Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Writer versus Reader

Writers are being strangled

I was recently asked to tone down the language of my short story, ‘Love can be a bitter pill.’ After reading the story, a published author, with whom I share a very amicable relation and one who is a motherly figure, explained to me how the publishers of today reject works which are too laden with heavy or ‘hi-fi’ words, since such stories, they claim, are not suited for mass-reading.

I discerned the truth in her statement. But I felt, and still feel, disgruntled at such an ongoing practice. A writer, I believe, is not responsible for the reader’s mediocrity.

Why should writers lower their quality just to match the shabby standards of the readers? Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Shouldn’t it be the reader who should lift himself to be able to read and comprehend high-quality work?

Granted, that those having sub-standard English would find it hard, almost impossible, to read and appreciate works of Austen, Dickens or Poe. But these writers are not accountable for the readers’ patchy English.
A good writer is one who can play with words as effortlessly as a Tendulkar (or a Tiger Woods) can play with balls. Anybody can produce a ‘book’ these days, but only certain rare writers can produce ‘literature’. For a true writer, his work is untouchable, almost sacrosanct! He won’t like to alter it just to please certain money-hungry publishers.

And for all those mediocre readers (the so-called masses), there is always a Chetan Bhagat or a Ravinder Singh lying on the ‘bestsellers’ list for an easy picking.

They certainly don’t deserve to read an Austen, a Dicken or a Poe. Period! 

~Ritesh Agarwal, a disgruntled would-be author

Featured story of the week: 'Maya' written by my mommy Richa Singh. It is one of the best short stories I have read on blogosphere. A feel-good tale which reminded me of O.Henry. Do read it. 

Image Source: Google Images


  1. I agree with you :)


  2. I did not know that high standards weren't accepted by the publishers, I thought that books were meant to improvise the standards of a reader.
    And yeah well said, I'm not a fan of Indian writers, you can easily spot grammatical errors and other big in such books,to hell with these publishers. :/

    1. That's the problem with some of the new publishers of today....they are encouraging this pernicious trend wherein readers are reading only chiclits and college stories...

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  4. There was pointed out the difference. Earlier, only people with literary bent of mind used to read. Now almost everyone is reading. There is scope for every kind of writer as there is audience for everyone; lets put it that way.

  5. That's true....but in order to please the readers, the publishers are ready to compromise with quaity...that's why a chetan bhagat sells more than an Amitav Ghosh...It is unfortunate

  6. earlier there was no commercialisation...
    now things are totally different..
    I'd say just stick to what you feel like writing :)

  7. Yes, there is a difference between literature and books!
    Concentrate on literature, books will follow, may be a little late, but it sure will.

  8. I m really glad to read this article of yours...!!
    First of all accept my congratulations for your extremely good writing!!
    Now i agree to your point... reading and writing is loosing its standards these days... people are copying each other style and giving "mirch masala " to stories and their only aim is to get published ... they are not working for literature !!
    I am glad to know that you have chosen to work for literature and you don not want to lower your standard of writing just to get publisher..!!
    Keep the spirits high!!
    Cheers !!

  9. glad you agree...thanks a lot swati :)

  10. The publisher's thought is very wrong.

    Before, the standard of English books used to be so good, that the one would be able to improve their vocabulary(which of course involves some learning) in no time.There is still a following for those kind of books. Evergreen ones.I remember reading a Frederick Forsyth with an Oxford dictionary, side by side.

    Today, the standard has rapidly come down. I like Chetan Bhagat, coz his English is simple, and his books do not have typos and grammatical errors. That's it. The so called tribe who have come up trying to emulate CB have just worsened the standard and I can't stand the sight of people going gaga over such third rated novels.

