Balancing the books

We look at reading, writing, publishing and circulating English-language books in India
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First Published: Fri, Nov 16 2012. 04 48 PM IST
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Illustration: Jayachandran/Mint
Updated: Fri, Nov 16 2012. 05 23 PM IST
Reading has no season, needs no ritual, calls for no celebrations. It disrupts our daily routines, throws them out of order, and forces us to divide our attention.
One of the small victories of our time has been the way we have learnt to integrate our reading—of newspapers and magazines, of Twitter and Tumblr—with our daily lives. For some of us this does mean an adjustment period as we reconcile this ubiquity with the traditional forms of reading, writing and publishing. We put this issue together as an inquiry into those old habits of ink and paper, of libraries, of storytelling and the search for stories.
We were unsure of what we would find, but books are doing as well as they ever have. “We need books written by Indians for ourselves,” as Milee Ashwarya, editorial director, Ebury India and Random Business (Random House India), says, and that hunger shows. So you want to be an author? Chances are that if you have a book in you, whether it’s about religion or radical politics, a science-fiction graphic novel or a guidebook for expectant parents, there’s a publisher who’s waiting to hear about it.
In this issue you’ll read some counter-narratives about libraries, those fragile and beautiful life forms. In Mumbai, where time is a luxury, small libraries are encouraging new communities of children and families to read different kinds of literature, while in Kolkata, our premier reading repository, the National Library, is digitizing millions of pages as we speak.
We look ahead to the winter’s literature festivals, still the best places in India for you—and your children—to hear writers tell stories about their books, to discover new things to read and, if you’re lucky (and the festival’s cosy enough), to hang out with your favourites.
When a nation is doing well, its detective fiction flowers. Think of early 20th century British detectives, or post-War American private eyes. The sleuths of popular fiction see that our cultures need fixing, but they also hope—as we romantically hope—that a few good people can do the fixing. That’s a flimsy theory, but it will be tested in the coming months, perhaps years, with a new crop of Indian detectives finally coming into their own. Our crime fiction columnist, novelist Zac O’Yeah, writes about three spleet-new ’tecs.
But if crime fiction is for the good times, romance novels are for the dark times. As you’ll read in our story about dream manuscripts, those are doing pretty well too.
Supriya Nair, Issue editor
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First Published: Fri, Nov 16 2012. 04 48 PM IST
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