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Monday, February 6, 2012

Separate Journeys

I am still trying to get my stride back, but while I do that, I have been reading a collection of short stories called Separate Journeys. Each story is written by a female Indian author from a different part of the country. The stories have been interesting, although not for exactly the reason I at first anticipated. The introduction to this book makes a big point out of the fact that each of the authors comes from a distinct background with different literary and cultural attributes as a result. My perception of Indian literature is rapidly expanding. It seems like, so far at from what I have observed, English is a fundamental part of Indian writing, but it is also just another language among many languages. Most of the major languages have a huge body of literature. I find that idea fascinating. Regardless of what I ultimately end up doing specifically for my project, I am going to devote a certain amount of time to try to hunt down the sources of these books. One of the stories suggested that there was a massive pool of Kannada literature, except while I was there in India I never saw anywhere that sold books except for in English, with maybe a single book case devoted to the most common regional language. I mean, I was not actively looking, but I feel like if these were such prolific writing communities, there would be more evidence of it. Maybe I just am not looking in the right places. The posh malls cater to the rich, obviously, and so it isn't surprising that the majority of their books are in English. The thing is, I only ever noticed two kinds of book stores while I was in India. There are the super posh ones and then the small, warehouse like black market book stores. Well, black market is kind of harsh, I guess, because they do sell legitimate copies of books. But they also sell a lot of pdf print off kind of books where I am pretty sure neither publisher nor author sees any royalties from them.

So when I get to New Delhi, I am going to have to be on the look out for other outlets for books. I am going to have to ask around, but the things I have thought of so far are: book stores, "black market" street book stores (obviously), book fairs (like the Sunday book sale I mentioned in an earlier entry that existed in Hyderabad. I feel bad, but in pursuit of my project I am willing to go out on a Sunday and buy books, if it comes to that), book carts, book stalls, yard sales?, literature events, college stores, national libraries, and local libraries. Perhaps talking to publishing houses might also help to see which book seller people they sell their books to might uncover some leads.

I am finding that in my research I am struggling to find sources talking about Indian readership. There isn't much, but there is plenty for a field study project that involves literary criticism. However, while enlightening and something that would be productive to read in preparation for my time in India and discussing literature with people, it doesn't really help me ground my project in the current research about reading in India. I mostly have been hitting the databases I use as an English major, which is probably part of the problem. The study of English is interested in why people read, but usually is more abstract/attempting to be universal, which isn't terribly helpful. I think I will have to talk to a few of my anthropologist friends to see if there are any databases that they recommend particularly (Rachel, here's lookin' at you kid, among others). Perhaps they will have more of what I need.

Anyhow, I talk like I have completely narrowed it down, but I haven't quite yet. Emma Roberts is out. As much as I would love to do that, I do not think I have the temperament to go run around the country and accomplish things. I am not good at being spontaneous like you would need to be in order to make that work. Besides, I really do not think a summer is enough time to make that work. I think the Urdu poetry thing might be out as well. I am in love with the idea, but I don't know if I could quite tie it together in something meaningful. Okay, I think I could, but I guess I am not sure that I could learn Urdu well enough in time in order to actually work in translation, which is what I would have to do. And it wouldn't be text book Urdu, it would be artistic, high Urdu written in handwriting from two hundred years ago, not printed, with all the irregularities and complexities that go along with it. I think it would be fun, but I would probably end up writing a paper about the experience of how hard it is to translate and interpret poetry, not really write something meaningful about the poetry. The remaining three ideas are kind of iterations of each other. Some are too broad, some might be too narrow, I will have to work them out. I may just end up creating a hybrid out of them or something. I think locating some actual resources about what and why people are reading will be helpful to giving me some really healthy perspective on what direction I should go. Although I guess thinking about the topics, I am going to need literary history, not just literary anthropology. Blerg. I don't know where to get that.

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