Having an Ear for Advice
People tender advice, whether being asked or just like that, unsolicited. It’s a common societal phenomenon and it’s not always dysfunctional.
In the friendly evaluation phase of my book “The Remix of Orchid” I had got many such words of advice. There were fellows who opined that the words in the text-mass are a bit unfamiliar ones and I should write the way newspapers do—very simple and very easy. But which one among the newspapers and who are its actual readers? Do people buying their copies of the newspaper really read them? With their becoming more pictorial, glossier, and simultaneously less and less expensive day by day, people read them less and less. Many even think it wastage of time. It is sufficient if they just stroke those glossy pages for a sensuous feeling!
Another piece of advice was to change the title of the book from “The Remix of Orchid” to “Andaman Tales”. The author of this brilliant piece of advice was not anybody who was only inclined to speak non-seriously. He is a professor of English who has predicted a great future for my book. But then I had already made up my mind about the title by then. Besides, “Andaman Tales” sounded over simple and a very ordinary type. Compared to that “The Remix of Orchid” is a zany kind of expression, capable of generating instant curiosity.
So, I am not in favour of making things over simple or what? Am I writing modern poems that need not be fully understood or telling stories people would relish reading?
Definitely, readers are very important for any writer, but the question remains: who exactly are the readers? In the words of the marketing gurus which segment of readers do I have in mind while presenting these stories?
Before I’m able to give any convincing answer to all these rhetoric questions, let me cite the instance of “Harry Potter” series of books. I think I’ve read as many as four of them. Honestly speaking, not all the words were familiar to me. Can I say that those all-time best-sellers are difficult and wordy? The minimum that can be said about the books is that they are well-written ones, if one does not want to broach the religious aspect of the works.
Another instance I can cite is from a book I’m reading: that’s “Beyond Belief” by V. S. Naipual. There are occasions I understand every word of a sentence, but not the sentence as a structure. Let me quote:
“And to beat, too, but only in my own mind, the figure called up from memory: the small, hunched, white-capped and white-clad figure in the sight-baffling gloom of Mr Wahid’s backyard or garden, the eighty-cents-a-month man (at present rates of exchange more like a twenty-five-cents man), called from his very dim verandah and his chanting class in Islamic law to stand before us, and meekly with bowed head to accept my rebuke for knowing only half the Koran at the age of thirty, when he had so little to do, and the village had built his narrow little house for him and kept him in such food as met his modest needs: an unlikely successor, in half-converted Indonesia, of the early Islamic Sufis and, before them, the monks of Buddhist times.”
[V. S. Naipaul, 1998, “Beyond Belief”, Viking, page 30]
There are three reasons why I should tell the above paragraph is perfect:
1) One Elizabeth Hardwick says in the blurb of the jacket, ‘One of the greatest living writers in English language. His themes, his vision of human destiny in our time, are composed with a perfection of language, a flawless structure—and above all a profound knowledge of the world.’
2) Naipaul is a Nobel laureate in literature.
3) MS-Word does not indicate any mistake in the above paragraph except the one below “Mr” and I know the mistake is not a regular one whereas the computer indicates it as such since the same has been set to judge everything on the basis of US English. (In Us English “Mr” should be followed by a dot where as it is not required in British English)
Finally, I decided to write what I was capable of. And with the realization that writing is not a matter of accepting advice, always.
A. N. Nanda