Let me get straight to the point. My generation is not the reading kind, just like Rhett Butler is not the marrying kind. Come to think of it, we’re not the marrying kind either. Why would any young man worth his salt, curl up with The Sorrows of Young Werther when he can hit the Tote on the turf and get his drink on? Why would the long-legged power walking beauty whip out Pride and Prejudice when she can catch it onDVD? Why read 1984, when you can experience its first stirrings live thanks to Dhoble?
A good strong reading culture is on the sad wane. Forget all this terrible talk, about the tablet crushing the beautiful world of pen and ink. Last year, the NCPA’s Lit fest opened to a tremendous response but there were more grey heads than non-grey, in my opinion. Still, I have a theory. In my limited experience there are categories of young readers in Bombay. And before you wave your prized bundle of Marvel comics at me, this theory excludes Graphic novel readers, of which there is a painfully enthusiastic number.
There are the Jack Kerouac readers. It’s fun to chill with them. Nine times out of ten, they identify strongly with the throw-everything-to-the-wind-and-set-out-on-a-travel-adventure spirit of On the road. But they barely act on it. Travel across the length and breadth of India? Sounds great, but can I get my old job back?
Then there’s the fantasy genre lovers. Elves, quests, dragons and evil dark lords. Yep, yep, yep and yep. I know one bright spark who put tunes to the songs in TLOTR. A simple way is to identify this kind of reader is to ask whether HBO’s Game of Thrones stays true to the written series. He won’t stop talking even when you excuse yourself to go get a refill. Or he might inform you disdainfully that the series has very little fantasy staples. “The dragons and the white walkers are just for masala,” he’ll say dismissively. But that won’t stop him from clinking glasses with a solemn, “Winter is coming.”
Third, The Secret. I know it’s nauseating. But there is a significant portion of my peeps who swear by the ridiculous notion that if you want something desperately enough, the universe will plop it into your lap. And if the universe fails you it’s because you didn’t want it badly enough and let a negative cloud of doubt and fear creep into your mind. Ugh. Other self-help books also on their bookshelf include every variation of “How to get so stinking rich, so fast, that you breathe out gold dust, and people bow to you while throwing flowers in your path.”
The fourth kind are just funny. These ones probably have a degree in English Literature which in this country means that they can do little else besides rattle off a list of books that they define as “classics.” They’ll confuse Dracula with Frankenstein and use the word post-modern in the wrong context. But it’s adorable how much they try.
Number Five: Copywriters.
Every page of Douglas Adams, The hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.
There are sub categories but these are the major chunk. Am I wrong or too blind to see that young Bombay is in fact teeming with champions of other genres? Fill me in and I beg of you, strike me down from my throne of superiority and snobbery. It’s really no fun up here and nobody invites me to parties.