Monday, October 16, 2006

Something's Wrong With The World Today

Something’s wrong with the world today, I don’t know what it is – Aerosmith

I am a disillusioned man. I see the world around me and can’t help but think that something is wrong. It is more like an intuition, and I try to rationalize this thought. I chance to look upon an article that says- Many English students are incapable of speaking passable English needed for business communication. I look at it with shock- How can the place of birth of the universal language face such a problem? There is still something that is nagging inside me. And it is this. I am a Wodehouse fan, an ardent lover of his works and his literature. I consider him a master of the English language and the way he uses and manipulates the language is a sight to see and savour. I consider his work a piece of good English. I can quote a few more of my favourite authors, O.Henry, Saki H H Munro, all of whose work I would call “Good English”. Now I come to the fiction writers- Grisham, Archer and the like. I read these books with as much enthusiasm as the next guy, enjoy and relish these pop corn thrillers. But I would not classify these under the category of “Good English”. These books need to be just in grammatically-correct English. And they better be in simple English, the plot with the twists and turns are enough to keep the mind occupied, it doesn’t need the extra strain of trying to unravel intricate English.

Now that I have established a crude divide in the existing literature, I proceed to make my point. I personally feel that the number of people who relish books of the former category is declining at an alarming rate. And the current number is very few. I shall quote a controversial example at the risk of ruffling many a feather. The recent hype of the Harry Potter series is a very good example of the case in hand. I am a potter fan, and have read all the books. I also admit that I was impatient for the penultimate book to come out and read it within 3 days of its release. And yes, Harry Potter is good. But how good is it? Does it warrant the hype that surrounds it? Is it the greatest ever creation of our time? The sales statistics would have us believe so. I have a lot of complaints about the potter series though. Maybe I will write a blog on that too someday. And since I have ruffled a few feathers, let me ruffle a bit more by taking a dig at the other controversial best seller of today- the Da Vinci Code, another book the sales statistics will have us believe, the greatest ever creation of our time. I just sat back and thought, how difficult would it be to come up with a book like that? I somehow got the feeling that the book was nothing but a research paper, showing a contrary angle to popular belief. It was like watching a show on Christ on the Discovery Channel. And that written in the plainest of English, and with nothing different from existing fiction. Nothing new except the central concept. And the mania it created! Does this book warrant the hype it created. As can be expected, I have many complaints against this book too, actually more against the author than the book. But as usual, I am digressing. The point I am trying to make is that people are unable to appreciate subtlety, good humour, good English. And I consider this a direct fallout of the times we live in. In this fast paced world, no one has time to sit back and think about anything- it’s got to be at your face or u will give it the miss. The sufferer- the English language.

This, per say, is not what is troubling me the most. After all, I cannot be too vocal about the tastes of people. I may be the one with bad taste. But it is the direct consequence of this that is troubling me the most, as I am personally affected by it. The number of current day authors catering to the first category are so few – infact I am unable to name even a single current day author who writes books belonging to the first category. I don’t blame them. Sound business sense dictates that the authors write books that cater to the audience’s need and if that need be books of the latter category, then so be it. Hence we have the thriller writers who come by the handful, write a book or two after doing some research, make millions and go away. I ask out this question loud- Will there be another Wodehouse? Another Shakespeare? Another O.Henry? Another Saki? And my heart skips a beat as I realize the answer.

I sit back and ponder why this is so. I have already stated that the times we live in is one big reason why we enter this vicious circle. I wonder if there might be another reason. I sit and wonder if we have stopped progressing at all? In the literature field for example, we had our Shakespeare, our HG Wells a number of authors whose work can be considered literature. Can current day books be classified with those? Can we call the current day works, literature? I personally feel the answer is no. Hence I say that literature has not progressed, it has come to an abrupt end. And I wonder if this is the case with society in general? Have we, as a society, stopped on the path of progress? I come up with a field in which we have progressed by leaps and bounds- technology, a certain something of which I can talk of with some authority. I can vouch for the progress in this field, the current research going on in this field and say with a happy heart that we will continue to progress technologically. It gladdens my heart to think that society has not stopped progressing. And then comes the dark cloud- our life has become one dimensional. Other Arts are suffering- literature, music – progress in these fields have taken a back seat. This is amply reflected in the mindset today- Everybody wants to be an Engineer. Hence we need to give culture as much importance and preserve and more than just preserve, make culture much more active than it is.

I still sit and wonder if there may not be more reasons why we seem to have stopped progressing. And this thought strikes me. There is just too much history for a man to assimilate in his lifetime that by the time he has mastered the history, he is not in a position to make his own contributions! Since I am a bit acquainted with the field of science, I can say that there is so much to know- so many branches of science, so many discoveries, so many lines of thought. And by the time u learn all this; you have lost your ability to think individually! I am not saying that there should be no education- We need to give the mind the right direction; but not make all minds finally think the same. The current lack of innovation in most fields, I also attribute to the vast history that one is made to be proficient in, which destroys free individual thought.

I have come up with a few reasons to justify what I dare call a fact- In plain IIT lingo – The world is losing level da!


At 5:55 PM, Blogger Camerado said...

Absolutely agree with you about the HP series and Da Vinci Code!! But do you really think we are losing out in literature. I think its more appropriate to say that 'good literature' is not being promoted these days. After all, I'm sure if we go look at the Pulitzer/Booker/Nobel prize winning works, we will find beautiful literature. I can't really believe that its dead, I, a lover of the printed word like you, would be devastated :((!!! Good one btw, after a long time!! Keep 'em comin mate!

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Sravan said...

I agree about the Da Vinci Code. But disagree about the HP series and most of the rest of the post. An average competent writer of today writes prose better than the geniuses of the past. Because (s)he has opportunities to learn from various sources. We, in India, don't get to read them much because they happen to be different from the pulp bestseller writers.
Of course, we agree to disagree. And then, it's admirable to see such concern among readers.

At 9:53 AM, Blogger lavanya said...

Completely share your sentiments about Wodehouse da...And I dont think there will be another, infact I hope there is'nt too. He is unique in his own way. Love the way he describes people and situations.


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