The Babu’s asli avatar has been up to no good. According to this TOI story on fiction versus non-fiction:
“Agrees literary critic Nilanjana Roy: “Much of fiction tends to be self- reflexive and absorbed with its own sense of self-importance. People are turning to non-fiction for answers.”
Ummm. I’m a columnist and reviewer, not a critic, but thanks anyway. And I actually disagreed that fiction had lost its relevance; the journo who interviewed me over the phone and I had a very pleasant chat about Naipaul’s views, and about contemporary fiction. About which I said, some of what’s coming out these days, especially from a bunch of talented but self-conscious young American writers, can disappear up its own fundament. But I pointed to this year’s Booker longlist, one of the strongest ever, and several of the more talented authors writing in (okay, Willy D, near India/ outside India/ about India, whatever!) India, and said that nope, fiction wasn’t anywhere near dead, not even in the ICU. Then I said “People are turning to non-fiction for some answers, and non-fiction is becoming far more exciting–some of the best work that’s come out recently carries the same charge and narrative force as fiction, but the two don’t have to compete.”
But in defence of the journalist, who spent about half an hour on the phone and asked interesting questions, a few things. She clearly interviewed about five or six people, and then had to scrunch the quotes into a very limited space. The story she was assigned to do was a nothing story: is non-fiction killing fiction, is the novel dead, is the novel dead again–it’s a fake trend story. Then, and this is what had me feeling sympathetic, she called the next evening with a tight deadline: she was supposed to do a Dial-a-Quote Booker longlist story and deliver it the same day. Both times, she came across as enthusiastic about her job, and she appeared to have read as much in the way as background as she could: but to put any journo on this kind of assembly line production of stories is pointless. It’s the Big Mac approach to “books stories”–get them out and burger literary quality.