Being, for a while, an honest critic—the most disliked of all of creation itself—I shall point out some subtle hints given off by CB to warn us of the swirling vortex of insignificance in his pages…
Like 5 years back, I bought this book called Five Point Someone (FPS, for brevity and the horror the full name still instills). It would be interesting to find out “what not to do at IIT”, considering it’s unlikely for me to find out what “to do”—disregarding any hints given off by a tasteless book cover and font (size, typeface and colour, in their triadic disharmony), inside and outside. That is not to say that I did not give the book a chance to change the impression it made initially.
This is only an introspective account of my regret at having crossed paths with FPS. Why does it bother me? Because reading a bad book is something you can never undo. It takes a part of you away, not to mention a handsome amount of time spent reading it (which, thanks to Bhagat’s impeccable grammar, redundant sentence formation, recurring thoughts and artless language, was not that significant a factor here). That is not to mention how sadistic I am. And if I could spare myself the leisure of quoting from real literature, “I’m here to bury Chetan, not to praise him.”
It definitely was, and is, and judging by his choice of themes to depict, and complexity of thoughts (rather, the lack of it), all his future works too will be, printed business models, incontestably mercenary. And that always comes at the cost of quality. The one and only good facet to it is that it makes those people take up books who would never have, otherwise. It’s disheartening though, that most of them don’t go beyond the horizons of Bhagatitude. And it becomes the cul-de-sac of their reading experience.
I started off with the book, without any hopes, and mindsets, for it was almost just out at that time without a lot of reviews. For which I am glad, else hope would have done this really terrible thing it does—lead me to a greater disappointment, which would go on to do its own little terrible thing—leading to a more acrid response on my side.
I did not finish reading the book. Nor did I read anything else by him. I could not convince myself to. Predictability is flirtatious, but my encounters with books had armed me to extrapolate the storyline of the only disappointment I happened to lay my hands on. The language and style(?) of writing made sure I contented myself with the calculated guesses. Eighty odd pages into it, I took the nearest exit, silencing the impressive narration of a teenager beginning to pen his inner voice, often running out of ink, and upon finding it, often running out of thoughts.
Some things worthy of noting down, albeit mentally, about CB-books are:
His books are not works of literature by any means. Period. Don’t call it that. (I say that because I have heard people say that as if they don’t realise what they are getting at.)
They are not novels either, by any norms of novel-writing. (It’s the same trick we use in college assignments. Increase the font size and gap between lines. Voila, 20 pages!)
His works are close to comic books, just short of that, due to a visible lack of speech bubbles, also devoid of any form of imagery (which comic books are best known for, quite literally so), also the most basic virtue of a novel. Not to mention the meek namesake of a storyline.
The character names do not go beyond the most unimaginative, common Indian names. (And there are pretty flashy Indian names too, with a lot of consonants tossed in.)
The humour is not even borderline seasoned, or remotely satiric. It is at its best, anecdotal. (And of course, the best of it comes only once or if you lower your standards, twice.)
I personally did not want to be any character from his book (which again is the least an author’s imagination should incite), and I don’t really think anyone would. (This although disregards those hinting Bipolar tendancies.)
The sneak peek to the story behind the book is a peep show I would choose to avoid. It shows the wrong kind of flesh to my liking. (And that being “paid”?)
The detailing is pretty much anti-LOTR, and the scenes bask in a negative space of non-existence. Dialogues smeared across a desserted play, is pretty much it.
I don’t fully gather to what effect do people associate his name to their experience in reading. “I love to read” they tend to touch up with “my favourite author is CB”. It leads me to think what class of “Moron” they are carved out of. And that takes away any regard I might have had. Because for him to be your favourite, he also has to be your only. Along with him now come a myriad of other authors shelved under “Indian writing” (which I feel should be replaced by “Indian writing crap”), producing story books that flood the now-unfriended neighbourhood bookstores, and bring down a handsome number of trees, which would do mankind some good were they still upright. Some of them might be better than the others, no denying that (not the trees, I mean). But when I enter the store with my wish list in mind, and hopes mounting like the notes in a mental whistle, and have to realise that CB is the “in thing”, ergo they did not risk/bother getting copies of the well-writ brethren of books, should vengeance still not be served cold?
Ranting apart, few things CB is quite capable of, which we shall now applaud to.
He can consistently write orthogonal to humour, language, imagination and love simultaneously.
He can make your coffee taste bad if you read it with your drink.
You can never steal his masterpiece creation of rambling crap, because it is ALWAYS at the safest place. The future.
He wields the most potent weapon to take care of his sales. The law of large numbers, with India taking the “large” part of it through new horizons.
He is now called the “Underage (as if the moustache, receding hairline and veteran level lack of taste weren’t subtle enough clues) Optimist (oh come on!)”
It instills, like I mentioned in the beginning, horror at the realisation that the youth is holding CB as their standard for reading. Being generous, I would not deny it as maybe an occasional accompaniment to an otherwise thorough and tasteful bookshelf, but it cannot be the definitive identity of anyone’s reading habit. One man’s riches should not come at the cost of a million people’s acceptance of mediocrity. To the extent that New York Times called him “the biggest selling English language novelist in India’s history”. Kudos. So ‘A Suitable Boy’ and ‘The Great Indian novel’ist can go take a plunge in a ‘Sea of Poppies’ as the ‘God of Small Things’ heaves ‘The Moor’s Last Sigh’ on His ‘Train to Pakistan’.
I’m sure although that the next trip anywhere, will have yet another traveller looking intently into a CB book. For his benefit, I hope he moves on. And so does everyone else with anything CB.
Because CB here does not quite translate to C’est bien.
And life is too short for a bad coffee and worse books.
This is a slightly rewritten version of what the author first posted on his blog.