Prufrock's Page

Friday, May 19, 2006

Not Waving But Drowning

"In the 21st century - the age of the reading group, the website and the chatroom - the reviewer can sometimes look like a threatened species," writes D.J. Taylor. But, "the reviewer has survived better than many a house in the all-but-demolished Grub Street. Curiously, he or she still matters in a way that many of the more exalted guardians of our culture do not." In India, however, one wonders: do book reviews matter? Space constraints imposed by newspapers apart, do people read them, get influenced by them, discuss them, buy or not buy books based on reviews? A small minority, perhaps, but no more. One supposes it boils down to a literary culture and environment -- or lack of it. As Rana Dasgupta pointed out in his Tehelka piece not so long ago: "[The reviews here] approach literature as private pleasure rather than as a part of the more general, extra-literary conversations of the world."


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