The Fablery Interview

Below is the text of my ‘Fablery Interview‘ that I gave to Nethra Anjanappa of You can read the interview on their site as well… Click here if you wish to read the interview on the Fablery site. As an alternative, the text is reproduced below:

My journey into a professional life began with hours of front-rolling on dew-drops in the January chill of Dehradun… but my conditioning of the body and mind did begin at the Indian Military Academy there. Subsequently, I was with a multinational pharma company selling some of the most coveted molecules until I decided to get into corporate communications. A few years of negotiating with the media and visualising ad-campaigns, I stepped out of it all and now have a weekly column in a newspaper, do lots of blogging, and am trying to gather enough courage to write my first novel.

nterest me.
Words and humans
Interest me.
Words, humans, and events
Interest me.
I prefer my words
Piercing targets.
I relish applause.

My relationship with blogging has brought me face-to-face with book reviewing too. Our home has a collection of more than 5000 books and I’ve read quite a few of them. But I have been reviewing books for more than an year now and most of them have been Indians writing in English.

I know of reviewers who will either skim through pages or just discuss it for a few minutes with someone who has read it or just read randomly opened pages and sit down to write a review. They may say something that justifies the merits or demerits of that book but it will all be such a big fluke! That is no way one reviews a book. Book reviews are not reproducing the blurb or just saying inane things like: ‘The book is one of those that keeps you on the tenterhooks all the time…’ without once telling a reader the reason for that pronouncement. A responsible book reviewer reads the book… I do it. Always. Every time. No wonder then that most of my reviews are delayed. But what I give the reader is what prompted bloggers like Rickie Khosla to write: ‘This is totally not my genre but I am still tempted to go look for Meenu’s new book, after reading your review!

I wonder if anyone will be able to weave an equally good review about your book, whenever you choose to write one!’

Every book is a good read. ‘Even books on finance?’ you just might ask. My answer will be, ‘Yes, even books on finance.’ A good reader is always ready to accept a well-written book. For instance, I loved reading and reviewing a book on bharatnatyam written by BalaSaraswati just as much as I did reading a thriller written by Mohammed Hanif. Focus, comprehensible expression, clarity of thought, and content that matters are things that make a book irresistible… and even ‘The Pondicherry Kitchen’ can have all this, so to say. Besides these intrinsic factors, there is also the subliminal element that matters. Let me explain. If you’re in the mood to read something mushy, it will be a bad idea to pick up ‘PR Power’ and expect that you read it. Hope you got my point.

Coming back to my reviews, the things that matter to me is if the book stole sleep from my eyes at night or not… or were there sentences or lines that I went back to, to read again… or did I find the insights worth spending some time with. Some books have them all and others need them. I read both sorts of books and never mince my words while talking about what a book lacks. So does that mean that I am better than an author and can take the liberty to teach him? No. All I can do is to express my response to the book… and this is quite different from a mere reaction. The author has had the courage to write a book… and I am still to write mine, so I respect every book.

Most of those writing in English are writing easy read fiction. So obviously, their voice cannot be clubbed with the literary voice emerging in a nation. Literature in English is virtually absent at the moment… it is mostly a light-hearted banter with words and expressions that is going on. A Kota Neelima pops up once in a while but is immediately submerged in a sea of Yashodhara Lals and Chetan Bhagats. Truth is that we don’t need literature right now… we need books that will lure our waves of non-reading masses into the sublime habit of reading. And I must admit that writers like Shatrujeet Nath, Bhaichand Patel, Madhulika Liddle, Judy Balan, Ashwin Sanghi, Hemant Kumar, Ashok Banker, and a lot of the newer crowd are doing their best to make reading a reality. Without them, India would surely have remained BRL or Below Reading Line which is probably as vital as the now so well-known BPL. Reading is what brings in long-lasting prosperity. Think about it!



Arvind Passey
20 August 2013