“The Origins of Dislike” by Amit Chaudhuri, a review

Soni Wadhwa in the Asian Review of Books:

In his new book, The Origins of Dislike, Amit Chaudhuri unwraps several aspects of reading, writing, publishing, criticism, and thinking in general, mostly to dismantle the perceived virtuosity of these phenomena.

This collection of Chaudhuri’s talks and previously published essays scandalizes in the bubbles it bursts around commonplace notions of profundity and greatness that people use to speak about great books, especially novels. It also pleases with its insights into approaches of writing and interpretation.

Readers who thought they were reading books for pleasure would be shocked to discover that they are themselves an invention of the free market. In “The Piazza and the Car Park”, Chaudhuri says that publishing industry and its agents created the reader:

unburdened by intelligence; easily challenged by expressions of the intellect; easily diverted by a story, an adventure, a foreign place, or fairy tale, or an issue or theme of importance. This reader was transparent, democratic and resistant only to resistance, occlusion, and difficulty. Writing must assume the characteristics of the ‘reader’: the term for this process, in which literature took on a desirable quality was ‘accessibility’.

Chaudhuri takes things up a notch when he discusses popular myths among the readers about what goes into writing a novel.

More here.