The Babu is back in the land of Net connections that last a little longer than a fruit-fly’s orgasm, so expect blogging to be less, well, interrupted than in the weeks gone by.

This is ridiculous. The police in Pune showed up so late at the Bhandarkar Institute that the mobs had ample time to loot, destroy and pillage manuscripts without fear of reprisal, haven’t yet booked any members of the Sambhaji Sena for their extremely objectionable verbal outbursts–but they have time to register a case against Laine for “writings which hurt the sentiments of people”. The first point to be made is that Laine’s writings on Shivaji were the product of a scholar who had researched his subject in depth; when a few statements he’d made were taken out of context, he apologised for them anyway. (Rumours that Laine’s book claimed that Shivaji had a different father are simply untrue: he merely explored “the fact that the king’s parents did not live together for much of his life and that his father moved south and had another family”.)

The second point that should be hammered home is that the hoodlums who rampaged through the Pune institute decided to express their sentiments after Laine’s book had been withdrawn. To hold Laine accountable for the actions of a mob so illiterate and so disrespectful of their own culture that they destroyed pictures and manuscripts related to Shivaji, the icon whose besmirched honour they were apparently so eager to protect, is to completely warp the course of justice.

Poet Nissim Ezekiel died late on Friday night; he’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s for several years. Jerry Pinto writes in Mid-day: “I do not feel as if I have lost a friend, a colleague and a fellow-worker in the salt mines of the word. The onset of Alzheimer’s meant that we, Mumbai, its poets, his friends and I lost him by degrees.”

The obituaries in non-Mumbai papers have been pathetically brief; politicians get more word-space than poets, even pioneering poets, these days. Two years ago, Ranjit Hoskote had written this moving tribute to Ezekiel for The Hindu–a premature obituary, if you like.

This page has a quote from Ezekiel about how he started using Indian English in his poetry:

“It all started as a comment by a friend who said that you write in

English no doubt and you write English well but you don’t seem to even know

or realise that thousands of Indians speak what can only be called Indian

English, because you only meet people who are learning English Literature.

So I said yes, it’s true I have never thought in terms of writing what you

call Indian English. I have just thought it was bad English or wrong English

and ignored it. He said no, no, no, you must listen to it. So from that time

in all my train journeys from Mithibai College back home, I began to take

some interest in the way English was being spoken on the train. Every time I

heard an obvious Indian English phrase like, “I’m not knowing only”, I would

take it down. When I had about a thousand of these, I thought now is the

time to create a character, who will speak Indian English from beginning to


Rushdie and Padma Lakshmi are in Mumbai. He has nice things to say about Vikram Chandra: “I was hoping to meet him because he is someone whose writings on Bombay I have always liked. Envy is a very good test… when you get annoyed that somebody is so good.” That’s about the only bit of this fairly lame report you’re really going to want to read.

“…More bad poetry is being published now than ever before in Indian history. And whereas our fiction has made a decisive impact on literary writing around the world, nothing very significant has been seen in the output of Indian poetry written in English.” Jayanto Mahapatra on the state of his profession today.

* The New York Times on the esoteric world of the photographer who specialises in book jacket photographs of writers: “…Ms. Ettlinger is hard for writers to resist because she is, in some sense, the ideal reader, who will try hard to make them look like the reader’s idea of a writer.” Urk. It also explains why pets are such a favourite prop–Naipaul with his cat, Ken Kesey with his parrot.

Michael at TwoBlowhards has a provocative post on the difference between book people and movie people: “If the movie-world view is all about the vital connections between art and trash, and about how each is the lifeblood of the other, the book person’s imagination is taken up with the neverending struggle of art, talent and brains to triumph over the forces of money, hustle and fame.”

If you’ve been reading online fiction, nominate a short story for The storySouth Million Writers Award for Fiction. “The reason for the Million Writers Award is that most of the major literary prizes for short fiction (such as the Best American Short Stories series and the O.

Henry Awards) ignore web-published fiction. This award aims to show that world-class fiction is being published online and to promote this fiction to the larger reading and literary community.”

Jonathan Yardley surprised me by suggesting that The Reivers might provide an easy introduction to Faulkner for intimidated readers. Faulkner’s last novel wouldn’t have come to my mind as the key to his kingdom, but Yardley makes a very persuasive argument in its favour.

Little Green Men Stole Our Plots: SF writers ponder questions thrown up by the mission to Mars.

Or, Why The Babu Ran Away From His Lit Crit Classes: “The basic enterprise of contemporary literary criticism is actually quite simple. It is based on the observation that with a sufficient amount of clever handwaving and artful verbiage, you can interpret any piece of writing as a statement about anything at all. The broader movement that goes under the label ‘postmodernism’ generalizes this principle from writing to all forms of human activity, though you have to be careful about applying this label, since a standard postmodernist tactic for ducking criticism is to try to stir up metaphysical confusion by questioning the very idea of labels and categories. ‘Deconstruction’ is based on a specialization of the principle, in which a work is interpreted as a statement about itself, using a literary version of the same cheap trick that Kurt Godel used to try to frighten mathematicians back in the thirties.” (Link courtesy Zigzackly.)

Hmmm. “Naomi Baron has called Netspeak an ’emerging language centaur–part speech, part writing’ and David Crystal says computer-mediated language is a genuine ‘third medium’. But I don’t know. Remember that thing Truman Capote said years ago about Jack Kerouac: ‘That’s not writing, it’s typing’? I keep thinking that what we do now, with this new medium of instant delivery, isn’t writing, and it doesn’t even qualify as typing either: it’s just sending. What did you do today? Sent a lot of stuff.”

From Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves. The Babu is cravenly glad that Truss never got going on the subject of blogs.

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