The Hidden Politics Of Book Discussion

I follow this blog-in-Facebook-updates called LABYRINTHS. Its picture-stories trigger off ideas, feelings and on occasion, memories. Today’s story is titled The IVORY BOOK CLUB and is a conversation between two people about the quality of literature. It felt like an instant frame capture from my own life and here’s what happened in the real story.
Years ago, I inadvertently fell into a tussle with someone (let’s call her LMN) about Chetan Bhagat. She kept insisting that his writing was ‘honest’ while I reasoned that this was no measure of quality. It was quite literally a good 15 minutes of,

“But Bhagat is so honest, yaar!”
“That’s not all there is to a good book.”
“No, but I mean, it feels like he really lived through that.”
“Honesty? I am not going to debate that. But that’s not a measure of how well it’s written.”
“It’s straight from the heart. So honest.”

And then, this conversation was liberally mansplained and hijacked by the person who introduced us – my abusive now ex who was her friend. Among the many things he said were, “Pick on someone your own size” and something he called ‘The Principle of LMN’. In the months to follow, this incident would be alluded to often, by him or by me. Of note, the two also had a creepy relationship (2am phone calls asking if we had broken up because a photo had been deleted, secret messages that got shared with me ‘by mistake’).
All in all, I think it’s fair to say raging debates about culture, language and such things are never quite about the subjects on hand themselves.

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3 comments

  1. There are people who are nuts, Idea Smithy! I mean used to look CB much earlier since felt his fiction expressed young campus romance love. Agree we can disagree to the extent it can be called good writing. He faltered in his last book and certainly he should avoid writing columns in newspapers.

    1. @vishalbheeroo I don’t think that conversation was about Chetan Bhagat at all. It was about people asserting dominance over each other. And here I thought booklovers enjoyed talking about books.

      1. Yes that’s the worst thing when people impose in a dominant way which shows agression due to the fear of being limited. Yes, any discussion about books should be about enhancing each other’s knowledge.

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