Sunday, March 28, 2010

The ketchup man

As a student at IIM Ahmedabad, Chetan Bhagat founded a magazine, Tomato Ketchup. Even at IIM-A, not the most literary of places, Tomato... was reportedly considered lowbrow and died a premature death. Bhagat’s subsequent literary forays have seen more popular success but continue to be considered lowbrow.

But Bhagat need not fret. The novel genre itself was considered lowbrow and commercial during its early days. As Daniel Defoe, often considered the first novelist, said, “Writing itself has become a very considerable branch of the English commerce. The booksellers are the master manufacturers, or employers. The several authors, copiers, sub-writers and other operators with Pen and Ink are the workmen employed by the said manufacturer.” Ian Watt, author of the classic The Rise of the Novel, says Defoe’s style was considered to be ‘easy, copious and unpremeditated’ in contrast to the ‘verbal grace, complication of structure...’ of the prevalent literary culture.

Watt argues that while the early novels may not have been masterfully crafted, they were revolutionary in their movement away from Classical Idealism towards a greater empathy for individual imperfection. They also understood the needs of the rapidly rising, newly literate, industrial revolution-created bourgeoisie. These two seminal course changes, in structure and audience, by the early novelists laid much of the foundation for the development of modern literature.

Full article here Outlook

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