Looks like books have their own karma. How else do you explain how in this age of hype, a modest book (so quiet that even the colourless blurb on the back cover almost begs for oblivion) beat some 62 novels in the running for this year’s Crossword Prize. "I did not think I would beat three NRI men (M.G. Vassanji for The Assassin’s Song, Amitava Kumar for Home Products, Tabish Khair for Filming)" said Usha K.R., author of the prize-winning A Girl and a River. Truth is, neither did her publisher, Penguin, judging by the modest number of copies of Usha’s book they set out at the ceremony. They were sold out in no time, and a reprint of this title from last year is now on the cards.
But it was win-win for Penguin, which made a clean sweep in all the categories of the Crossword Prize, except one—the Popular Book Award, where readers voted for Namita Devidayal’s The Music Room as their favourite book. William Dalrymple’s The Last Mughal, which nicked Ram Guha’s India After Gandhi to the non-fiction prize, is from Penguin’s stable. And so are the two books that jointly won the award for translation category: Govardhan’s Travels by Anand and Chowringhee by Sankar.
One For The Road
One bestseller list that is impossible to fudge and beats all others in reliability is one that is rarely recognised in literary circles: pirated stacks at traffic lights. Last week, a street urchin pulled out the book that’s doing more business than Chetan Bhagat and Dan Brown: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Unaccustomed Earth.