There are two tried and tested formulas for commissioning reviews in the shockingly incestuous bordello of Indian books that has now spread its wings into Indian journalism.
The supposedly dignified formula is to get an author’s friend or associate to do the unctuous needful (say a Khushwant Singh to “review” a David Davidar) so that reputations are protected, nothing damaging is said and everybody gets called for the next orgiastic party.
Its opposite recipe is to get a hired gun who will fire at will (say a Mihir S. Sharma to pump into Suhel Seth) so that the old gasbag is punctured, some buzz is released, and major “trending” happens in blogosphere.
In Lucknow Boy, published nearly three months ago, Mehta gives the sultana of scuttlebutt, former Stardust editor Shobha De, some chosen ones— for not including an introduction to a book she had commissioned him to write and then for not having had the courtesy to inform of it, despite bumping into him off and on, etc.
De has returned the favour in kind (and more) in the India Today review calling the 306-page tome “that’s filled with Delhi style bragging… rather dull”—a loosely strung account of job-hopping full of old-fashioned self-righteousness and tedious justifications:
#What happened? Something obviously got in the way, and let’s blame it on Delhi. Had Mr Mehta continued to live and work in Mumbai, I am certain he would have written a far more readable book.
# Mr Mehta’s sepia-toned recollections may be of some interest to his colleagues and assorted politicos who wish to be featured in the magazine he so ably edits. Give them Sunny Leone‘s unedited life story in ten easy chapters intead—now that’s riveting stuff.
# The biggest letdown in this memoir is the absence of any asli masala….
# The Mumbai Mehta was an amiable chap. He wasn’t boastful. And he could out-bitch anybody in the room. Most of the time, the bitching was about those absent. Everybody laughed—including his highly “intellectual” friends tiresome then, far worse now. But Mr Mehta had not turned as pretentious… nor did he drop names.
# The one magazine Mr Mehta missed editing and he could still do a brilliant job of it, is Stardust.
* Disclosures apply
Illustration: courtesy Keshav/ The Hindu