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.”