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Reader Ridden


Amit Ranjan

READING LITERATURE TODAY: TWO COMPLEMENTARY ESSAYS AND A CONVERSATION
By Tabish Khair and S├ębastien Doubinsky
Sage, New Delhi, 2011, pp.167, Rs. 295.00

VOLUME XXXVI NUMBER 4 April 2012

Come let's travel Come let's unravel Let's play with the myth Of the navel Come to me ,says book Come have a closer look Come read me Come bleed me Come bled With this blade Of words Thats cuts through Our worlds Reading Literature Today by Tabish Khair and Sebastien Doubinsky is precisely eponymous, it delves into the matter of reading and readers, as well as of writing and writers. The world is as much a text in this book as the word is, and the writers show how the makers of the world text are pushing the word text to a bestselling culture, and a culture of silent (and violent) complacency. Tabish Khair and Sebastien Doubinsky come from very different worlds-while Khair is self-professedly the only international Indian writer from a small town (Gaya), Doubinsky has had the privilege of growing up in an affluent French family with a long lineage of artists and academicians. Both are acutely aware of their positions as 'readers', and grapple with the idea of the reader from their specific loci as well as from generic theoretical perceptions. The book is divided into three sections-a set of essays by Khair, a set of monologues by Doubinsky and a conversation between the two, 'readers' and-what they call 'strange animals'-creative writers. The book is a complex tapestry, a palimpsest that invol-ves current political debates, theoretical dis-cussions about theories of reading, politics of contemporary reading and writing, and what Doubinsky summarizes as their theory, 'an open theory'. This may sound elusive, esoteric, even turgid, but the book is fairly lucid with what it grapples with, and is a must read for all students of literature, and above them, all readers of literature. The work is replete with references, ranging from Plato to Proust to Life of Pi, but these are enabling rather than disabling, for it also introduces the readers to what they should do for 'hard reading' in these times of 'soft reading'. Before we get into the individual takes of both the readers, let us have a look at the conversation between them that involves the global politics that circumscribe the current situation. Doubinsky paraphrases Proust from the latter's essay 'On Reading', and says that 'one can be disappointed by books because they have no reality-and we want them to have one. And that desire, precisely, that desire, is dangerous because it involves hopes and ...


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