    Please approach publishers who are happy to publish a book with a good standard of the language! Good luck! :-)

  11. Ritesh, I love your straight-forwardness. I have seen your comments on sites of fellow bloggers. You are on the face. Its good ! very good!!
    While I would love to agree with you on the entire issue .. the fact is .. today its a consumer driven market.. what sells should be produced.. and being a man with limited vocab in any language.. i personally feel .. there are many writers who use words just to show-off .. they are literature and others are not !! I wont pin-point anyone .. but .. even quality work sells and that is the reason people may not understand Gulzar words .. but they take the initiative to know the meanings in Hindi. He writes not to show off but is natural.
    Chetan Bhagat cannot be considered any low just because he connects with the mass.
    I will tell u one thing very frankly about political cartoons which is my area of interest.Political Cartoons almost vanished from Indian newspapers .. you know why ?? Because they required intellect and being upto date with day to day info .. cartoons are where words are negligible . I myself love such cartoons !!
    But if I draw one, my readership will decrease and I dont blame the readers .. not everyone is expected to be knowing politics inside out to enjoy my cartoons. Rather , i be a Chetan Bhagat .. explain the current issue on which the cartoon is and still pack it up with few words ... to connect.
    Jagjit Singh was a hit because he was a Chetan Bhagat of Ghazal singing .. and people could connect.
    yes , had i been doing work solely for a cream class.. better i not be expecting the mass to accept it.

    You made me write so much !! hehehe ..

    1. I haven't got anything against Chetan Bhagat. Even I read him occasionally...He's good i don't deny. But he must not get the centre stage...the centre stage belongs to true writers, those who have been moulded after years of studying classics...glad u left behind such a long imprint :D

    2. ur on face and so am I .. :) Kolkata ka paani ka asar hai .. :)
      You are right when you say they should not get the centre stage .. but do you remember in our school days only few teacher could explain things to us very easily and the others were good but we could not do without taking a coaching class to know what they taught :D
      Choice is ours !! which kind of teacher we wish to be . Centre stage .. simple writing can fecth money but a lot of critics.. How many people criticize Salman Rushdie for his writing skills ? what he picked up became an issue ..
      Bhai .. I think .. peaceful co-existence of both types is mandatory !!
      I understood you do not wish to be a Chetan Bhagat right ???

    3. Absolutely agree with u....all are i said, i myself read every kind of book. I like bhagat, no probs with him...Just that i am appalled at the quality of readers...they give the crown to sehwag when there is a tendulkar in the team :/

  12. I so so agree with you. If publishers want a sub-standard writer for mainstream readers they should find such writers and not ask a pure writer to lower his/her level.

    1.'s just that a pure writer is unwanted these days

    2. sorry to interrupt !! if you believe in your writing ... people will believe you ... sooner than later !! Publishers are just businessmen .. if your work is good you need not need them !! ..In today's world ... internet which is reason of diminishing quality of literature .. is also a boon for talented ones .. you can promote your work yourself ...
      give a teaser for free and ask readers to buy !!
      I mean, there are 100s of ways of marketing oneself !! Remove the opportunist businessmen ... in between ... set your own path !!
      My idea is ... ghusna hai to ghusna hai .. chahe darwaja tod ke ...chahe deewar.. chaahe .. bulldozer chalake ..if you gotta go .. you gotta go :D
      Cheers !!

    3. hehe....u are bang on.....inspiring, powerful words...thankss

  13. I agree with you 100%.Writers build their portals with the power house of their words et al and no mediocre has the right to make holes on it simply because he/she can't grow to the height of the writers.

  14. I agree.... I am a huge fan of Jane Austen. As a writer to another.. ummm..I don't write very well and Trust me when I say, all mediocre writers including me, aspire to write like the way u write. Jane Austen, poe wld be a super huge, unattainable feat. :)

  15. Well, it's difficult to emulate those greats...but the sad part is that there are lesser takers :/

  16. I agree with you.
    That line "A good writer is one who can play with words as effortlessly as a Tendulkar (or a Tiger Woods)" is amazing :D. Yup you don't need to change your writing style or word choice. You write because you like to.
    PS-- I love classic and British Historical genre. I devour them. So don't worry good readers will always pick your work :)

  17. Yup...glad to see u read classics....i survive on them :))


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