Birkerts on Sacred Games

“I opened to the inside cover, where I saw printed in giant caps “AN EPIC NOVEL OF CRIME, FAITH, FAMILY, AND DESTINY,” a tag so basic as to be invisible. But then, just below, in slightly smaller caps: “$300,000 MARKETING CAMPAIGN.”


Sven Birkerts on receiving the advance copy of Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games. Birkerts is, like most reviewers, cynical about the publishing game: Sacred Games has, in order, the “India factor” going for it, the “exotic in the familiar genre” factor going for it, and Chandra’s “moody-eyed, brooding” looks going for it.
Then he gets down to reading the book, and this is the part I love:

[Sacred Games is] working. Page after page it plucks me from the here and now, from the world governed by marketing mentalities, ruled by tasks and anxieties. I really am for long stretches in some phantasmagoric, confusing, reeking, corrupt, overheated, overpopulated elsewhere, a Mumbai of the mind, with characters who surprise me with their look and sound, their twists of behavior. How strange. It’s as if I’ve needed to go through this peculiar re-immersion to get to my turnaround, to remember — again — why I got into this game in the first place. It was out of love.
After all these years I see that love is still the motive force. The honest work of art trumps the cynic, and elevates the critic, every time.

Needed that little reminder.

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