By Rohini Nair
When Charles Dickens began his Tale of Two Cities with the lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” to portray France on the cusp of its historic revolution, little did he know that circa 2011, those very same superlatives would be used to describe the uncertain future of his medium, the novel itself. The digital age is shrinking our attention spans, our minds, the time at our disposal. Will it shrink the Great Indian Novel as well?
Doom has been prophesised by voices as authoritative as Salman Rushdie and V.S. Naipaul. Rushdie’s latest bit of “writing” was in the form of a limerick on Kim Kardashian’s divorce, posted on the restricted-to-140-characters microblogging site, Twitter. Quite a shrinkage from his 500-page tomes Midnight’s Children and Satanic Verses.
India is witnessing a strange phenomenon. Whether it is Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis books or Amish Tripathi’s Meluha adventures, “fat books” (those over 500 pages) are finding takers. So much so, that it is the short story collections (with the exception of award-winning writers like Jhumpa Lahiri) that aren’t selling well. But for how long?