Tabula Rasa review
Monday, June 10, 2013
Note: I'm sorry if this 'book review' is little more than a gushing rant, that happens sometimes with books that surprise me.
Very few people appreciate a well-written footnote. Most of my favourite parts of the Discworld books lie right in those wittily worded footnotes. They're also where the narrator's voice really comes out, and in any book by Terry Pratchett, that is most welcome. (Also a book with funny, comfortable, page-long footnotes: Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke.) Vedashree Khambete has managed to sneak into her book some truly wry, mocking commentary through the regular footnote asides. They top the list of reasons I adored There May Be An Asterisk Involved.
At the risk of sounding like a judger-and-labeller, I don't generally read books by Indian authors, especially debuts. So I was mildly surprised when I read the blurb on the back of this book that my sister (who stays somewhere in the US - I'm bad with names) sent me to have it sent to her, because the book's not available on Amazon. It sounded too interesting. I was also mildly surprised and curious by the lengths she went to acquire this tiny book. So I did a little sleuthing (I asked my sister) and found out that the book was written by a blogger (and, clearly, a book nerd, which gives her brownie points) whom she regularly read. The blog was entertaining and I couldn't wait to get started on the book. For you, the blurb:
"Ira Bhat, copywriter by day, sleep-deprived copywriter by night, has only one goal: to not go utterly bonkers as she negotiates the perils and pitfalls of a career in advertising. These include, but are not limited to: comma-obsessed clients, award-obsessed bosses, obnoxious marketing executives, high-strung creative types, impossible deadlines, obscure briefs, fiercely competitive colleagues, the death of many a big idea...and the ever-present danger of falling in love with the new account planner. Sounds doable, but is it? Because, when it comes to advertising, somewhere, hidden in the fine print, there may be an asterisk involved..."
I don't believe I've read any book with good punctuation humour before. Now that I think about it, I haven't read a single book by an Indian author (not that I have read many at all) that was humorous to the core. I'm often wary of reading things people find extremely funny; they don't usually seem that way to me. I'm also not very fond of long-winded satire and don't like scathing sarcasm. This book was somewhere between the two (three?) and it was fun. The writing was breezy, lighthearted, the plot seemed aimless and precise at the same time and it was just corny enough to be good. That doesn't mean, of course, that there was nothing that bugged me.
The story was predictable. There was some almost pompous name-dropping that I would generally frown upon. The lead character had this Inkheart-ey air about reading: the assumption that no one else does it. Things like "Please, you're so dumb, I read Hemingway, Calvino, Rand" were slightly annoying. That I like (or once liked) every one of these authors made it okay. The characters were stereotypes, both the nice and the obnoxious ones. Not to mention, every character including the omniscient narrator (yes, that's the Lit student in me talking; no, I haven't glanced at the books in a while, so I may be wrong) sounded the same: however, they did all sound comfortably witty, you know, not too slapstick, they didn't drop Hindi words or cool urban slang in their talk and they were nothing like the LOLCats, which is to say, they didn't make deliberate disturbingly non-funny grammatical errors. So, yeah, the fact they were all alike was better than even one of them not being that way just to be 'realistic'.
This isn't going to be the best book you've ever read, nor make you think a lot. But the book is a fairly good package. If not anything else, it will give you a delightfull time. It has romance, glamour, some inevitable drama, just enough advertising know-how, a lot of creativity and a narrator who can make just about anything sound interesting. It's also short and reasonably priced. So, I don't see why you shouldn't just go grab yourself a copy.