Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Code voracity

Just one more time! If I read just once more a P3 celebrity quoted in a newspaper as saying “I’m a voracious reader! Just now I’m reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code” ... well, I’ll be forced to write a short story based on Mad magazine’s recent discovery that there are 12 hidden cellphones in Leonardo’s The Last Supper, which the apostles are using to fix crucifixion bets.

(The latest celeb quote by the way was from Mandira Bedi, in one of those supplementey things which inform readers on a weekly basis that so-and-so celebrity thinks Winnie the Pooh is the best erotic novel and Milan Kundera the best Indian author.)

But “voracious”, people, is a word with a meaning, not just a necessary accompaniment to the word “reader”. The Da Vinci Code was published a year and a half ago. It’s been a publishing phenomenon for at least a year. It’s essential reading for P3P. So if you’re really a “voracious reader”, what were you doing the whole of the past year, finishing the complete prose of Balzac?

I’ve learnt to hate the word “voracious”. Which is why I was more relieved than amused when, at a recent movie preview, a high-soc type earnestly confessed to being a “vicious reader”. “Oooh!” he went, when I fearfully mentioned I was an aspiring lit-journo, “I read viciously myself. I’ve just finished The Da Vinci Code.” Beats of silence, followed by the next, inevitable, couple of sentences. “Suggest me a nice book. Any nice book.” (Both nices are always emphasized, as the italics should make clear.)

Years of practice - dating back to friends entering my room for the first time and gawping at the shelves - have not taught me how to deal properly with this request. It’s been marginally easier the past few months, since one can always say Angels and Demons. But the movie preview encounter gave me another idea. Now I simply step out of the way, saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m only a vicarious reader, I wouldn’t know what the nice books are unless someone else reads them first.”


  1. My Economics professor pulled up a book I was reading under the desk in his class last week and, maybe to prove he was really quite cool and everything, recommended that I read Da Vinci's Code. Which is still less funny than his throw-away remark about Pratima Bedi being the wife of Kiran Bedi.

  2. Well, I havent read it yet and dont intend to.Does that count as non-voracious, non-vicarious or simply vicious?

  3. I'm on the brink here, Jai. You don't even know what pain is.

    If one more, just ONE more, human being says to me, "Oh, you study art history. How wonderful. You should read this great art history book, Da Vinci Code," I will commit suicide. Viciously.

    I might even throw in one or two murders, just for fun.


  4. Yep,

    Have heard of vexatious reader, avaricious reader,wishful reader, possibly viscous reader.

    Again, remember that most celebs get hold one of one obscure book and pretend that that's their life-changer, secure that nobody else will ever hear about it again.

    Would gladly strangle such folks--societal mores et al:(

    anand sivashankar

  5. Well...no harm reading it. It's not a bad book at all. Quite good as far as thrillers go. Long as you don't consider it a classic and don't REALLY think it's better than whatever is your favourite book right now. Even if it's Catch 22.
    And, heck, Jabby, shouldn't you stop reading these celeb-speak segments and bellyaching?

  6. Oh no I shouldn’t. Not at all. Too few pleasures in life for one to start relinquishing them.
    About Da Vinci Code, I loved the book when I was reading it, no question about that at all. The snobbery is purely retrospective.

  7. Most celebs lead a life built on the principle "Perception is Reality".

    Sometime back I was totally put off by movies, both Hollywood and Bollywood. But, most of my acquaintances were into them. So, to be in the crowd, I'd read the movie reviews and then talk some crap and nobody would realize that I hadn't seen the movie.

    I reckon most celebs follow the same principle. Because they want to be seen in a certain manner, they will say whatever it takes to maintain that perception.

  8. Heh. This is as bad as people at interviews, or even friends of my parents asking me "You are studying Literature? That's great. So you must like Shoba De?"

    Gah. It's the end of the world as we know it.

  9. At least you didnt have to suffer: "oohh I love all the novels Arundhati Roy has written."!!!

  10. Is it too late to post a comment ?

    Best one I ever heard was a beefy engineer type who described himself to me as a "voluptuous reader". Seriously. Can never see him now without the phrase coming to mind.