I was at the bookstore the other day, and found a book which could not have been anything but a slightly fictionalized account of the protagonist’s stay at one of the nation’s premier education institutes. Though the book was labeled ‘fiction’, there were enough parallels between the resumes of the protagonist and the author for anyone to know one was based on the other. To make it even more clear, the author took pains to thank, by name, the various classmates who ‘helped take her down memory lane’, and the standard disclaimer of ‘the characters and situations in the book are purely fictional’ was conspicuous by its absence. The author wanted the reader to believe she was the protagonist, and that was clearly the USP of the book.
This particular book caught my eye, and catalysed this rant, but it is actually just one more in a gloriously long line of similar books brought out by the same publisher. The formula for publication by that particular publisher is standard – graduate from any of the premier educational institutes in the country, write a self-congratulatory account of your stay there, get published. Whether or not the person can write, and whether or not the person has a story to tell, doesn’t seem to be the point. All that seems to matter is that the person have cleared the entrance exams to make it to that particular institute.
I can understand why books of that kind are popular. When a nation of a billion people has less than a dozen institutes that qualify for the tag “premier”, and when over a thousand candidates apply for every available seat at those institutes, people want to know what “actually” happens in those picture perfect campuses. When there is a market for such books, any publisher would want to publish the books, regardless of quality.
But what I cannot understand is why those books get written in the first place. All of them are in high paying high stress jobs – they are not doing it for the money, or because they have too much time on their hands. Why then are they doing it? Is the need to see their name in print so great they do not care what it is associated with? Are they living out their own personal ‘What ifs’ by writing those books? Or, do they genuinely believe the books are good and that they are great authors? And more than anything else, why can't the authors take the trouble to make up decent characters instead of borrowing rather boring people from life and dressing them up a bit?
Personally, I would love to read a well written book set in any of those campuses, as long as the campus doesn’t become the main character, and the author the protagonist. A cozy mystery, or a paranormal fantasy, or even an out an out memoir I would welcome. It is those books where the author is too lazy to make up characters that I object to.