Saturday, January 22, 2011

‘well again, you have had a wonderful career. I have missed so much of it because I've been busy and also some of the titles didn't strike me.’

This blog post title is taken from an interview that Jiminy Glick did with Steve Martin at The American Comedy Awards sometime in 2002. I think it is wonderful because oftentimes, this is what people actually mean when they are saying all sorts of other things to you. I’m hoping to incorporate this more into my conversation as well as the phrase ‘you’re really emo.’

Anyway, I recently read this post over at the Kaleidoglide which linked to a number of other fine posts on issues of books and piracy and privilege. I think it’s neat how piracy is generally something associated with the unwashed, underprivileged and the morally reprehensible. And yet in this onenumber country, we have a lot of privileged pirates (they may be unwashed and morally reprehensible tho).

I was an extremely active patron of pirated books (I only stopped because I discovered free audiobooks, not because I decided not to be morally reprehensible anymore). I also realize that I am probs morally reprehensible writer for admitting to being a former pirate. On that matter, I'd just like to say
stolen from here

Apart from pirated books, my bookshelf (such that it is) contains Xeroxed books (also illegal apparently), secondhand books and craptastic original books which were bought “because they were big” (shoutout to my peeps who do this too, I know there’s at least one of you out there) because big books somehow meant that I was getting more words for my money. This is what makes you put down the Atwood novel and pick up The Superbig Big Book Of Vampires and Werewolves and Vampires And Stuff Like That because that’s somehow more reading value. I don’t really want to go into how many of those superbig books I have. I have 7. I don’t want to talk about it.

This bookshelf is partly the result of idiocy and partly the result of going to great and sometimes illegal lengths for books that were otherwise inaccessible for various reasons. If a book costs kajillions of rupees or can only be found in a library that involves a Lord of the Rings-like journey to enter, that is called inaccessible. I don’t find the fact that these books are inaccessible to be shocking. There are probably complex economic reasons for that which I can’t understand. I do find it a little strange when peeps get all #outrage over piracy and say things like ‘why can’t they just buy it like everyone else’ or ‘why can’t they just go to the library’ (I love that one. That one’s my favorite). On the other hand, why are we relentlessly pursuing these inaccessible books which clearly we are not supposed to have? One reason could be because we are not having very much respect for IWiE books, even though they are usually (not always) cheaper. I think there is a very real feeling that IWiE is suckass when compared to English books written by other peeps. BUT!!!! A lot of the IWiE IS suckass. Wottodo.

I did not buy pirated books because I felt sorry for the vendors (which, I understand, is why some people buy them and I’m like wow, really?). I bought these books because there was no other way I could get them. I did not actively patronize book pirates as some form of activism. If these books were cheaper, I would totes have bought them in a store because I like bookstores! Really! They are way nicer than having to stand in dirty, crowded, potentially dangerous streets getting pawed and prodded, making sure you don’t get run over or step in the dogvomithumanshit or that your wallet doesn’t get nicked while trying to ignore the creepy stares from drunk dudes while you try to bring down the price from a dude who is alternately not looking at you at all and then furiously staring at your boobs. All this for a fucking book that will probs have smudged ink, wonky formatting, missing pages or as in many cases, all three. That’s fucking crazy. If someone’s willing to do all that for your book, chances are that they will be amenable to going to a bookstore and buy the original as long as it doesn’t cost them their kidneys to do so.

But Hay Gaiz! Guess What! You don’t need to be a bad book pirate! You can go to the library! Libraries are universally good things! Like good writing! If you can’t get your hands on the latest, all you need to do is skip over to the library, curl up in one of those lovely chairs provided by the management and enjoy the book! YAY! Golly gee whiz I sure do love libraries! Actually I’d rather eat my own spinal column while stabbing myself repeatedly in the eye with a dead bird than patronize a library. I know that as a writer I’m not supposed to say this either but again,

stolen from here
My libraryhate is purely a personal thing. I went to them repeatedly because I used to love them so much I can’t even say. I gave them my time and my money and they took everything and they broke my heart. They lied. They let me down. They broke my heart. I aint naming any names because I don’t want the English library mafia coming after me. Also these are my experiences, based on certain libraries during certain periods of time. It is my sincerest hope that other people have more positive experiences than I have had.

School/College Libraries- Ragged collections of locked bookcases filled with books that looked like they must have been all the rage in 1745. The End. I believe that the bookcase keys often played hide and seek with the library ledger which is maybe why people forgot that these bookcases could actually be opened and the books could be taken out.

Government Libraries are Government- These are great places to go if you want to look at books that have no pages in them. Where the pages went? People ripped them out and put them in their pocket and went home where they can do their research/studying in more comforts. There are of course books that still have pages in them but these books are no longer in the library. They have been lackadaisically spirited away and are in better places because apparently, the easiest thing in the world to do is flick English books from certain government libraries. Contrary to other libraries, these places actually kinda encourage you to read as long as you take the books (or at least the pages) with you and don’t come back and bother them again.

