I finished reading ‘Stable Horses’ by Vihanga Perera. My goodness! It was torture. It was tough. Nothing smooth! I gave up. Then I started reading it again because I wanted to see why everyone is so mad about a book which was also shortlisted for the Gratiaen. I am thinking that to be shortlisted for such an award there should be something in that book or something fascinating about it. But so far I haven’t heard a good word of it; or the reasons for ‘Stable Horses’ to be short listed that year. I would love to know.
Here I am writing again. This time, it is not about the book, not about the writer but to the writer. I feel bad for him so I thought I should give him a ‘piece of advice’ my way: for him to take it or to leave. I’ve studied a little bit of business administration, the basic stuff. This is a golden rule: To improve business, you need the feedback from your customers. I don’t know in this writing business if that rule is valued. That’s why as a reader I thought to give him this feedback though I didn’t pay for the ‘Stable Horses’. But I paid for ‘Unplugged Quarter’.
What the hell were you thinking writing that book: in English, in such a style, of such themes, with such language and most hysterically, to win an award?
You need to get a few things straight, mate: how come you didn’t know that nobody in Sri Lanka cares about youth or complexities of life and growing up. If you want to win an award or if you want to sell some books write about somebody’s servant girl or a working class woman doing laundry or sells vegetables or sweep tickets, an upper class chick who has the heart of a dove or a rebellious man falling in love with common people. Again, don’t forget he has to be from an elite class. So, just like a judge from the panel of American Idol I’m telling you the story choice was wrong. At least you could have written about CSK and Maheshi’s complicated relationship with a little bit of twist.
Who is going to admit the things you have mentioned in the book such as teachers taking things out of students; how hard is it to ask a girl out just because you are young and have feelings; rejection of love; after leaving school guys ending up as door-to-door sales men. Those things have no taste. I mean like the old Sinhala saying ‘the rooster you see everyday has a white wattle’. These things you have mentioned in the book we already know. But the problem is youth can’t crow vociferously. That’s a sin. Just like the incident of the English teacher advocating students not to debate with Trinity College. Crow only when you are allowed: like a rooster, only in the morning (but the truth is Roosters can crown any time of the day). Sri Lankan youth are the castrated capons. There is no need of writing about them.
If this was written in Sinhala trust me you will sell and there will be an audience for the book, the little brothers and sisters of ours still in school and universities going through the same complexities growing up will understand. No complications for them. They know the rubbish, they are the rubbish. Just like Upul Shantha Sannasgala’s “Wassana Sihinaya” or “Sulanga Wage Avidin” (I can’t remember the writer), kids will love this.
They know the language because that’s what they use to communicate. They know the beat of the heart of the story, they know what you talk about. I’m not comparing “Stable Horses” with “Wassana Sihinaya or “Sulanga Wage Avidn”. Both the Sinhala books I mention are different but what I’m saying is: the book would have been popular among the youth, same as the two Sinhala novels I mentioned.
This book better be promoted among younger readers. They wouldn’t buy but they will read and pass the book on to a friend.
And one more thing, it is true that the book doesn’t have a chapter arrangement. I know life doesn’t happen in an order/ method. Or life (same as youth) doesn’t present to us a simple manner but the stories have to be what they are. When you write you have to place them in order. Otherwise it confuses the readers who have never faced the things we faced when growing up. If I write the things in the same order as they happened in my life when growing up as a girl that would be the most unorganized book in history.
You are too intelligent to be fooled with false comments but it is true if I tell you there are chapters even an academic, linguist or reader could enjoy and appreciate, but not all of them — except us who grew up as common youth in Sri Lanka, the extra ordinary readers.
PS: If you know why ‘Stable Horses’ was shortlisted for the Gratiaen please let me know.