Sunil K Poolani
Sometime ago I requested an established writer to pen a Foreword for a book we were publishing. Without mincing many words he said he will charge at least Rs 10,000 for his 1,000-word ‘magnum opus’. My firm had agreed to pay that amount; his blurb on the cover would boost sales of a first-time author, you know. It is another matter the book did not take off and the Foreword was never written.
Move over quality literature’s patronising saints, who benevolently considered up-and-coming authors are their literary progeny, once; big money is here, now. After fat advances and multi-city tours, it is the turn of these time-honoured writers to demand greenbacks to make them richer by resorting to a less-effortful game of writing forewords or blurbs for gullible publishers and wannabe writers.
Evidently, there are ‘friendly’ stalwarts who write blurbs, in favour of a certain publisher, or for a friend, or his or her offspring... Salman Rushdie wrote one for Kiran Desai’s debut work, Hullabaloo in the Guava Orchard. And see what she has achieved for her second novel: a Booker.
Look at the advantages. This tribe might have published one or two best-selling books, and today they might be scrounging for fodder for their forthcoming success stories. That may or may not happen. So what do you do to remain in picture — and, yes, make money, too? Forewords? Well, they do take time to write. Blurb? It is easy, silly; you don’t even have to read the book in question.
These writers can deliver carefully-worded, adjective-laden blurbs at the drop of a hat. Taste one: “A valiant saga of loss and longing, rare bravery and resilience; narrated with remarkable kind-heartedness and forthrightness… An outstanding debut!” The novel could be hardly that. But who is complaining?
Yours truly and my partner in life and crime, Lajwanti S Khemlani, just finished, and enjoyed, reading Richard Crasta’s The Killing of an Author (Invisible Man Books). This is what we have to say:
The book tells us about the harrowing hardships Crasta had to face in the process of getting his novel The Revised Kama Sutra published. Eventually, his story was published worldwide. But not before Crasta lost all he had — wife, children, money and, most importantly, his health. In the process of writing, rewriting, and trying to get his novel published, Crasta became a prescription drug addict.
Whatever Crasta does, he does passionately. He dares to be different in his writing and behaviour. And this seeps through in his work as clearly as sparkling water. In spite of the book theme being intense, Crasta has a sense of humour which he maintains from the start to the end. In a sense, the book is a lesson to new writers of what could happen to them even in developed nations like the US and the UK.
The Killing of an Author is funny, sad, and eye-opening. Like others who are dependent on psychiatric drugs, Crasta has to have them for his depression and anxiety. He knows he needs them to function, but does not know the side-effects. The book presents how most innocent civilians like him get caught up in drug enslavement without the slightest inkling of what could happen if you take this, that and the other. It is also a warning to those who are plagued with mental problems to learn more about what they ingest, even if it is prescribed by their loved ones.
We need more writers like him. But are Indian publishers ready to take him seriously?
Sunil K Poolani is Executive Director and Publisher, Leadstart Publishing Pvt Ltd, Mumbai. Write to him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
-- The Asian Age / Deccan Chronicle