'Hair makes a big difference to a critic'
Amid the cold, prickly temperatures, authors joked, and shared ideas on day one of the Jaipur Literature Fest
A mad session between Danish writer Carsten Jensen, British quipper and novelist Geoff Dyer along with our homegrown writers Chandrahas Choudhury and Rana Dasgupta, a Commonwealth Prize winner, had the audience in splits. More so, for the renowned postcolonial theorist and Mumbai personality Homi K Bhabha turned out to be extremely devilish for he and writer Philip Hensher rowed about the critic James Wood and whether he was worth reading at all.
Bhabha introduced the idea if book reviews are useful at all. Dyer replied, “Just the other day, I googled something and quite incidentally I typed in my own name. So when I went through all the reviews, it was remarkable how quickly I got bored. Second of all, I think generally I am well-informed of what I am up to.”
The witticisms continued when the writers compared how it was an art when certain reviews squeezed in the book in just about 120 words. Hensher went all out speaking how critic James Wood had the intention of reading everything in a religious context to which Bhabha took a pause and explained, “You know, he is my colleague at the university (Harvard) and I quite admit that he does have that as a dominating aspect in his criticism but you are reading it just the way certain reviews pan out highlighting one aspect too much.”
The two then jostled if Hensher should save face after that, and he said, “I have known James when he was at the university, when he had all that hair,” where Bhabha rebutted, “Hair makes a lot of difference to the critic.” On a more thoughtful note, the discussion spoke of the compulsions a reviewer has in terms of time and space and if they should re-iterate the summary after all, a big no-no on the panel and in the audience as it seemed.
In the middle of the crowd
Actor Irrfan Khan donned his standoffish attitude while in the same breath professed his need to learn in many respects. During the course of a discussion with Gujarati Dalit poet Neerav Patel, Hariram Meena, a well-known Rajasthani poet, the actor also engaged in discussion with the Dastangoi-Rhodes scholar Mahmood Farroqui. A member of the audience showed off by reciting poetry to which, the actor replied reparteed: “Bhai hum ko bhi thodi kavita padhne do, abhi thode kache hai, practice ho jayegi,” having the audience in splits. On the other end, Suhel Seth lost his patience while making his way such that he half-uttered ‘excuse me’ and gave up
Wonky sock pocket
Aside from the banter of books, the various stalls offered official festival merchandise, as well as Bob Marley psychedelic canvas prints and what caught our eye – a muppety-sort sock pocket. Made by Ishara Puppet Theatre, these modern age puppets debunked the traditional Rajasthani art and had alluring tennis balls for eyes. In bright colours such as baby pink, neon green and yellows, these naughty creatures brought a smile to our faces and the memory of the DIY gifts- Valentine’s Day of the series Friends. Sock Bunny, anyone?