Books will become vintage works of art: Vikram Chandra

  • Arundhati Chatterjee, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Dec 23, 2014 17:24 IST

Novelist, screenplay writer and creative writing professor at the University of California, USA - Vikram Chandra has worn many hats throughout his career. But not many know that the award-winning writer has also spent a considerable amount of time writing code as well. This experience is the inspiration behind his latest book, Geek Sublime: The Beauty Of Code, The Code Of Beauty. In spite of dealing with a technical topic, Chandra claims that the book will be a breeze for laymen too.

We catch up with the writer at the launch of his book in the city.

Tell us about your non-fiction debut. Why did you zero in on writing about programming languages?
Just after I graduated, and before I started writing my first novel, I was an independent programmer. Somehow, I have always been fascinated with the intricacies of coding. The breathtaking speed at which technology is booming today motivated me to decode the beauty behind coding. Though it took me three-and-a-half years to write this book formally, the material has been with me for decades now. I just had to find the right channel to tie the threads.

How different was the experience of writing non-fiction?
It's a different ball game altogether. Also, it was pretty challenging since throughout my adult life, I've never written any piece of non-fiction, except for one essay. So, I had to make detailed footnotes and citations. Also, while writing fiction, you have your characters to lead you, but there's no such built-in narrative in non-fiction. Thus finding the structure was difficult.

Since there's a lot about the future of technology in your book, do you think e-readers will outnumber print readers for it?
Yes, inevitably. Books won't disappear, and they will keep selling, but for everyday reading, the digital format will gain momentum. Though it may not happen in the near future, somewhere in a distant point in time, books will become valuable, vintage works of art. Personally, I've switched to the digital format because I travel a lot and for research; it is more convenient to bookmark and have the pages right in front of you. Funnily, my younger daughter recently saw a magazine, and tried to swipe the pages, because she associates any flat and colourful surface with a tablet.

You have written award-winning books in both formats - short stories and novels - with Sacred Games clocking in at 900-plus pages. Which format was easier?
Writing short stories is harder any day. Partly, that's the reason why many writers do not write short stories. There's always a greater pressure on the efficiency of language when you have a limited work count. Also, the natural instinct is to write lengthy prose. That's why writing poetry is more difficult than writing short stories, while, writing haikus is the toughest.

You have had a lot of filmi influences around you, with your sisters Anupama Chopra (film critic), and Tanuja Chandra (writer-director). Except for co-writing Mission Kashmir's (2000) script, you haven't really worked in the film industry. Why is that?
Personally, I don't think I'm built for the industry. It's a huge collaborative place, and for someone like me who is used to working alone in a garage, that environment doesn't really work. But, having said that, my book Sacred Games might be converted into a TV series; talks are on, but nothing has been finalised.

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