The Foreign Embassy Library- What could possibly be weirder than getting racist treatment in a phoren embassy library by your own brothersister brown peepal? Going back again and again to said establishment for getting same treatment like it is some candychocolate. But it’s going to take more than silly racism to keep me away! Because these people clearly did not want me in their libraries, grubbing up the books and the carpet and that imported phoren air with my dusty thirdworldness. Why else would they charge are-you-fucking-kidding-me rates for library cards? Other things they did to make these libraries superaccessible was to make it as hard as possible to physically get into the building and also to employ peeps with fullon Govt. Office Attitude, which I can get for free at places like the post office. Also worthy to note that these libraries were often shelf upon shelf of books that made one wonder if these embassies are dumping their garbage, outdated meds, toxic packaged food AND fuckall books here. Fuck you, foreign embassy library. Just, fuck you.

Private Lending Libraries that Offer More Than M&Bs, Sidney Sheldon, Ruth Rendell, Agatha Christie and PD James (Beedi James. LOLOLOLO)- These are the unicorns of libraries. I heard they exist but they apparently exist in very secret, magical places and only very special people are allowed in. To sign up, you have to take a blood oath which I understand is basically ‘keep it secret, keep it safe’ only it involves sacrificing a portion of your tongue at some point. If you offer up your first born and your liver, you get to take the book home. If you return the book early and in perfect condition but not early enough, they will slaughter your entire family. Twice.

Also, I doubt whether this somehow automatically reflects the sad state of libraries all over the India. Why because means in one little area I know of which somehow could never get its shit together in terms of setting up proper garbage disposal and sewer systems somehow had it together enough to set up a library (Tamil books and newspapers), which is used often and used well. Which kinda goes to show that we can if we want to, no? Or maybe we can’t when it comes to English books. I don’t know.

Ok, now I am going to be all contradictory and say I don’t think book piracy is a good thing. I say this as a writer with a book and also a reader who actively bought many pirated books- it sucks for an author to lose money (especially if they are not making much in the first place) and pirated books, in most cases, are not worth it. You just buy it because you reallyreally want to read the book.

I think shouting people down by saying ‘stop book piracy!’ is about as effective as ‘just say no to drugs’. It completely underestimates how deep the piracy issue is, why it’s happening and how badly some people want their books. If this is all about hip and swinging capitalism (ain’t no shame), doesn’t piracy mean there’s something wrong with the system? And if it is morally reprehensible to buy a pirated book, why is it not morally reprehensible to charge 900 rupees for that same book in its original form? If we can’t afford 900 bucks a pop for a book, does that mean we’re just not privileged enough to read and we should shut up and go away? When will people stop telling us to go to the library? Stop telling us to go to the fucking library!!! 

So to conclude, I want to apologize. This blog post is just really whiney and offers no solutions though it offers problems and some questions and that’s really annoying. Also, in an effort to redeem myself as a serious writer, I just want to say




Anonymous said...

hear, hear.. libraries do suck. never found one where you curl up with a book.

zunguzungu said...


will perhaps be of interest to you.

Anonymous said...

I too have suffered at the hands of Pritish Flouncal Library where the air conditioning would be so cold that my brain would freeze and I would forget why I was alive and even walking back home in the sun on Mount Road could not de-frost me.

kuzhali manickavel said...

@ anonymous I- this is true. maybe it's against indian culture to curl up with a book in a library. if it is, then all this makes perfect sense.

@ zunguzungu- that's a very interesting link, thanks for sharing :) i'm not sure if the problem is that bad in india but there seem to be a lot of similarities. also worth noting "illicit enterprises don’t get big without the cooperation of the authorities."

@ anonymous II- for the longest time, i couldn't find the pritish flouncal library, it was like some portal i could never see and people would point to the side of the road and say it's there! and i'd be like where? also, if the sun on mount road cannot defrost a frozen brain, i fear your brain may be frozen forever

scherezade said...,1518,710976,00.html- not the samesame but something to chew on still.
British Council in Bombay behaves well when you include terms like 'm n s' and 'raj thackeray' in conversation.
(Also. Last post was the awesomes.)

kuzhali manickavel said...

hay sup! thanks for the link, also very interesting. i read this

-In the few libraries that did exist, the valuable volumes were chained to the shelves to protect them from potential thieves.-

and i was like pffft, if they had tried that in certain libraries here, the chains would also go missing.

scherezade said...

The chains, the shelves. Everything but the books probably.
Getting psych texts for reference work while writing papers is a task that has the same effort benefit ratio as constructing a giant sand sculpture in high tide.
Which is none.
I mean I'll admit that its occasionally amusing to have half of the male genitalia drawn on alternative pages of "Weiner B; Theories of Motivation" but sometimes you just gotta stop and ask what kind of culture is so fascinated by leaving inaccurate sketches of the male apparatus on every piece of written word. And why can't they ever get the drawing right given that they are in possession of it and a close look will render important clues for an improved version of the art.
You gotta ask. You really gotta ask.
The plight of this behooves me to tears.

kuzhali manickavel said...

this is truly a sad and unfortunate thing. it behooves us all to pray that the creators of such inaccurate sketches of the male apparatus do not go on to become surgeons

Alex said...

Steve Aylett mentioned you on his twitter which is neat if you like him. I do so I was excited and now I like you! In a, um, not creepy way.

