The Man from Madras Musings thinks it was Shakespeare who said that there were sermons in stones and books in running brooks. That was the first quote that came to mind when MMM was asked recently to release a book commemorating 90 years of the oldest Rotary Club in the city. MMM, while preparing for the speech, had a whale of a time putting together the various experiences he has had in bringing out books and the words of encouragement he has received at the end of each.
Years ago, MMM sweated himself to the bone and produced a tome of a book. At the end of the release event, the person who had commissioned MMM patted MMM on the back and whispered, “Don’t worry, nobody will read it anyway.” MMM was quite nonplussed but, later, on pondering over it, came to the conclusion that this too was all to the good. After all, if there is a voluminous book with MMM’s name on the cover that should be enough to establish MMM as a man of letters. Forget what is inside.
Over the years, MMM has arrived at certain fixed conclusions on books, especially of the coffee-table variety in the production of which he, MMM, has been particularly fecund. Around 90 per cent of those who get these books run their hands over the cover and then consign the book to some coffee table or the other. MMM is quite happy if they don’t consign them to dust bins. Of the remaining, around five per cent go through the pages, glancing at the pictures. We now come to the last five per cent and here is where the writer is on slippery ice. Two per cent look into the index and scan to see how many times their name appears in the book. If it is there a sufficient number of times, all is well and they write letters praising the work. If not, all hell can break loose. Of the remaining, two per cent is really tricky for this is the kind that after searching for its name will scan the list for its enemies and see if they are also featured. If not, all is well. If they are, then a rapid count is made as to the number of times they feature vis a vis themselves. If the enemy count is higher, the book is trashed. If not, there is scope for some backhanded compliment. The last one per cent is the kind that will actually read the book line by line and send you a list of errata.
Next we come to size and weight of book. MMM strongly recommends that the size be kept small, and the weight just about enough for a Chief Guest to hold on with one hand. Unfortunately, what with leather covers, dust jackets, gold trimming and art paper, coffee table books end up weighing quite a bit. There was an event where a book of MMM’s was being released by the highest in the land. The work commemorated the centenary of a bank and it did not help that Chief Guest, owing to being rather dialectic in his English kept referring to the institution as wank and congratulated it on its centenary in wanking. The time came for the book launch and two people arrived on stage laden with MMM’s weighty work. They dumped it in on Chief Guest, who being completely unprepared for it, staggered all around in an effort to regain balance. A brace of security commandos restored order
Dust jackets can be quite devious too. On one occasion the Chief Guest held on to it while the book happily slid out and landed with a thud on his toes. The public address system resounded with strange oaths in a native language.