The covers are off

Two statistical research findings caught my eye recently:

1)      More books are being printed and sold now than ever

2)      Book reading habit has come down drastically.

The unavoidable literary conclusion that flows out of the above is:

1)      Hahahahahahahaha.

Seriously, if more books are being bought, how can the percentage of those reading books come down?  It can, if the books sold are that of Salman Rushdie’s.

Almost all households I know of have, along with Paambu Panjangam, at least one copy of a Rushdie novel.  Still, I am yet to come across in my life a person who has successfully read through a book of Rushdie’s.  For the record, I have completed 60 pages of The Midnight Children in 20 years.

Rushdie apparently mixes RCC in his writings that not only makes his metaphors-filled prose rock solid, but also prevents human intellect to penetrate through.

On the other end of the strange spectrum is Chetan Bhagat, because of whom, too, the reading habit is coming down, as his books are actually read.

The thing is, upon reading him, most people give up that, and instead decide to become authors themselves, as they know if Chetan Bhagat can be a published author they too can become one as long as they can retrieve their 6th standard school essays and give it a modern title that carries some numbers. (Suggested names Ezharanattu Sani. 1.5 hours of Yamagandam)

Anyway, if you go to any bookshop (named so because this is where you buy all your music and film CDs and video games), you cannot but notice the racks overflowing with books with only a few misguided men and women browsing through them. Make no mistake about it, writing books is an easier proposition than reading them.

But if you want your book to see reprints, then it better be on any of these following types:

Self-Help Spiels

They seem to be the rage and are picked with gusto by people who are constantly trying to improve themselves by being motivated enough to read through absolute drivel.

You can see these books all over the racks at the bookshop with alluringly interesting titles:  Semiya Payasam for the SoleGobi Manchurian for the GallbladderHow to Say F*** Off, When You Don’t Want to Say No. Who Moved My Palak Panneer? How to Win Neighbour’s Wife and Influence Her Sister (Hard Cover).  

These books have a simple template: An interesting and inspirational story to drive home the point that you too with right amounts of discipline and determination can one day get lucky to be featured in self-help books.

The story of Abraham Lincoln is a case in point in this genre, as his life still remains an egregious example to thousands and thousands with this powerful message: No matter howsoever silly you may look with a beard but with no attendant moustache, you can still end up as the President of United States.

It never once occurs to the readers of these books to ask the authors of these books as to why they never achieved anything remotely worthwhile in their own lives.  All the Power of Positive Thinking at the disposal of Norman Vincent Peale was good enough to only make him an average author, not the CEO of IBM or the owner of Playboy.

Management Mantras

These days, everyone is a manager at some level.

The lift-operator, for instance, is the Manager (Vertical Movement Operations – Non Technical). The lift mechanic would be Manager (Vertical Movement Operations-Technical). The sweeper is: Manager (Floor and Fenestra — Mopping Module).

In the event, books aimed at managers have become a craze.  And there are management lessons at every turn and a management book thereof.  Including Baba Ramdev’s fast at Ramlila, with the obvious title: The Yogi Who Mortgaged His Yacht (In the New York Times bestseller list for 30 seconds).

The title is an obvious take-off on the best-selling The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari written by a corporate high-flier, giving managerial insights into —- why not —- spirituality.  But don’t get too insightful and ask: If he were a monk why did he need a Ferrari in the first place? If you ask questions, you can’t make the cut as an acceptable manager.

Also, for the record, managers write wonderful fiction these days. Must be all the practice they have had with expense accounts and travel bill statements.

Sporting Stories

Sports, with its nature-scripted drama and non-stop action, provides a fascinating and interesting background to some of the most insipid biographies ever written.  And 90% of them are just on Sachin Tendulkar alone.

I don’t know what is it about Tendulkar that makes for so boring books. In the last one year alone, I’ve read three books on him, with each one of them containing not even a molecule of new information.

All of them, of course, have recorded in great detail as to how Tendulkar used to take his Ferrari (now sold) for a speedy spin at 3 a.m. Reading those books, the one unfailing impression that I got about him was not of a champion batsman but of an insomniac with some kinky and questionable driving timings.

These sporting biographies, for which there seems to be a huge market, follow strict boilerplate: Watch newspapers/news bulletins for two days. Notice the name in the headline for those two days.  Mark the name and get a few more paragraphs of dicey/unconfirmed info from Wikepedia. Work around those four or five paragraphs and stretch it to fill a book of 250-300 pages.

Voila, a bestseller is in your hands.

If I were you, I would be already talking to publishers on a quickie on Ravindra Jadeja.

And if you were smart, you will also zero in on the obvious title: Men are from Mars, Women are from Mars and Jadeja is from Jupiter (Unputdownable).