Aw, who am I kidding, everything I do is creepy. :D

Anonymous said...

Who's the G.O.G.? I think you should run against Thirumavalavan for MP and win and build a bunch of libraries! Kuzhali Vazhga! Puratchi Thalaivi Vazhga!

kuzhali manickavel said...

@ alex- ohai! at the risk of sounding like the title of this blog post, i have heard awesome things about steve aylett but haven't read anything of his yet, which i'll just blame on the libraries. in any case, am rather thrilled he mentioned me on twitter and that it brought you here. also you have the same name as this other person i knew once who was also called alex. i may have just made that up.

@ anonymous- who's the g.o.g, yeah you know me! my makkals, i may not have snazzy mouchies and awesome tamil oratory skillz. but if you elect me i promise to build libraries in every street. and if you give me lots of money and elect me again, i may even consider putting books in those libraries!

shre said...

I Will Almost Build a Library Fund.

ina bak said...

'There are probably complex economic reasons for that which I can’t understand' -> reckon I may gone too far, but can't help thinking that this could be the definition of Origin of Piracy: Somalia proves it.

kuzhali manickavel said...

@ shre- i do believe another fund is the perfect idea and that is the mostperfect name for said fund. as a token of my appreciation for coming up with said name for said fund, i will give you a portion of the fundage so you can almost build a library also.

@ ina- i'm not very familiar with the situation in somalia or even piracy as a whole but yes, i think in a very general sense this could be true. something allows or creates the conditions for piracy to happen, no?

Anonymous said...

Sorry Kuzhali. I stumbled upon some reviews about you on the net and was curious and bought your book "Insects are.." But didnt like it. The style of yours is not for me. It looks all disconnected and random sometimes depressing to me. I tried. Even went beyond halfway point but couldnt go further.

kuzhali manickavel said...

hai anonymous, thanks for stopping by and buying my book. i am sorry you didn't like it and couldn't get through it, tho a lot of people have felt the same way. i'm not sure what to say, i know what it's like to buy a book and be disappointed by it. i do hope you'll come across some another book and be pleasantly surprised and impressed by it

piratedvisumoviesforeva said...

hai kuzhali. moving to the amerika has brought back my love for the books because they really know how to take care of books and cover them with loving barcodes. also, they make franzen and bukowski read in big rooms with no a/c and people fan themselves really vigorously, etc.

i am going to buy your book, not pirated copy, because there are no pirates and no boob-gawking annen types on the road here.

wishing you luck. please come to our little untemple border town in the northwest uncoast of the tamilnadu or to our chicago puratchi sangam reading. we serve all authentic indian cuiseen with 50 word intro para. lots of cow-pig-goat-grass-ash-temple-shit-sepia-vibrant color stuff to talk to you about.

- admirer -

ps: am i sounding sarcastic? because there's one thing i'm not sarcastic about: your superlativeness.

kuzhali manickavel said...

ohai! thank you so much for saying nice things and for saying you will buy my book. i cant understand why franzen and bukowski are reading in big rooms with no a/c because i thought everything in uhmreeka was a/c. one very illustrious person told me that it was this constant state of a/c that turned all the people white.

also piratedvisumoviesforeva might possibly be the best sn evar.

piratedvisumoviesforeva said...

hai again kuzhali-- thanks for the compliment on my handle, vaazhga visu his royal supremefuckness. anyway in ironic twist of fate the network of umerikka ac libraries has tweeted and smsed each other and found me copy of your book so please don't be thinking of them so badly the poor vellai peepil with so much baggage on their thalais.

looking forward to reading and enjoying. are you having any audio readings i can share with friends on moonjoorbook?

kuzhali manickavel said...

ohai again to you also, piratedvisumoviesforeva! you know what happened once? once this lady told me her family was like visu padam. i didn't even ask her anything also. such is the power of the visu. i am so pleased you were able to find a librarycopy of my book, i do hope you like it and i am having appreciations for the umreeekhalibraries also. i try, as a rule, not to think badly of vellaipeepal because they gave our country railways and post offices and stuff like that.

i'm afraid i dont have any audio readings. i am audio readings phail. i hope you will not judge me because of this.

piratedvisumoviesforeva said...

dear kuzhali hai and no i am not judging you because of no audio. you are like paracetamol. you are like horlicks bottle with paracetamol in it. your drawings made me go waaw and my brain is spinning like it is on acid except i dont know what acid is and why it is called that. i read full book while cutting vazakka like afternoon mega serials.

i will do seriously serious review and post on my blogokay? meanwhile please be awesome foreva.

kuzhali manickavel said...

ohai! yay, you read my book! and you did it while cutting vazhakka! and you are not judging me because of no audio! yay! i am so much appreciating that you read my book :) i will love to read your seriously serious review also so please inform, ah?

meanwhile, you please be awesome all the time also

piratedvisumoviesforeva said...

hai hai kuzhali,

i am be mail you with review soon. where is your emailbox? ensoi blogabbatical.

kuzhali manickavel said...

o hai hai! :)

my emailbox is at

we are excited to read your review you gaiz !111!


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