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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Monday, June 05, 2006


Having started reviewing at the age of 18. Getting bad reviews shredded to pieces, with a couple of pieces flung right at my face, I got the best training I could from the Tribune Book Editor - the late T K Ramasamy.

It may sound like a cliche, but they really don't make Eds like him any more. After all, can you count the number who can deliberate with you on the content or even the angle of your story? More often than not, as some of them clearly demonstrate there is no life beyond commas and full stops. PERIOD!

I was blessed (though I didn't think that way) each time Ramasamy handed me a book to review. It always came with this cryptic note "Read it first. Write what you read. If it doesn't make sense to you, it won't to anyone else."

Which is why when I see reviews right off the book jacket, it never ceases to anger me. If I want to know what Julie Birchill has to say about Nirpal Singh Dhaliwal's book, dear critic, I can do it myself.

In fact, authors themselves respect reviewers who can take them on. As Rana Dasgupta had rightly said during an interview I did with him many many moons ago (when 'Tokyo Cancelled' was being launched) "I'd rather see a bad review that has engaged with my book, than a good one that has not."

Which is also partly why, when I read stuff like this, I really think Paul Theroux's rather unflattering term about critics rings true. If you missed it, he happily dismissed them as 'eunuchs' - I disagree of course, coz there are a couple of good ones out there, though the bad ones are more than far and few between. Here's proof:

"Members of the fashion and fashion publishing industry - will read it with a chortle. Editors will read it with a wince, civilians will read it with mouths open... (I'll save you rest - it ends thus) My! Oh My! What a fun read!"- A freelance writer on 'The Devil Wears Prada' in Femina
Another one:
"I am chary of uncertainty"- In The Straits Times
Then can you please not go on?