Joy Bhattacharjya Posts

Literati: “Catch them young”

Literati: “Catch them young”

From this month  I begin a new column in the Hindu Literary Review called “Literati”. It will be about the world of books, publishing and writers from around the world. Here is the url to the first column. http://www.thehindu.com/books/literary-review/catch-them-young/article5969576.ece It was published online on 3 May 2014 and will be in the print edition on 4 May 2014. I am c&p the text below. 

Ghost BrideA friend called this morning expressing her delight that her 11-year-old son had finished the pile of books I had lent him. Now he was back to reading Calvin and Hobbes. A father worried about his tennis- and cricket-mad 10-year-old son says the kid only wants to buy sports almanacs.

The parents’ bewilderment is incomprehensible given the explosion of children and young adult literature. The focus is so intense that it has generated a lively intense debate along gendered lines. Should books meant for girls have pink covers? Dame Jacqueline Wilson says it is ‘pigeonholing’ and it is putting boys off reading. Of late, there have been articles wondering whether boys are not reading because they are simply unable to discover books that appeal to them.

An international imprint I have become quite fond of is Hot Keys, established by Sarah Odedin, formerly J.K. Rowling’s editor. Hot Keys is synonymous with variety, fresh and sensitively told stories and is not afraid of experimenting nor can it be accused of gender biases in content and design. Sally Gardner’s award-winning Maggot Moon, Yangsze Choo’s The Ghost Bride and Tom Easton’s hilariousBoys Don’t Knit belong to this list.

Other recently released YA titles available in India are Andaleeb Wajid’s No Time for Goodbyes, which uses the time travel formula to contrast contemporary life with that of the previous generation; Ranjit Lal’s blog Tall Stories, a collection of 100 stories about 10-year-old Sudha and 12 1/2-year-old Lalit, being uploaded weekly; and Joy Bhattacharjya’s delightful Junior Premier League ( co-authored with his son, Vivek) about a bunch of 12-year-olds eager to join the Delhi team of the first ever Junior Premier League tournament.

Some imprints that publish books for children and young adults in India are Puffin, Red Turtle, Duckbill, Pratham, Walker Books, Macmillan and Hachette.

Creating cultural wealth for children ensures there is little or no loss of cultural confidence, and creates a reading community in the long term. Pratham Books in partnership with Ignus ERG with funding support from Bernard van Leer Foundation is launching a new imprint called Adhikani. These books for young children will be published in four tribal languages of Odisha-Munda, Saura, Kui and Juang.

The idea is to make literature in print available in an otherwise oral culture whose stories are not normally visible in “mainstream” publications. They have already brought out 10 books and four song cards with Saura mural art based illustrations. Bi-lingual editions are also being considered in English with Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, Urdu and Tamil.

The Pratham-IGNUS ERG experiment is not uncommon. The Good Books Guide: How to Select a Good Book for Children (published by NBT and PAG-E) cites other examples and introduces 800 titles from English, in translation and available in other Indian languages.

Today there are so many choices/distractions and readers are increasingly used to personalising their environment to their tastes and interests. Increasingly it is being done in classrooms, so why not in trade literature as well?

Readers versus writers?

Eighty per cent of readers ‘discover’ a book through word of mouth and 20 per cent through social media. The Malayalam edition of Benyamin’s award-winning novel Aadujeevitham (Goat Days) has gone into the 75th edition (it was first published in 2008) and Anurag Mathur’s Inscrutable Americans has gone into the 50th edition (first published in 1991).

Internationally, India is a dream destination for publishers. The overall market in physical books was up 11 per cent by volume and 23 per cent by value in 2013 over 2012 (Nielsen, London Book Fair, 2014). Production of books is increasing, but is there a corresponding increase in readers too?

Rahul Saini — whose Paperback Dreams is a tongue-in-cheek fictional account of publishing in India — discovered to his dismay that an author friend wanted the synopsis told. Apparently he did not have the time to go through the whole book.Rahul Saini

Saini says, “Everyone wants to write but no one wants to read. I think this is a dangerous phenomenon. If we don’t want to read then is it really fair to write and expect others to read our books?” Writing takes time and effort and for it to be recognised it has to be of high calibre.

Translation award

The inaugural V. Abdulla Award for translation from Malayalam into English will be given on May 10, 2014 in Kozhikode by writer M.T. Vasudevan Nair. V. Abdulla was the first translator of Basheer.

