Sunday, March 15, 2009

Amit - The Publisher's Nightmare

I reacted against this professionalising of the author, in India and in Britain ...
Indian author Amit Chaudhari confesses to being something of a publisher's nightmare to Sophie Harrison in The Guardian. His new novel The Immortals is in nine years.

Particularly interesting in the interview is the comparison between Chaudhuri's
... slender, focused novels ...
and the
... grandeur, whimsicality and pickle factories ...
of Rushdie and his followers, which :
... represents a kind of hallucinatory cliff behind which we cannot see.
I came across Chaudhari's work when he was a guest at our first KL Literary Festival, and was stunned by the meticulous observation and the humanity of his writing which transported me into the same space as his characters.

I have owed him an apology since the festival so post it here.

There really was a balls up with the programming which I was supposed to be in charge of and thought I had sorted out okay. But the nice Mr. Raman decided during the event to shoehorn a couple more readers - folks that he had published - into each slot at the very last minute. It would have been okay ... but both these guys ran over their allotted time and ignored my notes and wild wavings. (I'm studiously avoiding names here because they are guys I really love and they deserved their moment in the sun. Only I wish I had known earlier that they were to be accomodated in the programme.)

Amit's slot (his second appearance in the festival) was scheduled for the very end of the afternoon. I had found a good moderator (or so I thought) for the session - a woman who had studied his work and was a tremendous fan, and she was going to interview him one on one. I told her before the session began the timing she had to work to.

And then the pair of them, up on stage, totally ignored it!

Amit is so interesting, I'd have loved him to speak for hours, and the woman interviewing him certainly knew her stuff and was asking the right questions ... but the ballroom at the Rennaisance was only booked till 6 and there was a wedding dinner taking place that night so the hotel staff needed to move in pretty sharpish to get the place set up so I could give him only 45 minutes. Tops.

The couple on the stage ran over ... by ten minutes ... by 15 minutes ...

I tried to catch their eye.

The hotel staff began to move into the room. I ran over to them and begged for a few more minutes. Not possible.

I started to gesticualte wildly from the back.

The hotel staff began to move tables.

Members of the audience angrily turned round to shush them.

The hotel staff became increasingly and I think deliberately noisier.

The couple on stage were now 25 minutes over time ... having a really cosy chat ...

I picked up the mic and asked the speakers, if they could just wind up the session.

The audience got all angry with me and one woman (a major sponsor) told me to sit down and shut up!

I was by now in tears. I looked around in vain for Raman to help. For anyone who would tell me the right thing to do.

Amit was relectant to end, but said he would close with a reading. He read ... not one of his beautiful descriptive pieces, but a very odd poem about ... shit! Was this a polite and controlled expression of his anger?

And then it was over, and shit was exactly what I felt like! I bawled my eyes out in the Ladies. I had not slept in a couple of days for worrying about everything and all that had to be released before I could face the world again.

But there was the next event to attend ... it was the wonderful production of Riding the Nice Bus over at Zouk, and it went so well that my spirit was completely smoothed again.

And this is why I won't ever be an organiser for a literary festival again, and take my hat off to anybody who does the job. And especially if they manage to remain calm under extremely adverse circumstances!


dreamer idiot said...

Oh dear, so sorry to hear what happened then. What a predicament to be in. Anyway, it's now over, and you have been and still are one of the best organizer for our local literary and reading events. :)

bibliobibuli said...

thanks DI. anyway as long as it is small scale and i feel in control of things ...

anyway i hope Amit forgives me now ...

Anonymous said...

So sorry to read about your awful experience...but self-indulgence writers who read beyond their allocated time are just being selfish and disrepecting not only the organisers, but the writers (if any) who have to come on to read after them. There is NO excuse to go beyond one's allotted time in a festival unless you're the last on the list and there's nothing happening at the venue afterwards. Writers who pretend to ask for permission to read more should be slapped: "Can I ah? Just another two stories...ya? They're really good, you know, I'm sure everyone wants to hear them...even the writers lined up behind me..."

- Poppadumdum

Baronhawk said...

Murphy's Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong given enough time. And with events, it is all the time. Ha ha ha. One of the companies in the group of companies that I work for runs events and things go wrong for them all the time.

Anyway, time heals all wounds, I suppose, maybe even soothe the bruised ego of writers.

Anonymous said...

Writers have the worst ego problems.. who else wants to be paid to write? don't people write every day for free ? :)