Going by the book
Trans World Features (TWF)
Despite thought otherwise, young people today are reading quite a lot of fiction. But sampling the books they mostly patronise, Tania Roy finds that they are of the ‘fast-read’ kind
One often hears that today’s young generation- hooked to reality shows on the telly, glitzy malls and frequent parties, does not have time to read. That is, fiction.
A new crop of writers in India is churning out books by the dozen – and they are selling well too. So who’s buying them? Lonely hearts who have started believing in the adage, ‘When you have no one, make books your best friend’? Or those who want to display an intellectual bent of mind? The truth perhaps lies somewhere in between.
It would perhaps be relevant to check out what kind of books are in demand among Indian writing in English. The hot selling ones emphasise youth and romantic plots. Then there are the ‘Chick-lit’ books with romance and glamour at the core quite popular among young women.
Most of the books in these genres target young male/female in their twenties and thirties with plots of love, sex and struggle for professional success. Authors like Durjoy Datta, Novoneel Chakraborty, Sachin Garg, Nikita Singh, Ravinder Singh, Preeti Shenoy, Animesh Verma, to name a few, have come out with this kind of books and almost all of their books are bestsellers.
These writers may not belong to the genre of Chetan Bhagat, nor to that of Amitav Ghosh or Amit Choudhuri, but they have created their own style and have won millions of fans by their writing pattern. Many youngsters believe that they can relate to this kind of story and hence ensure the popularity.
“The titles of their books attract young people a lot too,” says Uday Goswami who has a bookstore in College Street, Kolkata, adding, “They mostly use colloquial language making it familiar to the readers. “ Titles like Oh Shit, Not Again by Mandar Kokate, for example. The young generation use this kind of language and finds it ‘with-it’.
Another attraction is the emphasis on contemporary issues but with ‘light’ plots, that is, not too cerebral. And then there is this convenience of being able to kill time while waiting for someone, or travelling in a bus. The affordable price is another bonus.
‘Being slim’ is a plus point too. The novels come in easy-to-carry volumes and they can be finished within a few hours . “I was in a journey of 34 hours with no electronic gadgets to entertain myself except the phone; but I could hardly use it for lack of battery charging facility. My co-passengers were not very friendly either. So when the train halted at a station I purchased a few books and I must admit, I couldn’t have passed my time better,” remembers Sagarnil Dhar, a would-be chartered accountant.
Readers in the age-group of 15 to 25 years are the major consumers of the ‘fast-finish’ books. They feel that there are many similarities in the books with what they experience . During college days, the hot topics which preoccupy college canteens hover around love; it can be either about falling in love with the best buddy’s girlfriend or all friends wanting to date the same much-admired girl.
“This generation is quite smart too,” says Noel Michael who works at a popular bookstore in Kolkata, adding, “ They take the help of the romantic books to express their feelings by gifting the girls novels like Anything for You Ma'am by Tushar Raheja.” He reveals that the store sells almost 30 to 40 books a day of writers like Durjoy Datta, Novoneel Chakraborty and Ravinder Singh.
Datta, who has written six best sellers with titles like Of Course I Love You! , Ohh Yes, I Am Single! etc. has a tremendous fan following and says that he writes about life as encountered by his milieu. “I try to write stories about things around me and I really don't know what genre it comes under. Very crudely put, they are love stories, but I would like to think there is more to my books than just a basic love story,” he says.
The authors also try to focus on issues other than just love angles. For example, Preeti Shenoy’s Life Is What You Make It narrates about bipolar disease by keeping the love as backdrop to the story.
But there are book lovers who are not at all interested in books of these page –turners.
Shilpi Biswas, a commerce student and voracious reader, says, “Yes, the books are popular but to some extent the popularity will cease after the readers get mature. Suppose I am reading A Roller Coaster Ride during my college days; I can relate to the subject then but after few years it may seem foolish to me.
During college days nobody thinks about the cause and affect, they just like to flow in the motion but later when they get to deal with reality they are somehow forced to think about the consequences.”
This book, by the way, is about an IIT guy (oh-so-familiar) with a lover-boy image. Online dating is his forte if not the studies. But he now tries to make changeover as life gives a few wake-up calls.
Yet, there are also those who read just for encountering the characters who enliven the stories. Like Debolina Das who works in a corporate house. “I do like to explore lives of different people and how they conduct themselves. Each person has a different tale which can be of interest.”
What is the future of these quick read books? Will they survive, say, after ten years? “It’s difficult to predict. We can always hope for the best. Personally, I believe good storytelling never takes a back seat; it doesn't matter the genre,” says Chakroborty writer of books like, A thing beyond forever, That kiss in the rain, How about a sin tonight?
The chick-lit novels mainly focus on the glamorous side of a story.
“It’s best for the teens because it has romance, sex and relationship element,” believes Priyam Mallick, a media professional.
But she also warns that “These novels sometimes create a negative impact on the teens’ mind since they start believing in that fantasy of good life and fail to differentiate between the story and real life.”
Avid reader Labanya Datta dismisses the chick-lit genre by saying “I don’t really like chick-lit because I find their wafer thin plots uninteresting. Besides, they aren’t good from the language point of view. They are popular possibly because they are easy to read and glamour oriented.”
Images by Avishek Mitra