@JBhattacharji

jayabhattacharjirose@gmail.com

3 May 2014 

 

“Junior Premier League”, Joy Bhattacharjya

“Junior Premier League”, Joy Bhattacharjya

Junior Premier LeagueA slim novel for ten-year-olds. Written by Joy Bhattacharjya and his twelve-year-old son, Vivek. The story is about Sachin, Neel and a bunch of boys who are competing to join the Delhi team of the Junior Premier League. The story is from the time they are selected, trained and compete in the championship. I enjoyed reading the book. It is very clear from the story, irrespective of the format of the game being played, cricket is like any other sport — it is gruelling in the training and discipline that is required.

While reading the story, I kept getting the feeling that the story was reading well, since there were details about organising a cricket tournament, preparing the players for it — in terms of practice, nourishment, mental strength etc. Details about time management, slowly changing the players from thinking only about themselves to behaving like a team player, while retaining their individual traits and strengths.  In an email conversation with Joy Bhattacharjya, he said that the series arc will develop slowly. For now he  is trying to establish and build the JPL universe and follow Sachin, Neel and a couple of the other characters as  the league goes into another year. The frequency of the books will be twice a year, with the next one due to be published in November and Book 3 to coincide with the next IPL.

My only quibble with the story is that the brutal competitiveness that children and young adults are capable of is lacking in this story. The focus is on cricket but the characters are comparatively tame. Contemporary young adult literature can be at times horrifyingly honest and sharp in the violence and harsh world it depicts. Young adults are still on the cusp of adulthood, so have not completely lost that clarity of behaviour that exists in childhood, of being who they are, seeing the world in black and white. Even though Joy Bhattacharjya had taken the help of his son to get into the mind of a twelve-year-old and they have worked on the plot together, I felt that they fell a little short. Maybe once Joy and his son settle into the skin of the characters, they will be able to express themselves more confidently.

Writing about sports and literature is never easy. IPL or the Junior Premier League which is the focus of the novel is a new Here and Now, 2008- 2011version of an old sport. Tailor-made for the speed age, part-entertainment, part-sports, but a business that involves huge amounts of money. So creating a story that is trying to yoke together the IPL version of cricket and create a good story for young readers is a tough balancing act. There is a lovely portion in the correspondence between Paul Auster and J. M. Coetzee published in Here and Now: Letters ( 2008 – 2011) about sports. Coetzee says in his letter of 11 May 2009, “What strikes me is how difficult it is to invent and launch a thoroughly new sport ( not just a variant of an old one), or perhaps I should say launch a new game ( sports being selected out of the repertoire of games).” To which Paul Auster replies, “…essentially you are right. Nothing new has been made to impact for generations. When you think about how quickly various technologies have altered daily life ( trains, cars, airplanes, movies, radios, televisions, computers), the intractability of sports is at first glance mystifying. There has to be a reason for it…So much is at stake now in professional sports, so much money is involved , there is so much profit to be gained by fielding a successful team that the men who control soccer, basketball, and all other major sports are as powerful as the heads of the largest corporations, the heads of governments. There is simply no room to introduce a new game. The market is saturated, and the games that already exist have become monopolies that will do everything possible to crush any upstart competitor. That doesn’t mean that people don’t invent new games ( children do it every day), but children don’t have the wherewithal to launch multi-million-dollar commercial enterprises.” ( p.65, p.68-69)

For Joy Bhattacharjya, who is associated with Kolkota Knight Riders, it is such an integral part of his professional life, he is able to infuse the story with details about the team, give the children like Sachin and Neel  dreams to be like their heroes, all of which ring true and important for accurate  storytelling but it needs to soar higher than the particulars of the game. While providing insightful tidbits about the game and championship, the story at the same time has to be in step with good children’s literature that will continue to be read and sell beyond the current IPL season; well after heroes like Sunil Narine have quit professional cricket. For now much of reading pleasure stems from the familiarity with the media buzz about the game.

There is promise in the first book. Hence the expectations. I have no doubt the series will live up to these expectations.

Joy Bhattacharjya The First XI Junior Premier League Penguin Books India, New Delhi, 2014. Pb. pp. 176. Rs. 199.

Web Analytics Made Easy -
StatCounter