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Updated: December 12, 2013 17:53 IST

Book launch for dummies

Vaishna Roy
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Illustration by Satheesh Vellinezhi
The Hindu
Illustration by Satheesh Vellinezhi

Chennai’s short and sweet demo on how to spice up an event

Just when you think Chennai, the so-called conservative city, will do everything by the book, it bucks the trend with a vengeance. I happened to attend a recent book release event, hoping for nothing beyond being pleasantly bored. Then the evening took a turn for the better.

If you have attended even one, you will know that book release functions are mostly unctuous affairs. They are also fairly predictable — a certain set roster of faces attends them, as much attracted by the upma and coffee as by literary leanings. There is usually a mandatory talk session, with eminent regulars on the social circuit roped in to either prattle with each other or with the author about how good the book is and how excellent the writer.

Then along comes this evening. Two articulate speakers, one of whom has the audience in splits with his anecdotes, so much so that one could listen to him alone, without the book needing to provide a reason. Then (and this was the funniest bit), without consciously realising it, the evening’s distinguished anchor and the two speakers proceeded with every word of faint praise to damn the book so thoroughly they might as well have started the event by saying ‘We come to bury the book, not to praise it’.

Here’s a sample of the things they said. One speaker: “The only mildly interesting thing I found in the book…” The other: “The book mentions this place but of course it is factually completely wrong….” Then the anchor listed out the places the book covers in a tone of mild censure, pointing out that not even one was out of the ordinary. Then one speaker asked the other with real curiosity ‘Who do you think is the target audience for this book?’ To which the other replied, ‘I am not sure but….’

Just when we thought things could not get better, the Q&A started and the first person to jump up commented scathingly that he thought the book and its title was totally misleading. The audience went a hushed ‘ohhh…’ Another jumped up and asked ‘What is the need for this book?’ The funny speaker replied ‘Ha ha. I don’t know but I am glad I am not the publisher.’ The final nail in the coffin? One person snatched up the mic and said that he thought the evening’s talk was far better than the book.

By now, most of the audience was in splits and looking around to see if the publisher was going up in smoke somewhere in the wings. One thing they agreed upon — it was one of the most enjoyable book release evenings they had attended in a long time. We are not sure what the publisher thought.

At the book launch functions that I have attended in Chennai, never was I served upma or any similar snack item. Usually all you get is a soft drink [not a whole bottle but a glass only] plus a couple of biscuits, salt or sweet! Most of the organisers don't want to spend much on the audience anyway.
You find the same set of 'distinguished' guests at these book launches, and also the same set of attendees. How many copies of the book are sold at the function is anybody's guess. Am I being satirical, as Vaishna Roy is in her article?

from:  A Narayanan
Posted on: Dec 13, 2013 at 17:46 IST
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