January 17, 2020
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Tharoor's Riotous assembly of love and hate, advance issues and Arundhati' next book...

illustration by Saurabh Singh Delhi's literati literally braved the elements (the heaviest rain in nearly 40 years) to attend Shashi Tharoor's book launch, or "world premiere," as the New York-based author with a day job in the UN termed it. Riot is a thinly-disguised treatise on the Ram Janmabhoomi riots in North India. In fact, the novel is inspired by district collector Harsh Munder's report on a riot in a small town in Madhya Pradesh just before the Babri demolition. Communal tension and its long history is a tough subject for a novelist, but Tharoor manfully tries, sugar-coating his grim, didactic theme with a very steamy love story and a cleverly-crafted plot. In the US, where his book will be released next month, Tharoor's publishers quite understandably are promoting this story of incurable hate as a love story.

illustration by Saurabh Singh At last, the truth about those obscenely huge advances that our litpack is rumoured to be bagging from publishers abroad. Yes, it is true that authors are now being paid as much as a jaw-dropping £300 million (paid by Walt Disney for the film rights to A.A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books), according to a report in The Guardian. But the Indo-Anglian celebrities who shot into the limelight with inflated reports about their advances are nowhere in the big bucks race. Except Salman Rushdie, who ranks seventh on the list with the two million pounds advance he got for US rights of The Ground Beneath Her Feet. The only other Indian on the list is Pankaj Mishra trailing way behind Rushdie with a £150-million advance for a two-book deal, including The Romantics. The Guardian, citing a recent survey that shows that half of all writers earn less than the minimum wage and only one in 10 earns a living from writing, has a warning for bucks-bedazzled writers: don't give up that day job!

illustration by Saurabh Singh One litstar who seems to have left behind the million-pound book race is Arundhati Roy. Is she too busy fighting big dams and bombs to write another winner like The God of Small Things? "I hope to write another book like that," she said in a rare appearance at a book discussion of Out of the Nuclear Shadow.

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