I was a bit leery of today’s event – for one thing, the book in question has a giant cricket ball on the cover, with a batsman silhouetted against it mid-stroke. I am one of those unfortunate bigots who not only does not like cricket but switches off intellectually every time it is mentioned in conversation. (It also doesn’t help that the author looks like a wee fresher in college and I wanted to pinch his cheeks, but I contained myself and didn’t mention it. At all. Ever.) But I feel a sort of TFA solidarity nowadays, and I do feel a little, well, like I should go and read and buy newer authors even if they’re crap or talk about cricket.
Show Me a Hero is Aditya Sudarshan‘s second novel. It’s described as a murder mystery and a coming-of-age novel (my personal favourite sort), and follows two young men, just out of college, as they attempt to document the life of an excellent but unloved batsman. (Sudarshan likened him to Sachin Tendulkar in terms of skill, but his complete opposite in terms of respectability.)
There was some awkwardness with the “launching” – how does one launch a book, anyway? Arul Mani recollected someone who literally threw the book at the audience, which seems the closest to appropriate to me, but apparently will not actually do. Mani waved the book embarrassedly in the air, and that did for us.
Based on the two extracts Sudarshan read out, and the ten pages I have just read myself, I wouldn’t say that Sudarshan has fabulous prose – but he is functional, accessible, and peppers his otherwise slightly flat narrative with little gems of insight (someone help me un-cliché that!) that make the reading surprisingly enjoyable.
Arul Mani chaired the discussion, and we had some interesting back and forth. Mani points out that Show Me a Hero makes for a very good coming-of-age novel because its aging, its arrival, is based not on plotted epiphanies but on a more “normal, every day sort of reaching”.
There was some talk about dualities, both in the narrator and in The Writer – something about the common sensical balancing out the naïve, the unadulterated, and open-eyed, the searching for magic. Sudarshan made a Terry Pratchett reference: +5 points.
I’m skipping over a lot of cricket wittering. It was cricket, it was deep and shit, but made little to no sense to me, except for the bit where Sudarshan declared that people worship, romanticise cricket because they make of it a practically metaphysical conceit for their hopes and dreams for the nation as a whole. (I’m paraphrasing. It was cricket!)
Then there were audience questions, when I didn’t take notes – I did pay attention enough to note that Sudarshan has had two books published by two different houses, and has some but not much control over editing and packaging. Which is only to be expected.
Sudarshan gives me the feeling of someone who has read and absorbed a great deal of mature thought, and while intelligent, charming, witty and evocative, is not yet, well, old enough to be the best sort of him he could be. (With apologies to Sudarshan, I am probably the same age as he is.) I’m not sure how Show Me a Hero will appeal to me, but I’ll probably read him for the next few years. I certainly liked short stories of his [that I read just now].)
Anyway. C. K. Meena, ebullient as ever, wrapped things up, and I went home.