking pragmatically I realized I had no right. She worked hard, relentlessly, with killing focus to reach where she is today. Finally, I think it is what she changed into. It was as though she stopped writing for herself. It felt more like, a market research was done and the stories were churned out keeping a specific audience in mind.
That brings to mind another thread. How much of an author goes into her stories? Can you gauge the author as an individual from her writing? Does her values, what she believes in, how she would react in a real life situation influence her characters? I’ve been trying to analyze this for some time. Naturally, the authors that first come to mind are my favorites. Along with Anita Nair comes Atwood, Allende, Anne Lamott. Quite a few A-s there and all of them, the dominant gender. Hmmm, maybe matter for another post. Of late, Barbara Kinsolver and Rebecca Solnit have been added to the list. Yes, more women power. That is but incidental.
You form an opinion about a writer not just from their stories, it is also their persona out of their writing that influences you, unless they are the fiercely reclusive kind. These authors that I call my favorites exude a sense of genuineness, they are firm in their opinions and they stand by it come what may, without even a whiff of rancor. Some of them might come across as arrogant, I would give them the benefit of doubt as not suffering fools easily. They are individuals who has something significant to say, and they say it with conviction. There is no beating around the bush, they are sure of who they are and there is no pretense of being something they aren’t, the innate honesty comes through with no shield whatsoever. And they take criticism with such elan.
So, what about those that we walk away from? Who are they really? Am I being too influenced by perceived factors? Reading too much into their words? And then I remember a former boss’s words as we argued about a client’s comment that hit a little too hard.
“Bindu, the earlier you acknowledge it the better. In our world, perception is the reality.”
As I get back to my current read, this jumps out,
“One who would really like to know himself would have to be a restless, fanatical collector of disappointments, and seeking disappointing experiences must be like an addiction, the all determining addiction of his life, for it would stand so clearly before his eyes that disappointment is not a hot, destroying poison, but rather a cool, calming balm that opens our eyes to the real contours of ourselves.”
~ Pascal Mercier, ‘Night Train to Lisbon’
Coincidence? No chance!
(p.s. Picture from Pinterest)