Abir, Sancho and Lizzie

Book cover for My Friend Sancho

Book cover of My Friend Sancho

“I should introduce myself now. My name is Abir Ganguly. I work for a tabloid in Bombay called The Afternoon Mail. I am 23. I masturbate 11 times a day. I exaggerate frequently, as in the last sentence”

Thus begins Amit Varma’s (of India Uncut fame) newest yellowback My Friend Sancho (follow this link for the Author’s homepage on the book, or the Facebook fan page). Abir, or Abeeeer as he is called by friends in a state of bacchanalia, relishes a full meal of online games everyday, and then passes obnoxious PJs, enjoys being at Bookends a bookshop in Bombay’s Eterniti mall (good nomenclature!) and covers the crime beat in Bombay when he feels like doing any work. Abir is imaginative, wildly, his hormones getting the better of him at the drop of every pen anywhere in the world, his testosterone-tinted glasses seeing through every fabric. He is a witness to a murder and then finds himself in love with the daughter of the victim, Muneeza aka Sancho, when he is pushed into an assignment to sketch her father’s life. The story is about how Abir’s life gets entangled with Sancho’s, doesn’t have the balls to tell her the truth, and when he does, as is usually the case he is spurned, and finds himself in the state of abject despair (of course, since its despair in love!). The fact that his room-mate lizard is in no mood to empathize doesn’t help either. What happens in the end … umm .. read the book!

The best thing about the book is that its a very light read, very quick — I finished it off in two sittings. To the credit of the book, it managed to hold my interest even as I kept watching the results of the nations greatest jamboree, the Lok Sabha elections 2009. As you navigate from one wisecrack to another, you wonder if Varma was under the influence of err .. something more influential that lends to more fluent thoughts (a la Coleridge in Kubla Khan?) — you wonder if the wry sense of humour can be achieved in sobriety. The plot is tight, quick — though the book is more in the prose than the plot.

I remember the last book I had read with an equal gleeful page-turning urgency was The Inscrutable Americans, and I hope this book reaches the same heights of success!

Of course, the best fleshed out character in the book is the Lizard. I don’t think you can find another book where a Lizard emotes quite as much.

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Clay Shirky’s predictions about the future of Mass Media

Just found this article on The Guardian site. Clay Shirky’s a professor at NYU and a scholar of Mass Media and the effect internet trends would have on them. Worth a read — I agree with some of his predictions (and presumptuously adding some of my own):

  1. Newspaper’s will diverge into 2 classes – magazines such as Economist which will exist for the people willing to pay for high quality coverage, and mass coverage of all possible news on the internet that will be available free and paid for by advertising dollars. Communities such as Twitter might help surfacing the right news.
  2. Niche newspapers and magazines will only exist online — the distribution costs for anything that doesn’t have economies of scale are not justified.
  3. TV will also change dramatically – The current state of the industry is that content is tightly controlled by the Channels, and hence to maintain quality, studios invest a lot of money (at least in India). We will see a lot of rise of amateur content, but only so much, since professionals will soon (and have, if I am not wrong) start publishing on YouTube and the like. However, the sudden loosening of the grip on distribution (since there are no longer any channels), will mean the quality of the content will change. Video distribution will be controlled far more by social networking sites (a la Facebook) than are blog posts.
  4. Books will be relatively less affected, at least until we hit a e-book reader that really rocks! My guess, though is devices like Kindle will improve a lot in the next decade or so, and might affect book sales greatly. Print-on-Demand will grow, but I am still not aware of how much it costs to print just one copy, so I am not in a position to comment. A large part of the cost if the cost of distribution, PoD will really succeed if the following equation is satisfied (since you will still pick up books at a store):

cost_of_traditional_book + cost_of_distribution_to_store > cost_of_printing_just_one_copy

The full article can be found here.

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