Sunday, July 14, 2013

Stanzas For Vikram Seth

This week's Sunday Guardian column.

Reflections on the recent Vikram Seth-Penguin Random House imbroglio -- in Pushkin sonnets, a form that Seth has had some success with.

A writer's life is hard they say
The words they come, the words they go
Scribble, scribble, every day
The reading public doesn't know
The toil and stress behind each line
The time it takes to make it shine
There's no accounting for the Muse
Some even turn to pills and booze
The daily grind can get too much
Hours fly by without a page
The writer's room can be a cage
A dungeon or a rabbit hutch
That's why when faced with a schedule
You shake your head, you break the rule

 Publishers on the other hand
Follow dates and calendars
Deadlines are theirs to command
Objections kicked aside like curs
Your stammering and stuttering
Will not accomplish a thing
Profit, not loss, is their goal
It isn't that they have no soul
Their hands are tied, they face a block
It’s elementary, you see
It's all about double entry
That's why your schedule they will stalk
The House of Penguin Random
It cares about your fandom

 Be it a girl, be it a boy
Suitable or otherwise
Be it May, June or July
Meet the deadline, come, be wise
Recall the contract that you signed
Break it now and you’ll be fined
In this race you can’t be sick
They want you to be prolific
Roll that boulder up that hill
Think of the Booker and the fame
All yours if you play the game
Think of Oates, Joyce Carol
Buck up now that’s what we say
Think of Faulkner or Hemingway

 The libretto will have to wait
Start that novel once again
Otherwise, get this straight
No more toasts with champagne
There is a way, mark my words
Don’t proceed by halves and thirds
Look them in the eye and say
You’re working on more Shades of Grey
That will earn you a second chance
 In front of you they'll start to melt
And that will be your lifebelt
To ask them for the next advance
Lean back now, gloat awhile
Their throats are yours, Saatchi-style

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