26 April 2019
Novelist Amitava Kumar has some alternative suggestions in a new book
Immigration has been a bitter truth for me too. It is dire when your homeland tells you that you are a traitor, painful when people leave you for being a traitor and more painful when branded as a ‘writer of immigrant fiction’. Jhumpa Lahiri’s answer seems to be a tit for tat, ‘What do you call other fiction, native fiction?’
Kumar’s writeup, base and motto is to destroy that bloody stereotype and to make people understand that even immigrants can write about their country, maybe even better. The new book testimonies Kumar’s prowess over the subject of writing and his bitter sweet experience in the world of literature.
In the essay The Emperor of Writing Maladies, Amitava starts with a concrete point of how writing transforms, creates and how writing badly could make something either well enough or just trash.
You fail as a writer if your writing is not concrete, if it is vague and abstract, and your reader is unable to see what you mean. In a textbook I have used in my journalism class, the author offers the following anecdote about Gene Roberts, former editor of the New York Times, whose first job was writing farm columns for a small newspaper in North Carolina: “Roberts’ editor was Henry Belk, who was blind. Roberts recalls that when he showed up for work in the morning, Belk would call him over and inform the young reporter that his writing was insufficiently descriptive. ‘Make me see,’ he would order.’”
I now tell this story to my writing students each semester. Make me see, make me see!
It is no secret that English is a complex and awkward language. In Writing Badly Is Easy, Amitava Kumar presents advice on writing from award-winning writers like Suketu Mehta, George Saunders and Jonathan Franzen as well as prominent thinkers like Alain de Botton and Kathleen Stewart to create a manual for those who want to excel at writing. Through the writings in this volume, Kumar shows how important it is to write both critically and creatively as well as for writing to be fun, vivid and imaginative. Writing Badly Is Easy will not only teach you how to be a better writer but also how much fun it can be to use language in an innovative manner. As Kumar says, “It is a work in mixed form, bringing together self-help, interviews, essays, fiction.”
This collection of short pieces offers lessons from the masters on how to be a better writer. Writing badly is easy is a style guide for those who want to write well. It presents advice given by award-winning creative writers—including Jonathan Franzen, Jennifer Egan, Suketu Mehta, Marilynne Robinson, George Saunders and Colson Whitehead noted thinkers like br>alain de botton, Andrew Ross, Anna Tsing, Kathleen Stewart and Rob Nixon, as well as numerous others. Amitava Kumar’s own essays on writing, including his collaboration with Teju Cole, demonstrate the importance of blurring the line between critical and creative writing. A manifesto for writing that is exuberant, imaginative and playful, writing badly is easy will change the way you think about reading and writing, and reveal the pleasures to be had in the inventive use of language.
What Writing badly is easy does is that it tells you a poem of improvement, a verse of development and a libretto of advice in a tone that is perfectly tight, gripping and not left at the altar of world making, just what makes Amitava Kumar a great educator, teacher and writer.
You improve as you read through it. It wonderfully tells us how even great persons like some famous authors, branded newspapers and all other literary stuff even does have and makes flaws in the language that is the main artery of their job. What runs out as the main language of the book is not Kumar’s style of flowery prose but rather his trademark craft of minute observation. You would not come across such a vivid and vast book about writing before.
Amitava’s years of work, thought and listings come across in this book. He tells you what to do, what not to do, what to learn from others, what not to learn from others, what style to follow, what language to follow, what tone to intake, what prompt to use, what editing to be done, what steps to be followed, what rules to follow, what history to read, what literature to see and whom to behold and whom to trash.
If you are one for whom writing is difficult or writing is dangerous, one for whom writing is life or writing is job, this book is a must add to your shelf.