Cogito, ego sum

This story is even better if you know who the First-Rank Naavelist in question is. I’m not telling, and neither is an uncharacteristically discreet Ruchir Joshi, who met the man and his monumental ego.

From Ruchir Joshi’s Which One Will He Shoot?:

“Within two days I meet an artist who tells me he thinks his work is “pretty smart”, an Ivy League academic who casually slips in the sentence “but I’m a very good teacher and they like that” while describing his current job, and finally, an “Asian Indian” (as Desi Americans are called) writer who explains literature to me thus:

“There is the first rank, the greats you know, Turgenev, Faulkner, James, Bellow, and these guys are forever. Then there is the second rank, you know, the Roths and the Updikes, people like that. And then there’s the rest.” “And where do you place yourself?” I ask, regretting the question even before it’s fully out of my mouth. “Me?” his voice goes to top gear inside his nose. “Oh, my first book was close to the top of the second rank, I’d say. And I’m now writing my second book, which is a kick-ass naavel which should put me right in the first rank, no question.”

My jaw thuds to the ground, not only because everyone I know who’s read this man’s first book has found it excruciatingly bad, but also because of the sheer, shameless, straight-faced, self-pedestalization. So shocked am I that I have no breath left to answer when he asks, “And what do you do?” I mumble something about “films” and columns in newspapers after which the guy pays no more attention to me. Shortly, the great man leaves, presumably to continue his second magnum opus, and the two Indian writer-friends who’ve introduced him to me fall off their chairs screaming with laughter. “Tera to bolna hi bandh kar diye usney! Khatam kar diya tere ko!”

19 comments

  1. Nice try but nope. In the interests of fairness, we’re going to refuse to answer any more guesses–which shouldn’t stop you from making them in private, of course.

  2. Oops. Yes, of course you’re right about the Ivy League academic being another person. The odds, then, seem to rest squarely on Mr Sharma. Why couldn’t it have been Ashok Banker instead? *giggle*

  3. Nice to see you’re all having a blast! (Studiously continues to ignore all speculation…) This is more illuminating than I’d have thought; there’s clearly room for a Handbook of Bad Writers or some such.

  4. If the writer in question weren’t living in New York, I’d have sworn it was Ashok Banker. Besides, the big clue is that he’s a writer who’s got only one book published so far. So Sharma seems like a very plausible candidate.

  5. A Handbook of Bad Writers….good idea. A cautionary list for those who pause in bookstores, hold up a volume by the flavour of the month, and wonder whether it’s worth the shekels or the time. Okay, here goes: would a certain Mr Shanghvi qualify for the list?

  6. Boss, ahem, bhaiyon aur behenon…it’s definitely not me, because not only do I not have an ego that large, I frankly admit I’m a very mediocre writer who writes only for two reasons–because I’m no good at anything else and because I need to make a living. But I’m going to venture a guess. I think it’s David Davidar beyond a doubt. He’s the only candidate who would say something like that and often does!

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